Rising Star: Jess Breach

Having burst onto the international scene with six tries in a stellar test debut for England in November, Jess Breach is embarking on an exciting career switch. The electrifying wing who plys her trade for Harlequins Ladies in the Tyrells Premier 15s has linked up with the England 7s programme to chase World Cup success later this year. We catch up with Jess to find out more.  

How has the switch to the 7s programme been so far? It’s been great and a huge challenge but something I’m loving. The programme is obviously different to what I have experienced so far with England Women and Harlequins Ladies but I’m enjoying the fast-paced nature of 7s and the intensity of matches. My goal for the season ahead is to learn from the players around me as much as I can, and really work on developing the finer points of my game.

Do you feel your game is more suited to the shorter game? I think my assets can be used to greater benefit in 7s. I really enjoy the extra space you have in the shorter game, and being a quick player I love being able to cut through the defence. In saying that I have played 15s my whole life and it’s a great feeling when your backline is in full flow and you’re put through holes and gaps are created by the skills of the players around you.   https://twitter.com/WorldRugby7s/status/987558816211386368  

It’s a big year for England 7s with the World Cup fast approaching, how excited are you for this opportunity? I’m really looking forward to it. It's been a great experience so far in an England 7s shirt and I thoroughly enjoyed the Commonwealth Games. Obviously, our focus remains on playing well in the World Series first and foremost but the opportunity to play in the World Cup definitely swayed my decision to switch formats of the game. It’s something to work towards and hopefully I will get the chance to compete.

You scored six tries on debut for England against Canada in November, did you ever imagine you would make such a big impact in your first test match? No not at all, it was totally surreal. I have always dreamt of playing test rugby for England, but I never imagined scoring one try on debut, let alone six. Everything just seemed to click perfectly and my teammates were all outstanding and definitely made my job so much easier.    

Before your move to 7s you were in outstanding form for Harlequins Ladies, can you pinpoint the secret behind your try-scoring success? It really comes down to having great teammates around me. I owe a lot of my good fortune to the forwards who create the momentum up the pitch and then the centres who work me into space and the try-scoring positions.

Your Dad played rugby for Chichester, Sussex and Norfolk, was he a big inspiration to you growing up? Most definitely. I would spend my weekend’s watching my Dad and brother play. They were both a huge inspiration and really gave me a lot of motivation to start taking my rugby seriously.

Are there any players you have based your game on? Nolli Waterman has had a huge influence on me. She is so quick off the mark and has great attacking feet. I’ve really made sure I learn as much as I can from the senior players within the England team and Nolli is a great role model and someone I definitely look up to  

We understand you were also a great hurdler as a teenager where you represented England Schools, do you feel that experience has benefitted your rugby career? Hurdling was extremely beneficial and gave me the opportunity to improve my pace and agility. I spent a period of time juggling my athletics training around my rugby and it made such a difference in terms of my speed and reaction off the mark. Hurdles can be such a challenging and rewarding event, similar to rugby in a lot of ways. If you knock over a hurdle you have to recover extremely quickly and alternatively if you drop a ball or miss a tackle in rugby you have to bounce back in a positive way.

You’re studying a degree in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Chichester, how are you finding the course so far? I am into my second year now and really enjoying all aspects of the degree. It has helped me understand the various sports injuries, training methods and recovery which has really benefited my own rugby career. It also allows me to focus my brain on other areas other than rugby and gives me the opportunity to pursue an interest off the pitch.