Women's Six Nations: England's Alex Matthews 'lost' after forced switch to XVs

By Becky GreyBBC Sport
Alex Matthews jumps in a line-out
Alex Matthews (left) won a bronze medal with England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games
Women's Six Nations: Italy v England
Venue: Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma Date: Sunday, 1 November Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra with live text on BBC Sport website and app.
Highlights: Post-match highlights on the BBC Sport website and on BBC One at 23:45 GMT on Sunday

Going for a Grand Slam with England is a dream for many rugby players. For Alex Matthews, it is mostly just confusing.

The England flanker, who is part of the side facing Italy on Sunday, expected to be looking back fondly on her first Olympics by now. But like so many others in 2020, she has had to adapt.

First, the postponement of the Tokyo Games - at which Matthews was supposed to compete with Team GB - was announced in March.

Then on 3 August - her 27th birthday - Matthews found out the England sevens programme she had been a key part of for the past three years had been cut, throwing her Olympic future into doubt.

Having last played XV-a-side rugby at the 2017 World Cup, she quickly changed her plans and joined Premier 15s side Worcester.

Even though Matthews is grateful to be able to continue playing for her country, she admits to feeling "a little bit lost".

She continued: "I've been pretty anxious, even day-to-day tasks become quite overwhelming at the moment.

"I feel like I don't know where I am because half the week I'm with Worcester, half the week I'm in an England camp, then you've still got sevens at the back of your mind wondering if that is ever going to happen.

"I do feel all over the place but you've just got to take the opportunities that come up and that's what I'm doing here. You control what you can control."

'I'd give both Olympics and World Cup a go'

Matthews has been welcomed back into the England 15s side, which won the Six Nations with a game to spare thanks to Scotland's draw against France on Sunday and for whom she already has 37 caps.

She has fought her way to a spot in the squad for the Italy game in an extremely competitive back row.

England's men's and women's sevens sides are crowdfunding in an attempt to keep their Olympic dream alive for the postponed Games, but the forward could now be in line to compete at next year's 15-a-side World Cup too.

With so much uncertainty in her life currently, Matthews is reluctant to make any concrete plans.

"I'd love the best of both worlds but that's just greedy isn't it?" she joked.

"The Olympics would be great but at the moment it's so unknown. I'd give both a go if I could but we shall see."

'No savings, no job, but I have a van'

Despite not knowing where her rugby future is leading, Matthews has taken one definite positive from lockdown: more time to spend in her camper van.

It meant she and her partner could escape to the Lake District when a Great Britain sevens training camp was cancelled just before lockdown in March.

Given she is used to travelling the world with England sevens, the chance to tour her own country has continued to provide solace in this tumultuous year.

"When we were allowed to go out a bit more, we just went off in my camper van," she explained.

"It's great having a van because you just think, 'where shall we go today?' When I was getting back in my van to go home I would get that horrible, nervous feeling going back to normal life.

"I spent all my money on it so now I don't have a house deposit, but it's all right. I have no savings, no job, but I have a van."

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