From education to employment

University of Winchester student Eloise tackles top level rugby and studies head-on


Four years ago she’d never played the game – now University of Winchester student Eloise Harris is playing for one of the country’s top rugby clubs.

The 19-year-old, who plays hooker, is coming to the end of her first season with Harlequins in the Women’s Allianz Premier 15s.

It’s been a busy last nine months for Eloise whose step up to the top level of rugby union coincided with her starting her degree in Forensic Investigation at the University.

In addition to tackling her studies Eloise has to travel to south London at least three times a week to attend training sessions.

“It’s challenging at such a high level but I’m learning new things every day,” said Eloise, whose family live in Fareham.

Eloise played her first game of rugby aged 15 for Havant Under-15s and was named player of the match.  A week later she was playing in trials for Hampshire.

Not a great follower of rugby, Eloise only went to try out for Havant on the off-chance because her younger brother had just joined one of their boys’ teams.

“My dad asked me if I fancied trying the game and it felt natural straight away,” said Eloise.

“I’d always been sporty and I’d done riding, swimming, netball and rounders but I’d never found a sport that suited me so well as rugby.”

From Havant Eloise joined Richmond Ladies where she played a year before joining nearby Harlequins Academy. After a year at the academy she is now in the senior squad.

For most of the season Eloise has been on the subs bench as the ‘Quins first choice hooker is England international Amy Cokayne.

But who better to learn from?

“Amy is brilliant – if she’s talking, you have to listen. Her advice is so good,” said Eloise.

Cokayne is leaving Harlequins at the end of the season to join Leicester Tigers which could mean more first team rugby for Eloise. However, Eloise admits that there is fierce competition for places in the starting 15 and the current squad already includes Under-20 England hooker Rosie Dobson.

Off the field Eloise says she is enjoying her course and is determined to keep up her studies unlike some other student players she knows who have dropped out of university to concentrate on the sport.

“As much as I love rugby it’s not something I can get paid for yet so I want get my degree to fall back on. Rugby is not for ever,” said Eloise.

Eloise was one of two athletes to receive the University’s Sports Excellence Award. The other was BMX rider Harriet Alexander.

Helen Thomas, Sports Facilities and Development Manager at the University of Winchester, said:

“Eloise’s achievements to date have been incredible, she is a real role model to girls and women’s rugby.

“The University is proud to support Eloise in her rugby and academic career by offering her the Sports Excellence Award and our new TASS Dual Career Accreditation. We look forward to following her journey and assisting her on the way.”

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