Photo: Getty Images
Heather Fisher completed her remarkable recovery from a broken back by helping England cruise through the opening stage of the IRB Women’s Challenge Cup in Hong Kong on Friday.
England beat China 31-7 and Japan 38-0 to book a semi-final date with Canada in front of a 40,000 sell-out crowd at Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday March 24.
Fisher, 27, supplied one of England’s five tries against China and added a physical edge to an England side beaten by the Canadians in last December’s Dubai final.
It was her first appearance on the pitch since recovering from fracturing two vertebrae in Newquay last summer. Fisher played through that tournament and then went with England to a European tournament in Romania before the damage was discovered.
“I was in a cast waist to neck for three months, rested from all training, I’ve been back running for four weeks and this was my first game today,” said Fisher, who has won 19 caps in the back row for England's 15-a-side team.
“Of course it’s at the back of your mind ‘What if I don’t make it back? What if that was the last time I’ll pull an England shirt on?’.
“But my mission was to get back for the Hong Kong Sevens and it was really hard work. I’m not going to be at my best but I’m only going to get better by playing, getting back on the pitch and getting my confidence back.
“I’ve been working four or five hours a day doing rehab so I was ready for Hong Kong, so I wasn’t just ready to run but to be ready to take the hits, change direction, go that extra yard. When you run out and play for your country it’s all worth it.”
Fisher, Rachael Burford, Alice Richardson, Sonia Green and Izzy Noel-Smith supplied the tries against China with Richardson adding three conversions.
Wing Kay Wilson touched down twice against Japan with Michaela Staniford, Abi Chamberlain, Leanne Riley and Richardson also scoring, Richardson converted four of the tries.
“Heather’s done really well and it’s good to have her back,” said Staniford, England's Captain.
“She’s worked really hard and the first two games, knowing that she’s good in contact, knowing that she can carry the ball, and doing those basics so well, will be massive for her confidence.
"She’s a big power player – a game-winner – and when people see her being so physical it puts fear into them.”
England 31 7 China
Tries: Fisher, Burford, Richardson, Green, Noel-Smith
Conversions: Richardson (3)
England 38-0 Japan
Tries: Wilson (2), Staniford, Chamberlain, Riley, Richardson
Conversions: Richardson (4)
Saturday, 24th March 2012, Hong Kong Football Club – HK Stadium
11:42 Cup SF 1st Pool A v 1st Pool B
16:50 CUP Final