Captain Clapp eyes successful 2022
Saracens head coach Alex Austerberry can spot rugby talent a mile off. If you don’t believe it, then take Lotte Clapp as a prime example.
The captain of the Women in Black developed as a teenager under the watchful eye of Austerberry when he was a talent development officer. These days he describes her as ‘The Epitome of Saracens’.
Twice she has lifted the Premier15s title and became a Saracens centurion last season, when she also led the side into the final against Harlequins. After that bitter experience she is eyeing up a return trip to the season finale, where she wants a different outcome.
Knee ligament problems kept her on the sidelines for much of the first half of the season, but she is raring to go again at the start of 2022.
She will celebrate her birthday on Friday (13 January) with a typical day in her life. Up at 5.30am to go to the gym before heading to her job as a Primary School teacher at the Samuel Lucas Junior Mixed & Infant School in Hitchin. She teaches Year 3 pupils, aged seven, from 8.00am-5.00pm every day and on Thursday nights joins her Saracens team mates at the StoneX for club training.
“I’ve been loving the break from both school and playing over the Christmas period but can’t wait to get back into action this weekend,” said Clapp.
“We look to fit in as many training and skills sessions as we can each week. That is not just for the girls who have professional contracts, but also those who are working every day.
“The league is getting more and more professional every season and the players are having to move with the times. We are devoting more and more of our time to training and preparing properly for our games.
“We are challenged every week now, whereas it was only a few times in a season a few years ago. Now we have to study every team we are playing against and be at our best week in, week out.”
“I’m happy with the first half of the season, although not at all happy with the score against Harlequins. Things went well for us against Bristol Bears, especially as they were the team to beat at the time,” added Clapp.
“But every season this tournament gets tougher and more competitive and that showed over the three weeks coming out of the November internationals. We had a really tough game at Gloucester-Hartpury, then had the top of the table clash with the Bears and then had to face Quins, the reigning champions.
“The good thing is that nothing is won in the first half of the season. We are right up there in contention and we are ready to press on in the second half.
“The standards in women’s rugby are being driven up by the application and performances of the Red Roses. The fans are flocking to watch them and they are wowing them with what they produce.
“It’s great having so many international players in our own squad. They give everyone a boost and ensure we all keep our standards high.
“Poppy Cleall was nominated for the World Rugby player of the year award recently and Zoe Harrison has got to be one of the best kickers of the ball in the world game. Having players of that calibre at Saracens is simply fantastic.”
Rugby began at the age of 11 for Clapp at Sir Frederic Osborn School in Welwyn Garden City. She carried on at the Welwyn club and was a sports scholar at St Mary’s University. She made her Saracens debut against Lichfield in October 2014.
Since then she has gone on to become a flying machine on the wing for club, country and England Sevens. She is also helping to inspire youngsters to play the game.
“We’ve got a rugby club going in the lunchtimes at my school and the children came to watch me play for Saracens against Exeter Chiefs at the StoneX. They were all so excited and I’m thrilled they’ve taken so much interest in rugby,” she added.
“I took them to a tournament in November and it is great to capture their interest in a game that I’ve got so much enjoyment out of in my life.”
But back to the season in hand. Can Saracens go all the way again and recapture the title they lost to Quins in May?
“The defeat in last season’s final has brought some motivation for this campaign. It was heartbreaking when we lost at Kingsholm,” she admitted.
“We know we didn’t play up to our standard we needed to be at. We just had to kick ourselves for missing a great opportunity.”
And so to a few awards from the skipper for the first half of the season.
Rising Star – Ella Wyrass
She was with us a few years ago and then went off to Loughborough Lightning. She returned this season and has been absolutely incredible. Her try against Bristol showed how she can spot space and has the speed to exploit it and her passing at scrum half is so crisp. She played well enough to get into the Red Roses squad in November and the best thing is there is so much more to come from her.
Clubwoman of the Season So far – Alex Ellis
She has been with us for a few years, but suffered with complications with her visa. That has meant she has been unable to play until now. She has remained totally committed to the club throughout this frustrating period and has turned into a huge inspiration for us all. She officially retired her ball girl bib before Christmas and I can’t wait to see how she performances in the second half of the season.
Special Award – Kat Evans
She has been at the club ever since I’ve been around and is the most positive person I have ever met. She overcame a terrible leg break years ago but still managed to return better than ever. She reached two notable milestones in the first half of the season – her 200thappearance for Saracens and her international debut for Wales. Kat proves that if at first you don’t succeed, just keep on trying because you can get there in the end. The fittest 35-year-old I know!