Family cheering their girls on

(IRB.COM) Saturday 16 August 2014
 Family cheering their girls on
Mum Julie hopes that Marlie Packer can get over the line again in the final - Photo: P Charlier/IRB

The final of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2014 is nearly upon us and we’ve seen scenes of elation, deflation, ecstasy and agony.

Twelve teams have fought tirelessly over four match days to bring us an unforgettable, not to mention historic tournament which reaches its crescendo today in central Paris.

#WRWC2014 has received huge support through social media, in the press and through sell-out matches in Marcoussis and at Stade Jean Bouin. But the support has never been more passionate than from the friends and family of the players, who travel across the world to cheer on and encourage their loved ones.

England flanker Marlie Packer made a huge impression when she came on off the bench during the Red Roses’ 40-7 semi-final victory over Ireland on Wednesday. Within moments she’d scored two tries, much to the joy of her mum Julie who was in the stands supporting.

“At this World Cup it’s been lovely because there’s been a group of parents and family. We’ve managed to sit together, with our England flags and hats supporting the girls,”explained Julie.

“You feel so proud but it’s so surreal. There’s my little girl running around on the field and you just think ‘wow!’ I know that it made her really happy and made the team happy to get through to the final.”

Covered in mud but hooked on rugby

Marlie’s rugby career hasn’t happened overnight, she showed an aptitude for rugby from a young age.

“When she was about five years old, she went to a local rugby club,” Julie explains. “I thought that she went to watch rugby but when she came back, she was covered in mud and that was it. There was no going back.”

“She started playing touch and she gradually built up the physicality. She managed it really well. She played mixed rugby until she was 13 and she was just as physical as the boys.”

So what’s it like to cheer on your daughter as well as your country?

“I get so nervous! I woke up this morning and it dawned on me, they’re in the final! I can’t describe the feeling, I just want to get there and get on with the final.”

As much as Julie wants to cheer her daughter on and catch up, she knows that Marlie has a job to do in Paris.

Double the support for Russells

“I don’t get to see her that much but I think that they’ve got the balance right. The girls have had family time after each game so we’ve been able to take them out.

“There are times when the players find it hard and I think that it’s really good that they have the support to talk it over with their family and other people close to them.”

And the support doesn’t just come from those close to the players. 

“The girls have been telling us about all the support that they’ve been getting on all the social media sites. I’ve heard of articles and programmes about them which I’ll look forward to watching when I get back to England.”

Imagine what it is like to watch two daughters playing in a World Cup final. Sandy and Judy Russell will find out when captain Kelly and her sister Laura aim to help Canada secure a first Women’s Rugby World Cup title.

The girls started playing after the family used to watch dad Sandy playing rugby at a local club. Mum Judy says that like Marlie, once Kelly and Laura started playing rugby, it was a a done deal.

"I was surprised when they started playing rugby," recalled Judy. "But once they played their first game, that was it!"

A family affair

Sandy remembers Kelly being sure that she would play no matter what.

"Kelly was still an infant on the side of the field when someone asked her what she thought of me playing rugby," explained Sandy. "She answered 'I don't know but I'm going to play!'. Although they told her that she couldn't play, because there were no girls' teams, she was still adamant that she would play and that came true."

The Russells have been in France supporting their daughters throughout the tournament but say that the support back home is really strong.

"Kelly and Laura's sister Jennifer coaches a provincial team in Canada," said Judy. "She's getting all of her team together to watch the final in Newfoundland. Family are going to pubs and sports clubs to watch. My sister is at a golf tournament so she's going to take over the TV when the girls are on!

"It's really special being here to support not only our girls, but the whole team, most of whom we've seen grow up."

You can follow the action from the Marcoussis and Stade Jean Bouin in the last day of #WRWC2014 by following our live blog. All games at Stade Jean Bouin are streamed live on