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Women’s Rugby

Hardy thriving in hybrid Lightning-Saints role

Emma Hardy may still be in the early stages of her rugby career, but the Loughborough Lightning centre is already playing a key role in bringing the next generation of girls into the sport. 

In addition to playing for Loughborough in the Allianz Premier 15s, the 22-year-old is settling into her new role as Women’s Pathway and Development Manager at Northampton Saints. 

Hardy’s role is a wide-ranging one and is part of what has already been a hugely successful partnership between Lightning and Saints that has been developed in the last two years. 

Several of her Loughborough team-mates are also part of Saints’ Community programme and Hardy is enjoying her off-field responsibilities immensely. 

She said: “Half of my role is overseeing the Loughborough Lightning Centre of Excellence, which is the Under-18s programme that we have. 

“That’s RFU-run, there are spots for that all over the country, but we have one at Loughborough which is really good. 

“My role is to ensure that is running smoothly, ensure we’re getting quality out of the sessions and the girls have everything they need to thrive. 

“The other half of my role is building relationships with local girls’ sections at clubs and seeing what they need from me, in supporting them the best I can. 

“I also try to get myself into schools and try and grow the game through that, so girls who have never had the opportunity to play rugby before, have never done it on the curriculum at school, have that chance to experience it.”

Emma Hardy

“They’ll then hopefully want to transition to local clubs, which will help grow numbers in women’s rugby, keep it competitive at grassroots level and just keep that interest in it and grow the game as a whole.” 

In her playing role, Hardy started last Saturday’s match against Sale Sharks, but she was unable to help Loughborough to a first league win of the season as they fell to a 15-14 loss at Heywood Road. 

This was despite them taking the lead after eight seconds through Daisy Hibbert-Jones’ try, as it remained a case of ‘so near yet so far’ for Rhys Edwards’ side this season, following previous defeats against powerhouses Saracens and Harlequins. 

Hardy said: “We lost it from our own mistakes. Our set-piece wasn’t where we wanted it to be, we lost a lot of our own ball and our core skills were not where we needed them to be. 

“We missed quite a few opportunities which, if we had taken them, might have made the result different, so I think it was very much on us, last weekend. 

“Going into this weekend, it’s important that the focus is on us and we go back to doing what we do well.” 

Up next for Lightning is the second of at least five of home games that will be played at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens this season, with Exeter Chiefs the visitors on Saturday lunchtime. 

Hardy hopes playing at the home of Saints more regularly in the months ahead will allow Lightning to build more of a supporter base. 

Hardy, who has played for England’s Sevens side, said: “It’s amazing, it’s really good. I think for the players it’s just an invaluable experience to run out in front of a crowd at the Gardens, it just really gets you up for it. 

“It really makes a difference and it does feel now that it’s a home crowd, which is amazing, and to see so many young people in the crowd wearing the jerseys, holding up banners and asking for pictures after the game is just why we do it. 

“It’s so amazing and inspiring that next generation is so important to us, so I think it’s really great.” 

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