Fresh from signing a new contract with the club, lock Lilli Ives Campion cannot wait to resume Loughborough Lightning’s Allianz Premier 15s campaign against Gloucester-Hartpury on Sunday.
To add to the excitement, the match is one of two extra Lightning games that will take place at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, the home of Northampton Saints, in the remainder of the season.
It marks their first league fixture since a 70-5 hammering of Wasps on March 11, which came before a lengthy break in the domestic season to make way for the Women’s Six Nations.
That’s not to say Ives Campion spent the time idle, however, as she was called up to England Under-20s’ squad for two matches against France, which followed a thumping victory against Scotland at Newcastle.
Loughborough were then able to get themselves back in the groove with two matches in the Allianz Cup in recent weeks, an impressive 44-5 win over Harlequins and a frustrating 19-5 defeat against Worcester Warriors.
With their internationals now fully reintegrated into the squad, Rhys Edwards’ side are focused on ending what has thus far been a difficult campaign on a high.
Ives Campion said: “We’re really looking forward to it. It’s been a good training week with the girls coming back from the Six Nations and we’ve been prepping hard.
“We now want to put a mark in the sand and have a good performance with the girls. If we do that, we can definitely come away with the win this weekend.
“I love it every single time I play at the Gardens – the highlight from the times that we’ve played there was the double-header, when we played after the men and we both beat Sale.”Lilli Ives Campion
“That was obviously a double win and that experience was incredible, just the atmosphere and the crowd that stayed. It was really good to see the amount of spectators that watched our game.”
Ives Campion’s progression has been steady and impressive since joining Loughborough’s squad three years ago, to the point where she is now providing competition for established internationals in her position.
The 19-year-old credits the standards being set by players such as Cath O’Donnell and Emma Wassell for making her aware of what it takes to make it at senior level.
“Thanks to that competition, it makes me the player I am because it’s always been very competitive at Loughborough,” Ives Campion said.
“There have been lots of international second rows and that was one of the reasons why I wanted to stay here and sign a new contract.
“The competition is something that makes you a better player, knowing that you’ve got people who could take your shirt, or have your shirt and you’re trying to take it.
“For a developing player, that really is a key to success because you’re either striving to keep the shirt or you know there is something you need to do or something you need to get better at.”Lilli Ives Campion
The first of the three matches Ives Campion played for England Under-20s during the spring, against Scotland, came on the day Sarah Hunter made the final appearance of her illustrious career, in England’s Six Nations opener at Kingston Park.
Hunter recently departed Lightning to become part of the Red Roses’ staff under new head coach John Mitchell, and Ives Campion was keen to pay tribute to how she has influenced her still fledgling career.
She said: “It’s thanks to her that I am where I am now. From bringing me in at 16 [years old] to the progression I’ve made, the influence she had over me was massive.
“The way she coaches, how influential she is in understanding set-pieces, she goes into a lot of detail, which is very good for a player like me who’s been developing over this period of time.
“To get as much game time and as much experience as I’ve had is a lot down to her and her helping me doing that.”