Leg 2, Day 54 – England Rugby

Laura Penhaul By

Day 54 – England Rugby

I can’t believe the time is here for the Rugby World Cup to arrive in the UK and games are already underway. In my head, I thought we would be nearing the finish line around now and hopefully be back home in time to catch the final England game, unfortunately the winds, currents and timeline has not been on our side, so needless to say, I am gutted to be missing out on all the excitement of the rugger back home. One bonus is that our next stop is Samoa, so being home to many a rugby player, I’m hoping there may be somewhere to watch a game or two on our stopover.
I’ve talked previously about role models and individuals that have inspired me along the way, but one of the biggest learning curves to come out of this row, will be what it takes to make a great team. There certainly is no recipe to this, but I’m sure by the end of the row I’ll be able to highlight the key characteristics that brought us together, the shared values and beliefs that kept us focussed and the antics we got up to keep morale high. Certainly working to bring a team together in the first place, I researched and spent time with a number of effective teams, from Army to Sport to business. One of the biggest in sport that stood out and influenced me the most, is that of the England Rugby team.

Head Coach Stuart Lancaster, has got amazing vision to see potential in players, to nurture them and build their confidence, to draw them together with shared passion and values. As with us, it’s not just about the playing team, it’s the team behind the team that give it strength and England RFU have an excellent support crew in place; from truly experienced and esteemed coaching staff, to the expertise of the Strength and Conditioning team, the physio’s and medic, to the performance analyst team that spend hours behind the scenes drawing together an obscene amount of footage, the nutritionist and Sport Psychologist that play key roles, the admin team that keep everything running smoothly and most importantly not forgetting the kit man (always a crucial role within any team).

I have been fortunate enough in my profession, to have had the opportunity to spend time at Penny Hill Park. A good friend of mine and previous colleague, is Dan Lewindon who has been a physio for the team for some years. He is testament to the type of personality and character of those that work there, he excels as a physio, never stopping to learn more and dedicated to be the best he can be. He is kind, caring and thoughtful, yet assertive and focussed to get the results.

On the times that I have been to their training ground, I have never felt like an outsider. The team, both players and staff, are immediately welcoming and appear comfortable with someone new being in their environment. They maintain a grounded and humbled persona and no matter who they are, they are all very approachable. The atmosphere they create is one of professionalism balanced with an abundance of good banter (crucial to any team!). I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to sit in on a morning team debrief with all the players and hear Stuart Lancaster address them with play feedback on video analysis. Delivery of key messages done assertively yet immediately supportive with how to improve. Plans, processes are all clear as day so any one player knows exactly what their role is and what their goals are to achieve. Simple methods, but hard to do well and extremely effective when they are.

Chris Robshaw also creates a great role model for what a good leader looks like, someone that is reliable, gets stuck in to do the graft, is supportive, remains calm yet authoritative in given situations, but more importantly, recognises and respects the strength of his team around him ‘I may be the captain, but I’m a captain of many leaders’ (quote to that effect). This quote has always stuck with me, on and off this boat, each of the girls leads on a different area. They may have the skill set or have worked with our team of experts around us to develop those skills.

So we have a lot to thank the England Rugby team for and are only sorry we can’t be there in person and team as support over the coming weeks, but rest assured, we will be screaming out into the Pacific words of encouragement and sending our positive vibes back across the equator.

An adapted quote from Any Given Sunday for the boys:
‘You find out life’s this game of inches. So is rowing. So is rugby. Because in either game, life, rowing or rugby the margin for error is so small — I mean one-half a stroke too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.

The inches we need are everywhere around us.

They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch’

Smash it England, show the world how it’s done!




Tantalisingly close to the equator!! As I write this message we are less than 10nm away from toasting to Neptune.



  1. SimonTY says:

    The pink dot is showing as -0.03 as if you are now south of the Equator. I have no idea what the time gap is between pressing SEND on yr blog and it getting posted ? I do not want to congratulate you if you know best……..

    The photo is not that clear………but you appear to be topless, or am I just dreaming ? Or maybe that is the phot you have sent to cheer on the Rugby team, straight into the dressing room in HD ?

    Anyhow PLEEEESE give us a special blog when you are across the Equator. It will be such a massive milestone


  2. Jim Andrews says:

    I am sure as I type this, that you have arrived in the southern hemisphere, so hopefully, timely congratulations. Also you have beaten the sun which doesn’t achieve the migration until Wednesday 23rd. I don’t want you to feel any worse about missing the Rugby Laura but……It has been fantastic so far, England did not make, beating Fiji look easy as the media anticipated. Japan made Rugby World cup history, by beating one of the big 3, South Africa. Argentina made the Allblacks work for their victory. Only 10 games in and it is absolutely riveting. Oops, I made you feel worse didn’t I? Sorry. Samoa beat the USA too. Hopefully you can get to Samoa in time to see the latter part of the competition. The latest Doris location shows that you are 1032 miles from your next stop, so hopefully by this time tomorrow you will be inside the thousand mile to go. You are doing fantastically well, especially as tide and wind have been hampering your progress. Keep smiling and stay safe. XX

  3. Allen says:

    You are doing very well. Thanks for reminding me about the Rugby. I have been paddling all weekend and have missed the news. As I write this, you may have crossed the equator.. If so, many congratulations.. Samoa is so close now.. Keep on rowing, it will be great to see you safe and sound once more. Best wishes. Allen.

  4. Congrats on crossing the line.

    Laura, do you know that Japan beat South Africa? Wayne is sobbing!

  5. Barney says:

    I read your blog every morning and every morning I have the decision to make, whether I can usefully give some comment to either add to your blog or to encourage you in your effort. So when your blogs are so awesome and interesting as they have been, it is very difficult to add value. I can only admire how all four of you are handling this adventure and test of human courage and perseverance. However, as the equator approaches/passes let me just add my words of hearty applause for your achievements to date and hopes that the second half will be a bit more downhill!!

  6. Day Family says:

    Laura and team,
    Really excited that the equator is behind you! We are all so full of admiration for you. Stay safe.
    Rob, Sheila, Katie, Hannah and Sophie.

  7. Ray & Babs says:

    Well done girls you’ve toasted Neptune and are on the right side of the equator, as Leonie said it’s all downhill now!! So proud of you all including Izzy (1st leg) and
    Meg (3rd leg), these two girls have just raised a large sum of money for the charities.

Leave A Reply