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Hibbert-Jones relishing opportunity to learn at Lightning

When Daisy Hibbert-Jones signed for Loughborough Lightning ahead of this season, she knew she would not have a shortage of back-row role models to take inspiration from.

The 20-year-old admits part of the draw of leaving Sale Sharks for Northampton Saints’ women’s side last summer was the chance to learn under players like England captain and record appearance-maker Sarah Hunter and Scotland skipper Rachel Malcolm.

It was Hunter’s absence during and immediately after last autumn’s Rugby World Cup that gave Hibbert-Jones the chance to stake her claim at No.8 – and it is fair to say she has made the most of her opportunity.

She replaced her mentor at half-time of Loughborough’s match against Wasps at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens last Sunday, and went on to score one of their ten tries in the 62-5 thumping that gave them their first Allianz Premier 15s win of the season.

Hibbert-Jones, who is hoping Lightning can carry that kind of form into Saturday’s trip to league leaders Gloucester-Hartpury, said: “To be able to train alongside and learn from them is fantastic.

“I’m really keen to learn, I’m really keen to get better, and knowing that you’ve got players like Sarah Hunter and Rachel Malcolm to help you develop is fantastic, with Rachel as the captain of Scotland and Sarah as the captain of England.

“To be able to learn from two great people in their positions helps to make it a great place to be around.”

Daisy Hibbert-Jones

“You’ve also got up-and-coming players like Sadia Kabeya and to be able to be with her in an environment where everyone is challenging each other and there is a lot of competition for a position in the squad, that’s exactly where I want to be.”

During this week, Hibbert-Jones has been attracting attention online after her very early try against her old club Sale suddenly went viral on social media, despite it happening over a month ago.

Hibbert-Jones chased down Helen Nelson’s kick-off to sensationally score after just eight seconds on her first return to Heywood Road, although the day ultimately ended in disappointment as Lightning were beaten 15-14.

“When I played for Sale Sharks, everyone always said that no-one liked going to Heywood Road to play there because of the way the fans are – they’re just so passionate about Sale,” Hibbert-Jones said.

“I can say, having been back with Loughborough, that Heywood Road is not my favourite place to play when you’re not playing for the home team!

“I was full of adrenaline for that game. I wanted to leave an impression out there and I feel like I did.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t come away with the win and Sale managed to pull through and win that game, but to be able to have that adrenaline and use it in such a positive way right at the start of the game, I was really on a high.

“It was a crazy experience and then I didn’t expect it to get as much attention as it’s got at the moment!”

Off the field, Hibbert-Jones is a Community Rugby Coach with Saints alongside her Loughborough team-mate Emma Hardy.

She is reproducing the superb work that led to her being named Community Coach of the Year by Premiership Rugby while she was with Sale last year, which included working with children with Down Syndrome and special educational needs.

Hibbert-Jones said: “My role is to go into schools and community groups and work on their camps.

“For me it’s about putting the enjoyment of rugby into the community and giving people an awareness and a platform to have a go at a sport that some schools might not be able to offer in their curriculum.

“Schools want us to come in and deliver it, and it allows children to have the opportunity to get involved and hopefully spark a bit of an interest and potentially grow the game in the wider community.”

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