Students star on historic day for Leicester Tigers Women

Credit: Leicester Tigers

Rugby players from the University of Leicester featured in an historic fixture for Leicester Tigers last week.

Leicester Tigers Women hosted their first competitive fixture at the world-famous Welford Road stadium – a stone’s throw from the University campus – on Sunday afternoon.

Two current Leicester students and a University alumna earned a place in the matchday squad for the first game against outside opposition following the introduction of the women’s and girls’ rugby programme at the club earlier this year, headed by former England star Vicky Macqueen.

Final-year Medical student Izzy Butcher and Crime, Justice and Psychology MSc student Lucrezia Iavarone joined Law graduate Ofure Ugiagbe in the matchday 23 to face Edinburgh University. All three have been a key part of the University of Leicester Women’s Rugby Club, which competes in British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS).

However, while the game was a first in Tigers colours, it wasn’t the players’ first taste of playing at Welford Road. Izzy explained: “It was a true honour to feature for Leicester Tigers in the first competitive women’s rugby game at Welford Road. Leicester Tigers has been established for over 150 years, and I can’t explain how important it is that they are now developing a women’s team.

“Women’s rugby has done nothing but grow over recent years, and it’s amazing that Tigers are giving more opportunities for girls to develop their rugby, through such great experiences.

“I’ve been at the University for seven years, and fortunately have played in Varsity at Welford Road since my first year – which was great preparation. The crowds are always amazing when we play Varsity, and as this team builds I hope more and more people will come to watch.”

For Ofure, now working at the Ministry of Justice, the experience was particularly special – after a significant injury three years ago, doctors told her she might not walk unaided again. But Sunday’s game marked her return to the top of the women’s game, having previously in the Allianz Premier 15s. She said: “I had real mixed emotions running out for the first competitive fixture in a Tigers shirt. It was a mixture of excitement, pride and disbelief!

“I studied Law and graduated back in 2016. Balancing rugby with University was a challenge, particularly because I was involved in so many aspects of student life; I was captain of the rugby team, I was on the Law society committee, I was the Union Sports President, and I had two part-time jobs.

“It was all about time-management and making sure I asked for support when I needed it. Now I work full-time for the Ministry of Justice, I coach a rugby team, I’m back playing rugby and I have a daughter, so it’s a different kind of balancing act. I just have to be disciplined and protect my time where I can!”

Lucrezia earned a start on the wing for the historic match, and described the ‘dream’ of running out in Leicester’s famous green, white and red. She added: “I support Leicester Tigers, and I have been living in Leicester for almost four years now; therefore, being able to play for the team of this city felt like a dream. I am honoured and grateful to have been given the opportunity to represent Tigers at Welford Road.

“My goal is to play at the highest level possible, so ideally in the Premier 15s. My dream would be to play for the Italian National Team, but for now I am just focused on improving and playing as much rugby as possible!”

Both of the University’s Women’s and Men’s rugby clubs, supported by Leicester Students’ Union and the University's Sport and Active Life team, face their counterparts from De Montfort University in an annual Varsity clash in front of thousands of supporters at Welford Road.