Baffins ace closes in on full England debut

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Player power key as Portsmouth step up a level

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VICTORIA CORNBOROUGH celebrated her dream international call-up and declared: The hard work starts now.

The 24-year-old, from Baffins, has been selected for the England Rugby Elite Player Squad (EPS) for the 2014-15 season.

It is the latest step in Cornborough’s bid to represent her country at the top level.

And while the news took a little while to sink in, the former Portsmouth player is now determined to prove her worth in the 52-strong group.

The prop said: ‘I got off the tube in London and I was heading off to a meeting when I got the email.

‘It all comes through officially, so you have to open up the attachment, scan down the list of names to try to see yours.

‘My heart was in my throat the whole time, then I read my name and went numb, absolutely numb. I just couldn’t believe it!

‘I tried so hard in the selection process.

‘The whole of my academy programme last year was, literally, a year long trail to prove to the England coaches I was ready to make that leap into the squad.

‘This really is a dream come true but the hard work starts now.’

Cornborough began her career with Portsmouth’s mini rugby teams at the age of six.

She moved on to girls’ rugby at the age of 13 and three years later was selected for England’s under-20s, who she later captained.

Now playing for Richmond, Cornborough has been part of the England Academy for the past year.

But after helping her club to lift the Women’s Premiership and Senior Women’s Cup, her performances have caught the eye of the selectors again.

The squad will this season compete in the extended six-leg Sevens World Series, which kicks off in Dubai in December, and the Six Nations, which runs alongside the men’s tournament in February and March.

And following England’s World Cup win in August, there is no better time for Cornborough to be forcing her way into the national set-up.

‘We have been steadily growing and growing in the public knowledge over the past couple of years,’ said the Richmond ace.

‘And winning the World Cup in the summer was just fantastic.

‘I have been involved in women’s rugby for a long time now and it all kind of kicked off when the men won the World Cup in 2003.

‘The whole perception from the English population sort of exploded and women’s rugby got more participation off the back of that.

‘People are becoming professional players now and five to 10 years ago you wouldn’t have even thought of that. Maybe one day I could actually see it as a career opportunity without having to do a full-time job as well!’

Cornbrough admits she could not have achieved what she has so far without huge support from friends and family, who have stuck with her through the highs, lows and awful weather conditions.

Meanwhile, she also owes much of her success to coach and mentor Karen Findlay and her Portsmouth mini rugby coaches Derek Forrester, who died earlier this year, Jon Whitehouse and Nigel Painter.