Ruck On

Red Roses Lock Poppy Cleall on How England are Working on Being a Powerhouse for Women’s Rugby

Poppy Cleall, England Rugby Lock
Poppy Cleall

Poppy Cleall explains to Kim Donaldson how England are finding their form with two wins already in the Six Nations Tournament and why the sport’s grassroots are flourishing

Ruck On is Presented by former Canadian Team Hooker Kim Donaldson

Podcast length: 15′ 59″

Kim Donaldson catches up with Saracens  & England Lock Poppy Cleall, to hear how the Red Roses are finding their form in the current Six Nations Tournament having beaten Italy 42-7 in Round 1, and then this past weekend Wales, by another convincing margin of 52-0. Poppy explains that the team is not only strong in the front row but credits the coaching as well as the foundation for women’s rugby in England. Having started playing at the age of six, Poppy won her first cap for England against Scotland in 2017 and will be heading to Glasgow later this month to play them again. She explains how the grassroots of the game in England is providing the best opportunities that young girls can have to come into the sport and a sound foundation for England’s county teams.  When she’s not playing rugby Poppy is a Prison Officer at HM Prison Ashfield, an adult male sex offenders prison near Bristol.

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England Rugby Football Union (RFU)

Six Nations Tournament


Poppy on TwitterInstagram

Kim on TwitterInstagram


Doing things by halves is not in Poppy’s psyche. Her charitable work has involved cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats and trekking the Annapurna mountain range in north central Nepal. As if that’s not enough, Poppy is part of the Moody Cows sevens team that has helped to raise more than £20,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

She even has an identical twin sister, Bryony, who has played for Bristol in the Premiership and is now with Saracens. Poppy said: “We won the National Championship at Ellingham & Ringwood in 2009 and the Premiership with Saracens and we played together in all for 10 years, including games for Hampshire and the South of England.”

Her own playing days began at an after-school club when she was six and she went on to Ellingwood & Ringwood RFC with brief spells at Salisbury and Wimborne. She returned to Bristol for the 2016/17 season, having played for the club from 2010/12 before switching to Saracens from 2013/16 where she has now returned.

Norwich-born Poppy attended Burgate School and Sixth Form Centre in Hampshire, studied sports therapy and rehab at the University of West of England in Bristol and featured in every match for the 2017 Grand Slam winning side, and was a late replacement call-up at the Women’s Rugby World Cup that year where she played three times.

Her guiding influence as well her father was Steve Benson at Ellingwood & Ringwood. She said: “He was always passionate and knowledgeable. You could really tell he enjoyed coaching and would always go out of his way for anyone. My dad drove my sister and I everywhere and always spent hours critiquing our performances. I value his opinion most.  

“My proudest moment in rugby was my first cap for England against Scotland in February last year. My sister had travelled to Cumbernauld to watch. It was a great experience, the accumulation of years of hard work and we won 32-0. Doing the double of the Premiership and National Cup with Saracens in 2015 was a proud moment, too. I love hockey and football but support West Ham only because my dad does!”

Poppy’s favouring things are Italian food and R&B music while her top film is Up, her best ‘read’ is Gone Girl and Great British Bake Off is the TV show she enjoys most. To unwind, she also takes her rabbit, Reginald for a walk. She added: “He even has his own lead!”

International Record

15 points – 3T

2016 S(R), It(R), W(R), F(R) I(R), NZ(R), C(R) 2017 F(R) W(R), It(R), S(R), I(R), C, C RWC – S(R), I(R), USA(R) 2018 It, W

(Source RFU)






Photo: Poppy Cleall supplied by guest
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