Ellie Roberts labelled the environment at Loughborough Lightning as ‘electric’ as she prepares to take on her former club this weekend.
The 19-year-old spent time in the Centre of Excellence at Saturday’s Allianz Cup opponents Harlequins (kick-off: 2pm), before heading to Loughborough University to study Psychology.
“I am absolutely loving it,” she said. “The environment here is electric. The girls are great. We’re quite a young squad. There’s not masses of experience within us, our average age is probably about 20. All the girls have been so welcoming and Nathan [Smith, head coach] is great.
“He has really worked out how to tap into and get the best out of us. He works us really hard and training is really tough. At the same time, we're building every single week. Since Nathan has come in, we’re building on these foundations to have a really good season.”
While Lightning have kicked off with a couple of defeats, Harlequins have picked up wins against Saracens and Ealing and are in strong position to progress into the knock-out stages of the competition.
“I am really looking forward to my trip down memory lane and seeing some familiar faces,” added Roberts.
“We’re really excited to head to the Stoop, it’s going to be such a great atmosphere for us. Quins are a very aggressive, physical side, we’re very much prepared to give that back to them.”Ellie Roberts
“The Saracens game showed us that we’ve come on leaps and bounds since last season, obviously I wasn’t here. We really did give them a good run for their money, scoring a try in the first five minutes, they didn't see that coming. I feel like it was a good thing to earn some respect from these other big teams.
“Every time we go out we get better. We were really unlucky at Gloucester, we were leading until the last ten minutes when there was an interception try. Every week we’re getting that bit better, with a bit more experience, we’re a young squad and we’ve got so much more to give against these well-founded squads.”
One of Roberts’ teammates from the Saracens match, Daisy Hibbert-Jones, will miss out on the Harlequins encounter as she was called up by the Red Roses as a replacement for Sadia Kabeya ahead of WXV – which for England kicks off on Friday 20 October against Australia (7am BST).
“Daisy is an incredible player and is a great person, on and off the pitch and the whole team is absolutely ecstatic for her,” Roberts added. “We wish her all the best in New Zealand, but at the same time, it would be nice to have her! She will be missed!”