England Women's Rugby squad have started the defence of their World Cup title with a landslide victory...after a little help from Serve On.
Fresh from their recent team-building weekend with our IRT and CRT volunteers, the Red Roses scored an impressive ten tries in their 56-5 victory against Spain in the opening game of the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland.
"Anything other than winning the World Cup will be regarded as failure"
They went into the match with the best wishes of the Serve On team who had been blown away by the girls’ performance when we hosted them at our Chilmark training centre and put them through some search and rescue and humanitarian response scenarios.
The reigning World Champions had been transported from their normal training camp and cosy hotel in the dead of night to arrive in the wilds of Wiltshire where we had the squad and their training staff build their own tented accommodation in the dark before they finally crawled into their sleeping bags at 2am.
Then we woke them again at 5am to give them time to prepare their field breakfast before an operational briefing!
They were told the scenario was that they had been diverted from a rugby tour to help out after an earthquake in the Philippines.
The girls were shown some of our technical search equipment, were taught about trauma medicine techniques, learned about running an operations room and practised some of our throw-line techniques used in rapid water rescues.
Scrum-half La Toya Mason said: "It's about putting us outside our comfort zone, working with other people we don't normally work with all the time and bonding as a team, in pressure situations, working out how to solve problems."
Team captain and Number Eight Sarah Hunter, recently voted the World Player of the Year, said: "We're doing it to see what we can learn from other teams, what they do well and why. Seeing how the Serve On rescuers operate as a team in difficult situations can be a lesson for us."
The players were then given the chance to put some of the techniques into practice in various mock disaster scenarios, planning a refugee camp to accommodate disaster survivors and rescuing live casualties buried beneath rubble or trapped in overturned cars – our own Pete Dunning and Jazz Williams, as it happened.
They soon showed why they are the World champions, quickly mastering their tasks - that's the Red Roses, not Pete and Jazz, although they were pretty good too.
Head coach Simon Middleton, who joined in the exercises, said of his team: "It doesn't surprise me. The great thing about these girls is that they cope. They are adaptable and resilient and still they perform.
"If you said to them now, 'We're booking into a 5-star hotel tonight and you don't have to get up tomorrow until 9am', then that would be their preference, but when you say, 'You'll be staying in a field again and getting up at 5.30am,' they just crack on."
Winger Lydia Thompson, who scored one of the tries against Spain, said after her Serve On weekend: "It's been a journey, to say the least! There have been some really realistic and eye-opening challenges that we have been set and that's great because you really don't know what's going to happen over this next journey (the World Cup campaign).
"Maybe the venues will change or the team is not quite what you thought they were going to be, so it's about being adaptable and just going, 'Right, let's go back to what we do best.'
"We have seen people bring their strengths and what they do well, and lead us, and it's been very good for learning a lot about what we can offer as a team."
Our IRT Operations Director, Dan Cooke said: "Anything other than winning the World Cup will be regarded as failure, so this squad knows all about pressure, but hopefully we were able to create some different pressure situations for them.
"We really like to work alongside high-performing international teams because we try in what we do to make a difference to people's lives and we know how sport can do that too.
"We can tailor these experiences to suit the training aims of the teams we work with but we can learn a lot from them too. This group were a stand-out example of the way the best players adapt and learn from different situations and it was a privilege to work with them.
"All of our guys were hugely impressed by the way they quickly grasped what we were teaching them and absolutely nailed every task we set them.
"They have an outstanding set of values not always seen in elite sport, and they stick to them. How they perform on the pitch is about more than just fast running and tackling, it is about representing England and their sport and, indeed, women's sport, and they are outstanding role models."
Dan added: “There were a number of the squad members saying they were interested in doing this type of work either when they’re between World Cups or when they stop playing top flight sport.
“They recognised parallels in the teamwork and achieving success when it matters and means something.
“If I’m honest, we were all hugely inspired by these people.”