Injuries are part and parcel of life for any athlete and this weekend England’s Danielle Waterman hopes to once again pull on the England jersey on the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series, some 13 months after her last appearance.

Waterman, a Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 winner with England before joining the contracted sevens programme, has not played since Atlanta in 2015 as a result of a knee injury she feared at one point would end her 14-year career wearing the red rose.

“It’s been quite a challenging year,” admitted Waterman ahead of this weekend’s round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Langford, British Columbia, where England will be looking to build on a much-improved performance and third-place finish in Atlanta.

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“The one goal for me, through a really difficult rehab, was just to be able to wear the England shirt again. I think this is probably going to be my biggest achievement in 14 years of playing for England, physically and mentally it has challenged me in every sense.

“I have been fortunate to have some really great support from my family, friends, team-mates and everyone around me because I definitely wouldn’t have been here without them.

Making a contribution

“There was a point where there was a time where I thought maybe I would hang up my boots, so to be able to say I have come through that, come full circle and to be able to represent England is just a huge honour and something I am just going to cherish and enjoy.”

Despite the knee injury – and then a broken cheekbone suffered playing in an invitational tournament for Great Britain Selects – keeping her on the sidelines, Waterman has still been involved with the England team which she hopes will make her return easier.

“It (being injured) is always really difficult because as a player you just want to be on the pitch with your team-mates, but I have been included every step of the way. The coaching staff have always made sure I am around training and I am involved. 

“I think it is really important that when you are injured you contribute to video analysis, pitch-side analysis and always being part of the team because obviously when I am back playing I need to be able to slot in like I haven’t been away.”

One aspect that Waterman, known to her team-mates as Nolli, has noticed in her time away is the increased level of competition on the series, from a physical as well as tactical aspect. 

Phenomenal talent on the series

“The women’s game, even in just this last season, it is just phenomenal the talents that are out there and all the young players who are coming on to the circuit,” insisted Waterman, whose side will face hosts Canada, Ireland and Japan in Pool C in Langford.

“I think it is more the consolidation of the teams and a lot of the players are now a year on in terms of experience, a year on in terms of gelling together. 

“You can see real sharp game plans that are being played and you know what is coming with the top teams and you have just got to be on the top of your game to match them and to beat them. 

“The athletes that are being produced by the programmes from each union is great. They weren’t there three years ago and it is a credit to being professional athletes, to try and balance full-time training alongside full-time work, you don’t get the rest and recovery so you never get the full gains. 

“You also get the opportunity to be with your team that much longer and to hone the basic skills, the speed that the ball moves from one side to the other is fantastic and noticeably there were a lot of massive tackles last weekend which is brilliant to see. The physicality of the game has definitely stepped up too.”