From The Vaults

02 May 2022
Player Profile - Maxine Edwards

Following the nail-biting finish to the 2022 TikTok Women's Six Nations at the sold-out Jean Dauger stadium in Bayonne between England and France on Saturday 30th April 2022, we wanted to take a look back at a memorable figure from past England-France games. One incredible player stood out -Maxine Edwards.

Edwards was the first Red Roses captain to lead her side out onto the pitch at Twickenham. At the time, Edwards commented "Looking from where I started, 13 years ago, I'd never have thought we'd have been playing at Twickenham." The match against France during the 2003 Six Nations campaign marked the breaking of a new frontier for the Red Roses in response to the incredible growth in support for women's rugby around the turn of the century. In England, national lottery funding had begun to support several of the elite playing squad to cover the costs of physically playing the game, such as training, equipment, and physio, but all the players had to have another source of income to live on. Edwards was a qualified electrician and former business analyst but had just applied for teacher training when she found out she was going to be England captain.

In addition to her work and training commitments, Edwards was also a single mother to her son Sean. She recalled:

"That day I was so proud when the anthems were played, the thought of all the training, the sacrifices, the times I hadn't been able to do things with my son, Sean. All of that was in my head as the fans sang with us and, as we always did, we stood arms around each other as a front row. The responsibility that day for all of us was enormous, we couldn't play for the first time at Twickenham and perform in such a way that would confirm the low expectations that some people still had of us as rugby players."

Born in London in 1966, Edwards' rugby career began at Bromley RFC at age 19 and she captained the side through their move to become Blackheath women's team, describing Blackheath as her 'rugby family'. Edwards played in the 1991 inaugural women's Rugby World Cup as flanker but then moved to prop whilst her sister Jacquie, who went on to score the winning try for England at the 1994 women's Rugby World Cup final in Scotland, was a back. Edwards played in three World Cups and won 45 caps in total, and in 2010 was awarded an MBE for services to rugby.

On 15 February 2003, Edwards led the Red Roses onto Twickenham pitch ahead of their Six Nations game against France. Having lost 22-17 in Lyon the previous year, the England were determined to prove themselves on the hallowed turf. The team certainly met their goals, beating France with a resounding 57-0. For Edwards, her 36th cap will always be a particularly memorable one:

"We were playing at 1pm before the men's match at 4pm and I remember being on the team coach, walking in through crowds of youngsters, supporters from women's clubs, feeling almost 'Do I deserve to be here?'  To walk in through those fans into such an amazing stadium was incredible and then going out to the pitch you'd expect to feel lost in the vastness of it but you are surprised to feel that it is quite enclosed and you really do feel at home."

Visitors can find out more about the World Cups in which Maxine Edwards played as part of our special exhibition 'In Her Own Words: The Rugby World Cup'.

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