Meet English rugby’s ‘Holy Trinity’ ready for Six Nations challenge
“We bring a lot to the table because we are different on and off the field,” says Jess Breach, describing her England back-three combination with Abby Dow and Ellie Kildunne.
“Abby is so intelligent with her engineering degree; Ellie is crazy and does what she wants. We build each other up and know how to speak to each other. Because we have known each other for a long time, it makes it easier.”
This relationship was forged on a bleak November night in 2017 with just over 2,000 fans watching. Those few who had made the trip to Allianz Park to watch England thrash Canada 79-5 witnessed the first Test appearances of three of the Red Roses’ brightest stars. Wings Breach and Dow and full-back Kildunne, who came on as a replacement, scored nine tries between them, with Breach crossing for a remarkable haul of six.
Surprisingly, this will be the first full Six Nations campaign the trio will play together due to Breach and Kildunne both having stints in sevens, while Dow refused a professional rugby contract to complete her engineering degree at Imperial College. Yet she still made 15 Test appearances while studying full-time.
At the end of the 2017 series against Canada a photograph was taken of the trio with Danielle Waterman — then the incumbent full-back — to show a changing of the guard and what England’s future back three might look like. It may have taken three years but they finally reunited for England XVs last autumn and at times looked telepathic in their play.
Dow said: “All our journeys since we made our England debuts have been different, but that is what we need as rugby players. It is quite nice to see us all come back making us the same team but we are all very different. We all have better strengths, which means we all play more exciting rugby when we are on the pitch together.
“My favourite rugby memory was after the last game of that 2017 series we got that photo taken and it is special to think this will be our first full Six Nations together.”
As well as their electric pace and superb finishing ability, the three are genuinely close friends and have an on-field telepathy. Although different sports, the trio have synergy reminiscent of that of Manchester United’s Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Sir Bobby Charlton because of what different characters they are. However, due to their tender years the comparison is lost on Breach, Dow and Kildunne.
Dow, 23, is a deep thinker who takes glee in describing her final experiment for her degree, which involved looking at rechargeable batteries. However, Breach, also 23, enjoys fashion, celebrity gossip and keeping on top of all the developments in her team-mates’ personal lives while Kildunne, 21, has a creative mind and an artistic streak and discovered a passion for making and editing videos during the first lockdown when she was uncertain of her future in the England sevens programme.
“Jess is what I call a logical princess. She always has a good point to make but she is always such a princess about it, but I love that about her! And she is the finisher – she does everything she needs to do to be the perfect winger and score tries,” Dow says.
Breach replies: “When Abby talks about stuff I don’t understand I just switch off and Abby knows to stop talking. I don’t want to speak about engineering or a phone battery! It makes my brain frazzle. It makes me feel like I learnt nothing in school.”
Dow and Breach, hailing from Maidenhead and Chichester respectively, have known each other since their mid-teens as regular opponents. But Kildunne, who was born and bred in Yorkshire, is now firmly in the fold. Breach and Kildunne shared a house together while Kildunne and Dow have linked up in the Wasps back three this season. During their time playing side by side in the Premier15s Kildunne has enjoyed getting to know Dow.
“Abby is different in the best way possible,” she said. “She is an individual. I really, really like it because it makes me feel like it is OK for me to be different too. We bounce off each other really well, the amount of conversations we have had about curly hair and I never get bored of it.”
Although she is less than two years younger, Kildunne looks to Breach as a role model, saying: “Off the pitch, I have always felt like Jess is like an older cousin or sister who always makes sure I am in line and looks out for me. If I am being stupidly spontaneous or whatever, she puts me back in line. Jess is really mature; she knows what she is doing.”
Breach buts in quickly: “Ellie is such a magical player, someone that will create something out of nothing, which I think is quite rare to find. Off the pitch she is so spontaneous – but that has led to some of the best experiences.”
Sarah McKenna, who had been in flying form before injury ruled her out for a large chunk of last year, and former world player of the year nominee Lydia Thompson, join the young trio in Simon Middleton’s squad as back-three options for the truncated Six Nations, which takes on the same format as the men’s Autumn Nations Cup. England are drawn in a pool with Scotland, who they play on Saturday in Doncaster, and Italy.
‘I want more young girls to get involved and to allow them to have that dream to be a professional rugby player’
A grand final between England and France is being predicted on resources, but Scotland did hold France to a draw last year. Dow, Breach and Kildunne are all hopeful for long rugby careers together and that this campaign is just the beginning. But their biggest goal is for major growth in the women’s game over the next decade. “I hope our sport will be much more financially viable if it becomes its own business,” Dow says.
“We are struggling with that now; we want it to become a business like the men’s game where we get the crowds in and we can pay our way. As soon as we can dissociate from the men more, we could be able to provide our own platform.”
“I want more young girls to get involved and to allow them to have that dream to be a professional rugby player,” Breach says. “When we were all young you couldn’t really dream of it and you could sound stupid or silly, but it shouldn’t sound that way now.”
Kildunne concludes: “I want people to know who we are and that we are not just inspirations for younger girls but younger boys. I want people to see us as athletes and powerful women.”
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