THE director of rugby at Ellingham and Ringwood Ladies RFC believes the heroics of former club player and England World Cup star Poppy Cleall will inspire the senior women’s team as they mount a new league challenge this season.

Steve Benson welcomed Cleall – who featured in Simon Middleton’s runners-up World Cup squad – at the club where she showed off her silver medal to players.

The 25-year-old lock, who now plies her trade at Premiership side Bristol, returned to her girlhood club the day after the club’s Warrior Camp at Parsonage Barn Lane.

Developed by England Rugby, the Inner Warrior nationwide campaign is aimed at women and girls between the ages of 18 and 35 to encourage greater female participation in contact rugby across the country.

Over the past 18 months, 7,000 women have attended rugby training sessions – or Warrior Camps – and, in August, Ellingham and Ringwood hosted theirs, which Benson described as a huge success.

“We had six new women turn up, four of them who had never played rugby before while the other two had played club-level rugby in the past,” he said.

“Poppy came down to the club the night after the Warrior camp. It was absolutely fantastic to have her down. She brought her World Cup silver medal and showed it off to everyone who was there and spent a lot of time chatting to players.”

Following their promotion to the National Challenge One division last season, Ellingham and Ringwood Ladies will begin life in a new league this month and Benson believes that former players such as Cleall will serve as crucial role models as the team embarks on a new league challenge.

“Like any team entering a new league, the biggest challenge for us this season is just staying up,” said Benson.

“At Ellingham and Ringwood, one of the things we pride ourselves on is having a player pathway for development, where girls can progress to the senior team.

“We have a fantastic record of developing players at the club, and Poppy is part of that growing legacy and it’s reflected onto our current crop of players.

“We’ve had a lot of former players who have gone on to play for Premiership clubs and it’s great to see them go and play at that level.”

“We have strengthened the side quite significantly and over the last season, we’ve had a lot of new girls who have joined the club organically – and those who have come through our girls’ sections.”

Despite the challenge that awaits, Benson insists the team is relishing the opportunity to lock horns with new opposition this season against the backdrop of this summer’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, which he believes has lifted the mood within the Ellingham and Ringwood camp.

“The most important thing from this summer’s World Cup has been the amount of coverage, particularly with the final being showed on prime time terrestrial TV, as well as the amount of coverage in the radio and the newspapers,” he added.

“We have been promoting women’s and girl’s rugby for years at Ellingham and Ringwood RFC and it was fantastic to see one our former players at the tournament.”

  • The next set of Warrior Camps will take place in January 2018. To stay tuned on news and upcoming Warrior Camp dates, register your details at Alternatively, to start playing rugby this season go to to find a club near you.