Exclusive: England sevens star Alex Matthews on Tokyo 2020, didi Rugby

On the morning of her 27th birthday, Alex Matthews logged onto Zoom for a weekly catch up session with her team. Nothing could have prepared her for the heartbreaking news that followed: the budget for the England Rugby sevens had been cut, pushing her dream of competing at Tokyo 2020 even further away.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) faced losses of up to £107 million due to the coronavirus pandemic and, in August, made the decision to cut the both the men’s and women’s rugby sevens programme due to financial difficulties.

– England’s rugby sevens lost their funding. Can they save their Olympic dream?
– Lockdown impacted everyone, but women’s sport paid a higher price

With the World Seven’s Series immobile since the beginning of March, members of England’s squad have been seeking opportunities elsewhere. For Matthews, that has meant returning to the traditional 15-a-side format of the game, as well as a return to the England women’s rugby union side, known as the Red Roses.

Adapting to a new normal has been tough. The previously well-funded Team GB seven’s sides have had to look elsewhere if they want to make it to the Olympics in Tokyo. Banding together, the men’s and women’s teams have taken it into their own hands by launching a crowdfunding campaign to support their journey towards Tokyo 2021, setting a goal of approximately £2 million.

Not being able to play for her country, and being left without a contract, Matthews speaks to the Voice of London on how she coped with it all.

Fact Box: Alex Matthews. Infographic by Arwa Nadeem. Images: @a.matthews06 via Instagram. Facts via England Rugby.

Words & Audio: Arwa Nadeem | Subbing: Connor O’Halloran

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