kildunne potc
Newly-crowned Guinness Player of the Championship Ellie Kildunne speaks to Six Nations Rugby about making the perfect start to 2024.
On winning this year’s Guinness Player of the Championship award.

I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I am massively proud. I keep finding myself smiling. I really enjoyed the campaign; I really love my rugby; I love my team; I love all the fans that come to watch us. It makes me excited for what’s to come, because this is just the start. It’s exciting to be recognised for an award like this, because the only way is up and I’m just looking forward to what that ‘up’ is.

Her favourite moment of the 2024 Championship.

That was easily the Ireland game. Despite the score, I think for the fans it was an enjoyable game to watch. As a back three, it was a very enjoyable game: lots of running rugby, lots of ball, lots of opportunity. The forwards put in a hell of a shift to give us loads of space. But genuinely I can’t describe in words the happiness that I felt for every moment: Maddie scoring her first try; everybody scoring different tries and going for different ways of breaking the line - whether that’s through kicking or running over the top of someone, or stepping. I just felt pride for everybody around me, and the crowd there made it really special. Women’s rugby’s on the rise. If we’re selling that many tickets now, what’s it going to be like by the time of the World Cup?

The close-knit bond within the team.

I’m massively proud to call them not just my teammates but my friends. They’ve seen me laugh, they’ve seen me cry; they’re been there on my worst days, they’ve been there on my best days. I’m just so grateful to have such a good group of people around me constantly. Even when we come back to our clubs, they’re only a phone call or a text away, and I look forward to being back with them, and to be a Red Rose, especially where we’re at right now and what we’re achieving. I’ve got bags and bags of love for everybody: the coaching staff, the wider group, and the players. I’m super grateful to have them as my team.

Harlequins for life.

I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for them. You look at our season and you’d probably say it hasn’t been the easiest, and it hasn’t, but [without it] I wouldn’t have had the learnings that I’ve had going into the Six Nations. The staff, they prepare us to our best ability. I already can’t wait to be playing with them. I watched them last weekend and I was so jealous I wasn’t on the pitch because the girls were playing with smiles on their faces. The countdown is on for that. I’m going away with the sevens for a little while, but this is home. I’m a Harlequin, and I’m really proud to say that.

Kildunne’s next adventure.

I’m going to be preparing with Team GB to hopefully be part of the Olympics squad. I’ve always said I want to be the best player in the world, and that comes from experiences: playing with the best teams and also playing against the best teams. An opportunity has come up, and my strapline - which I’m sure everyone is bored of hearing - is that ‘lukewarm is no good’. When you become passionate about something, you’ve got to hold it in two hands and run with it, and what better way of explaining that than by training for the Olympics?

Her hair gives her strength.

Strength has never been something that I’ve been known for. I’ve gone through a wild journey to loving my strength and loving my muscles, and understanding the benefits of being strong on the pitch and not just fast. There are some girls that can hit you pretty hard, and you’ve got to find a way of batting them off. If I’m honest, and it’s a really weird concept: it’s my hair. I remember watching the South Africa men’s sevens team, and watching their hair flick about when they were running with the ball. It made them look absolutely electric, and one day I forgot my headband, and ended up playing with my hair down, and it gave me this mindset that I was way stronger, way faster. Every contact that I went into was almost like the biggest contact of the game, so I could see my hair flipping forward, and it just gave me this mindset that I’m stronger than everyone on the pitch.

Not a lot of people know that: they think I just have my hair down because I can, but it’s a lot more than that. Young girls and boys out there who are lacking confidence, or finding parts of their game that they’re not good at, and want to work on: it doesn’t matter how you do it. I wore shoulder pads for a long time and couldn’t play without them; but I forgot them one training session and I didn’t need them again. [My thing is] my hair, but find your own, no matter what it is, no one’s going to care. You are a superhero in your own way; you’ve just got to find out what that power is.

Women’s rugby is on a rocket.

Women’s rugby is on the quickest rise ever. Even in [the space of] my career, and I’m only 24, seeing where women’s rugby has come from to where it is now, selling as many tickets as we do at Twickenham already, selling out other stadiums, is just so exciting to be part of. I get goosebumps when I see all the fans when we sing our anthem, and you actually can’t hear the person next to you because the crowd are so loud. Teams are getting better. With the World Cup coming up, it’s going to change the sport. Look at what the Lionesses managed to achieve with the Euros and being successful in that.

The last World Cup is the best thing that could have happened to us as a group, but for me personally, yes it broke my heart; yes I would love to be sat here with a World Cup winner’s medal as well. But we’ve created a fairytale now that we’re just waiting to finish. A home World Cup in front of a sold-out Twickenham, and to be able to be part of the group that could get the win that we deserve is something that I wanted to happen half an hour later after the last World Cup finished. But we’ve had to bide our time and see what’s to come. We’re growing from day to day, week to week, competition to competition. So all I’ll say is, ‘Good luck to every team out there, because England are coming’.

Find out who else made the fans' 2024 Team of the Championship.