A sporty marketing manager from St Albans is in the running to play for Brazil at the Rugby League World Cup next year.
Francesca Bunting, 26, from St Albans kicked off her rugby journey around three years ago whilst living out in Australia where she began playing for local team the Manly Mermaids.
Now Francesca is through to the final stages to represent Brazil after she was encouraged to join the rugby league by the team’s head coach Mat Gardner, after he found out about her Brazilian heritage which qualifies her to play for the team.
Francesca said she has always been an avid rugby supporter all her life but had never really played it until moving out to Sydney.
She said: “I started playing sevens when I moved to Australia and I had never really played rugby before but had always played netball to quite a high standard.
“I just happened to meet some girls who played at the local club and started going down to training. When you move somewhere new, sport is just such an amazing thing to have to meet new people.”
Francesca qualifies for the team through her Grandmother, and said she is grateful for the amazing opportunity her heritage has provided for her.
She said: “I have been so fortunate I have got quite a mixed heritage and now it has opened a door for me. I had always wanted to be a professional athlete growing up.”
Francesca added that she enjoys the strict training routine despite trying to squeeze it in around her heavy work schedule.
She said: “I’ve been quite grateful for this month of lockdown because work has been so busy, I don’t know how I would have fitted everything in.
“I enjoy training to this level and having that routine and pressure, I really enjoy it.
“It was a step up in the sense that if you don’t do it, you’re going to get dropped whereas before there wasn’t as much riding on it.”
Francesca will be heading out to Brazil in February to play trial games where there will be a cut down to the squad and has been communicating with her potential future team mates virtually after moving back to St Albans early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said: “I’m lucky the girls are really well versed and speak really good English, they’re a good group, very patient and supportive.
“We are living in an age now where communication is done so virtually that it’s not hard to keep in touch with people.”