Women’s Six Nations 2023: Liz Crake on juggling dentistry with an England debut

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Liz Crake playing for England, with Zoe Aldcroft, Sarah Hunter and Holly Aitchison
Liz Crake (far right) made her England debut in Saturday’s 58-7 win against Scotland
Venue: Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton Date: Sunday, 2 April Kick-off: 15:00 BST
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two; follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Liz Crake is in demand.

The 28-year-old’s displays at Wasps mean clubs are hoping to scoop her up at the end of the season – and then there is the dentist’s long list of patients waiting between her international duty.

With England regulars Vickii Cornborough and Hannah Botterman absent, Crake’s international rise has been short and sharp.

The loose-head was called into camp in February and suddenly had some rescheduling to do.

“We had the list of when the next camps would be,” Crake tells BBC Sport.

“I did not know whether I would be in or not. Because it was last-minute, particularly in my NHS practice I was very busy.

“You are booked a month in advance. We didn’t want to cancel [appointments] in case I wasn’t in [England camp], but some of them I had to cancel last-minute which obviously isn’t ideal.”

Crake’s commitment to rugby and dentistry means she will “pop back” to see patients on days off with England.

That is where she will be on Thursday while she waits to find out whether she has made it into the side to face Italy in Northampton on Sunday.

As Crake points out, the situation is “not ideal” but as one of the England player’s without a full-time contract, it is the reality.

“If I could not go in and just get the rest day, go over the clips, the line-outs, have time for my brain to switch off from everything, then that would be more ideal,” explains Crake, who gets paid by England for her time in camp.

“Unfortunately I’m not a professional athlete, so I can’t do that. Also, I feel awful for my patients.

“Some of them have been waiting for a month or they have treatment ongoing.”

‘I had to stay at Wasps’

Just as stark as the contrast with her day job is the difference between England camp and life at her club Wasps.

The financial demise of the men’s side at the end of 2022 has been well documented. The women’s team managed to keep going but have had to crowd-fund to travel to away games.

Legendary head coach Giselle Mather left at the end of last season, as did England stars Claudia MacDonald, Maud Muir and Abby Dow. At one point, Wasps were down to six registered players.

In the past two Premier 15s season, Wasps finished fifth and third. Now, they are bottom of the table having lost all 14 games so far – one by 84 points.

Crake is all smiles when discussing England camp, but turns more solemn when Wasps is mentioned – a club she has been at since she was 19 and where she has earned 134 caps.

Not only did she stay loyal when things crumbled, she asked to be captain.

“If no one’s going to stand up and say ‘I’m here for the long haul’, you can’t build a team,” Crake says.

“For me the whole point of being a Wasp is that you’ve got each other’s backs. That meant that I had to stay.”

The hardship Crake has endured at club level makes a first international cap more special.

“To do it for myself is obviously big, but to do it alongside and for the other Wasps girls and coaches was a huge thing,” she says.

A Women's Six Nations table showing: 1. England P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 PD 51 B 1 Pts 5; 2. Wales P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 PD 26 B 1 Pts 5; 3. France P 1 W 1 D 0 L 0 PD 10 B 0 Pts 4; 4. Italy P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 PD -10 B 0 Pts 0; 5. Ireland P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 PD -26 B 0 Pts 0; 6. Scotland P 1 W 0 D 0 L 1 PD -51 B 0 Pts 0;

‘An evasive forward’

Despite the difficulty, Crake has shone.

A powerful fendexternal-link against Loughborough that left the opposition scrum-half flat on the floor went viral.

Officially, she has played every position in the pack expect for hooker – but Crake is pretty sure she has taken the number two shirt at some point as well.

That versatility – especially her back-row prowess – promises fireworks.

“I prefer being in the wider channels rather than close-quarters rugby,” she explains.

“I’m more of an evasive forward rather than an up-front carry kind of one.”

It is not just the eyes of England coaches that have been drawn. Wasps have not earned a place in the Premier 15s next season and it will finally be time for Crake to move on as she bids to build an England career before a 2025 home World Cup.

“It’s such a weird thing because I’ve never had to do it before,” she says of exploring other clubs.

“I’ve never had to negotiate before or go look around and be all, ‘do you like me, do I like you?’

“I said to the clubs that I’m speaking to, because I’ve got called in [to England camp] I just want to focus on this and not stress about going here, going there, moving house and all those kinds of things.”

When it is suggested a few more viral fends in an England shirt would help negotiations, Crake laughs: “I don’t know. I’ll try.”


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