Marlie Packer column: England captain happy to fill whatever role necessary to help Red Roses

Packer was on the bench for England’s win over Scotland (AFP via Getty Images)
Packer was on the bench for England’s win over Scotland (AFP via Getty Images)

My Grandad took me on a tour of Twickenham when I was young.

I was a bit rebellious back then, and so I ignored the Keep Off The Grass signs and plucked a blade of the green stuff from the pristine, hallowed turf.

That piece of grass had a root attached to it, and my Grandad took it home, planted it – and kept it in a plant pot at home for years.

That Twickenham grass had pride of place, and now I get to play at the home of English rugby, which is quite frankly incredible.

To be able to call this my job is something very special, something I love and absolutely would never take for granted.

There could be 50,000 or even more people at Twickenham on Saturday, for our Six Nations match against Ireland.

The first time I went to Twickenham was for a Barbarians game, and I could have been as young as six even.

My friend Tom and I spotted Jeremy Guscott in the old car park, where players and families would gather after matches.

We went and asked him for a picture, and he signed a few things for us. I’ve told him about that in recent years and we’ve had a chuckle about it.

Packer will start for England against Ireland at Twickenham (Getty Images)
Packer will start for England against Ireland at Twickenham (Getty Images)

To go from those formative Twickenham experiences to leading England out in a Six Nations match, well, it means everything.

Last week I was on the bench for our 46-0 win in Scotland, and there was a lot of talk about whether I had been dropped or rotated.

I actually knew about the plan for me to be on the bench a week earlier, but I do not tell anyone about what I do and do not know about longer-term plans.

I have a great relationship with our head coach John Mitchell, and what is always at the forefront is that what the Red Roses need absolutely comes first.

However I fit into that, that’s where I want to be. But I still feel like I’ve got so much to offer this squad and this team, and I still love everything about this.

Buying into that plan last week was all part of being a proper leader and the best captain I can be.

Zoe Aldcroft was captain against Scotland, and she’s an integral part of the leadership group.

Zoe did a fantastic job and that’s a big boost for all of us. If any of our leaders are called upon to be captain I know they would be fantastic, but going through the experience is invaluable.

We have to have lots of leaders and it’s important to lean on everyone’s different strengths.

Hannah Botterman is really good at revving the girls up, so after a warm-up on matchday, I will ask her to say something, just before we go back into the changing rooms.

Once we are inside we might have one or two people saying something specific about attack or defence perhaps, and then I will come in with the final say.

Sometimes there is nothing left for me to say to be honest. And that can be powerful in itself.

But on Saturday I will probably look around the room, deep in the heart of England’s – our – historic home and say: ‘let’s get out there and enjoy it’.

I will say: ‘there are thousands of people here to watch, and they are here to watch you, so get out there and play with a smile on your face’.

Our head coach Mitch has created an environment that is completely different from any other Red Roses set-up I’ve ever been in.

His motto is GGE – Guaranteed Great Experience, and he is as big on enjoyment and making memories as he is chasing excellence.

We are at our best when we are grinning and loving it, and that is right where we want to be tomorrow.

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