Jessica Breach soared on to our screens in her debut for England against Canada in 2017, clocking up six tries. Today, 13 appearances and 22 tries for her country later, the star has one major ambition: to win a Rugby World Cup.
The road to Rugby World Cup 2021
Breach credits her sporty childhood for her success in rugby.
“Like any sporty child I just played anything and everything,” the winger says. “I probably didn’t want to be in school and I’d rather be on the playing field playing netball, hockey, or athletics. Because I did other sports, I never got bored of rugby.”
In fact, the West Sussex star attributes some of her rugby skills to the sports she played as a teen: “Hockey gives you that aggression, athletics can give you that power, speed and endurance, and netball can give you that hand-eye coordination.”
Despite getting to county level in gymnastics and being a sprint hurdler at the English Schools Athletics Championships, Breach quickly decided to focus on rugby. In 2014 and 2015, Breach won the European Sevens Grand Prix Series with England U18s, and captained the talent development group side against Canada. In 2016, aged just 18, Breach joined Harlequins and won the league and cup double that year.
Breach’s first run out as an England player came in 2018, when she joined the England Sevens side and was part of the bronze medal winning team at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The winger also played at the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.
In 2019, Breach was named as one of the 28 contracted players in the England squad aged just 21. In the same year, Breach topped the try scoring charts for the Women’s Six Nations with an incredible nine tries.
Bright plans for the future
It’s no surprise that the 22-year-old has her eyes set on Rugby World Cup 2021.
“For a lot of us younger ones, this is our first opportunity to get picked to be in the squad,” Breach says. “That's my end goal at the moment.
“We have got games leading up to it, with the Autumn Internationals and the Six Nations prior to the World Cup, and even the Premiership games. I think it's really important to put your best performance out in all games, because the England coaches always say that they watch them and then pick on performance, which I think is really true.”
The Woking-based star has her heart set on a successful year. “My perfect year would look like winning the autumns, winning the Six Nations Grand Slam, winning the Premiership and then getting selected and winning the World Cup.
“I think for a lot of people those would be five things on their rugby to do list and obviously it's actually all building up to the World Cup,” Breach says, “That would be pretty awesome.”
Despite Breach not having played in a Rugby World Cup yet, she has attended all women’s tournaments since 2010.
“I’ve always loved going to the World Cup,” the Harlequins player says.
“I was at Twickenham when England were in the 2010 final, I was at the 2014 World Cup in Paris when England won, and then I went to Ireland in 2017. This time it will be different because hopefully I’ll be a player.”
Despite Breach’s success in rugby at such a young age, she is aware that life in professional sport does not last forever, so last year decided to head back to university to study Sports Communications and Marketing. But rugby is still at the forefront, and the full-time athlete is studying in the shadow of Twickenham Stadium at St Mary’s University.
Motivation comes closer to home for Breach
Breach’s ambition for her career comes from a desire to make her family proud. “Everything you do, you do it for the people that have helped you get there,” Breach says, “which is your family.”
The England star was dealt a cruel blow last year when her mum Patricia was diagnosed with cancer.
“The hardest thing was my mum not being able to watch me play against France as the game was in the middle of her treatment,” Breach says. “Her and my dad literally came to every game I have played for England and this was the only one she has missed.
“I called her as soon as the game finished. She was crying, she could not believe she wasn’t there. That was the hardest part.”
The young star has family at the heart of her rugby journey. Like all daughters, she shares the embarrassment she feels from her parents’ pride. “My dad records the national anthem of every England game I play in, it’s so embarrassing,” Breach laughs. “He wears a bright coat so I can always spot him while I’m playing.”
The UK lockdown left Breach spending more time at home, a rare treat for international players. “Even though it’s been a horrible time for a lot of people, it’s actually been really nice spending quality time with our loved ones,” she says.
Particularly special for Breach of course, who got the chance to spend time with her mum, who is now in remission from cancer.
For Breach, lockdown also gave her the opportunity to recover from an ankle injury sustained during the Six Nations. “Sometimes when you have an important game coming up you have that focus and you want to rush, but actually because of lockdown I had time to take it easy.”
“As soon as rugby started back up, I was actually rugby fit,” the winger says, which is great news for England, as the star can finish the 2020 Six Nations when it resumes in late October.
With the Six Nations, Autumn Internationals, an exciting Premiership season and a World Cup on the horizon, the future looks bright for Jess Breach.