10 January 2020

EXCLUSIVE: England and Harlequins rugby star Jess Breach talks 'heartbreak' after Saracens loss, World Cup prospects and life with boyfriend Archie White, a fellow Quin

Given what she has already achieved for both club and country, it's hard to believe rugby star Jess Breach is only 22.

The Harlequins and England winger made her Six Nations debut for England last February after being awarded a full-time contract the month before, and became the top scorer in the tournament with nine tries in five games.

Breach's tries paved the way for England's Grand Slam victory and the team's first away win in France for seven years during the autumn internationals in November.

She says the upcoming Six Nations is the first leg in the run-up to the 2021 World Cup and believes England have a good chance at the title.

"We have to do well as a team and put things in place for the World Cup, I think it's important, but it's far away and we have a big tournaments before then.

"I think we're working well as a unit and that shows from the autumn internationals. Even when we aren't playing our best we can grind out a win. Hopefully in the Six Nations we play some good rugby to put us in good stead for the autumns and then going into the World Cup I think we're in a good place."

Breach scoring one of the nine tries she secured in the 2019 Six Nations (PA Images)

Breach experienced a near-perfect year with England in 2019 but it was a slightly different story with her club Harlequins. Despite having a stellar regular season, and reaching the Premier 15s final, her side were beaten at the last hurdle by Saracens - a repeat of the 2017 season finale.

In December the reigning champions descended on The Stoop to try to seal another win over Quins, something they pulled off in style.

Breach said they suffered 'heartbreak' after Sarries' crushing comeback, their London rivals claiming victory despite trailing 24-7 at half-time.

The winger said: "Not much was said after, everyone was heartbroken. The defeat was quite hard to take, especially being up by so many points at half-time.

"We actually had our Christmas social [that week] and then training on the Tuesday for Twickenham, so we spoke about it then to give people some time to think about it and look at the game.

"We did a lot of things right in that match but we still have things to work on as we went from 24-7 up to losing, we really need to start winning those games.

"We have to focus on ourselves, we know we are in a good place but we just weren't there in the second half. We got a bit complacent."

Jess Breach scored a hat-trick for Harlequins as they beat Leinster in an historic match at Twickenham (Twitter: Harlequins Women)

Just a week after the club's demolition by Saracens, they built themselves back up for a historic match at Twickenham against Leinster. It was the first European women's club game at the home of English rugby and the first time the two sides had played each other.

The monumental occasion was watched by a record domestic crowd for a women's club match in England, with 7,000 fans staying on after Harlequins men played Leicester Tigers.

Breach, who scored a hat-trick in her side's 47-26 victory, said the atmosphere was amazing: "Yeah incredible, obviously with it being the home of England Rugby, it was fantastic.

"I think all the girls enjoyed it, the build up, the game and seeing families afterwards, it was massive for the women's game.

"The first half was the biggest crowd. It dropped off in the second half but it was fantastic for so many fans to stay on and support us.

"That shows what Harlequins are doing, they want women's rugby to grow. I think it's just going to get better and better from here.

"I do think it's important for those girls who haven't quite made England or haven't represented their county to play at Twickenham."

Breach with her boyfriend, Harlequins player Archie White (Instagram: Jess Breach)

One fan she was glad to see at the stadium was boyfriend Archie White, who plays for the Quins' men's side.

They have been dating for seven months and she has described him on Instagram as her 'rock'. Breach says having a partner within rugby is 'really nice' as he understands her job through and through.

She said: "When you want your own space because you're tired from training you understand that, you understand each other.

"He's just been coming to my games on the weekends, which has been really nice. We have the same day off so that's quite nice to do non-rugby stuff and just chill out. We try and get away from rugby, but it's quite nice that we can chat to each other and ask questions if we don't understand something or get something off our chest after training."

Harlequins are next in action at Gloucester Hartpury tomorrow, kick off at 3.30pm

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