Rotherham-born England rugby ace Ellie Kildunne is out to inspire
The Rotherham-born 24-year-old is one of the Red Roses’ most exciting players but it is her off-field presence that frequently captures fans’ imagination.
Kildunne is a savvy social media user and knows that online platforms are often the gateway to people discovering women’s sport and its players, with her carefully-cultivated brand far more than just an aesthetic.
Speaking ahead of England’s clash against the Black Ferns in Auckland on Saturday morning, the Harlequins back said: “If I'm not inspiring the next generation in rugby, I want to inspire people.
“I want people who are not athletes to be themselves and to express themselves in a way that they're comfortable with.
“If you don't like rugby but you think ‘she seems like quite cool person on Instagram, she might be funny’, you might come down to the game to just meet that person.
“I hope that that's what my social media portrays too. I got a really nice message from someone the other day that said they really like things I’ve been posting in recent weeks.
“It makes them really want to be part of the team, which I think is massive too. To see it as a snapshot of us from our point of view
“I remember seeing and watching over and over the players come from the Rio Olympics and I just thought, I want to be part of a team, I want to be doing what they’re doing.
“It wasn't done by GB Rugby or the Olympic Instagram, it was by the girls. You saw the personality come through way more and that is just what I want to do, I hope that’s what I've been able to create.”
England will play New Zealand in a rematch of last year’s Rugby World Cup final at 6am on Saturday, knowing a win would see them claim the inaugural WXV 1 crown.
WXV is World Rugby’s new annual global tournament that sees teams compete in three levels to ensure competitive matches and in the top tier, England have won their both of their first two games against Australia and Canada.
They are four points clear at the top of the table and take on the Black Ferns in Auckland, the same city where they suffered an agonising 34-31 defeat one year ago.
Kildunne, who will start at full-back, has spent her time off in Aotearoa diving into thrift stores and op-shops as she continues to cultivate her own personal style.
The Tokyo Olympian added: “For me, fashion is becoming something that's got progressively more important because we're in uniform a lot of the time.
“I really like being able to express myself through what I wear and have that individuality, not just on the pitch, off the pitch as well.
“We have a pretty cool lifestyle. I'm playing a game that I love of my best friends, so that's one thing that people see.
“But I'm a big believer that we're not just rugby players. A lot of people who watch the games and see us on the England Instagram view us as just players, and but there's a whole other life outside of that.”
By Milly McEvoy, Sportsbeat
‘Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription’