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Q&A: Tasker on life at Lightning, Daisy delight, and Ealing preview

Georgina Tasker has started the 2023/24 season in fine form for Loughborough Lighting, featuring in all three Allianz Cup games and scoring two tries along the way.

The versatile back/centre may only have turned 21 years of age recently, but she is entering her fourth season in an African Violet shirt as she balances her rugby along with her studies in Biological Sciences at Loughborough University. 

We caught up with ‘G’ to find out more about her rugby journey ahead of this Saturday’s final Allianz Cup pool stage match against Trailfinders Women (kick-off: 2pm), which will be played on the University campus in Epinal Way.

It will be Loughborough’s final hit out before their Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby season gets underway on Saturday 18 November, away at Saracens.

Q: What was your route into playing rugby union and joining Loughborough Lightning?
I started at school when I was in Year 7. One of my friends – whose brother was really into rugby – just said to me one day ‘do you fancy rugby after school tomorrow, we need a few numbers?’. I was quite sporty when I was growing up so I thought, no worries I’ll give it a go. 

I really enjoyed it and went to go and join the local team which had just started at Mansfield. There was ten of us there at the first session when I was aged 11. By the time I left when I was 16 or 17-years-old, there was over 100 girls and now they have from Under-11s to a Ladies section, so it has expanded a lot.

I stayed at school through my A-Levels, I was at the Loughborough Centre of Excellence and got invited in to train with Lightning. I was commuting from Mansfield three times a week to train and play for what was their Development team at the time. Then I came to Uni here and I haven’t looked back since!

Q: This is your fourth season at Lightning, but your first under new head coach Nathan Smith, who arrived during the summer. How much have things changed under the new regime?
Nathan has worked really hard to create a better environment and create a proper Club environment. He has come in and send standards from the first day. Which I think was a bit of a rude awakening for some people but I think that’s something that we are really benefiting from.

He’s so committed and constantly analysing training and games. Session plans are being sent out every single day which is something that we weren’t used to, going from small things like skills to full training sessions. It’s something as a team we are relishing.

“Nathan has really helped us to develop more of a tight-knit squad feel.”

Georgina Tasker, Loughborough Lightning

With Loughborough University being affiliated with the Lightning programme, that’s something very unique that we have and I don’t think it’s something that we’ve actually got the most out of in previous seasons. Now it’s a very fluid dynamic between BUCS, between Lightning and that's even without all the internationals coming back. We’re definitely utilising what we’ve got much better. 

Q: With so many internationals away, the depth of Lightning’s squad has really been put to the test during the Allianz Cup with the side losing narrowly to Gloucester-Hartpury and Saracens before securing a momentous away win at Harlequins a fortnight ago. How big a win was that for the group?
 It was really big, I didn’t actually realise it was the first time that Loughborough had won at The Stoop. What’s been really important in the past few games is developing and promoting a brand of rugby that we’ve been working on so hard since preseason.

We want to play fast, we want to play on top of teams and I think that throughout the games we’ve really grown into that. That’s not something that’s been easy, but the intensity we’ve been training at has been absolutely ridiculous. Beating Quins has installed a bit more belief in what we’re doing.

Q: Lightning won that match without the services of Daisy Hibbert-Jones after her call-up to the Red Roses, before going on to win her first senior cap against Australia. How pleased were you to see another teammate represent her country?
 Just watching her get her first cap was really nice. Daisy is so committed. She works with Northampton Saints as well and it’s pretty tough for her managing that work/rugby balance but you cannot fault her attitude, she’s one of the most driven players that I’ve ever played with. For her to get her first cap was just so well deserved.

Q: Since Lightning last played, we learned that Worcester Warriors Women have withdrawn from Premiership Women’s Rugby this season. How disappointed were you to learn of their fate?
 Home for me is the Midlands, so I know a few of the girls from when I was involved in the Divisional Midlands group. I played age grade England with them and they were doing really, really well at Worcester. It’s sad to see that opportunity has been taken from them. When you look from a further-out perspective, all you see is the rugby. But you kind of forget that’s where they’ve made their lives. Some will be at Uni there, they will have houses there, to have to just pick up your stuff and leave must be devastating for them, it’s really awful and not nice to see.

Q: After a break from action last weekend, this Saturday you face Trailfinders Women in a match being played at Epinal Way. The PWR newcomers have showed promise in the Allianz Cup despite suffering three defeats – what kind of challenge do you think they will present Lightning?
 We’ve previewed Ealing and watched some of their games back. They seem to be a really exciting team to watch. They pose a run threat which I personally love in rugby, that’s what everyone wants to see. People trying to play. Even their result against Saracens [45-10 defeat], the first half for them they were in the game and they definitely put up a front. Even though they’re new to the Prem, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Their head coach [Giselle Mather] was with Wasps before, she took them into the top four and they were always an exciting team to watch.

While cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens is our home and we love playing there, we train at Loughborough University and playing at Epinal Way is still special, and we want to play well and pick up a good result there on Saturday.

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