Kylie Hutchison is a personal injury senior associate solicitor in our London office. When she’s not working hard to get the best results possible for her clients, she’s working hard to get the best results possible for the England Touch team. She holds the record as the only England player ever, and the first worldwide, to reach the milestone of 100 international Opens caps.
As the Official Legal Partner of England Rugby, we caught up with her to get the inside scoop on why she fell in love with the game, how the player pathway led to international recognition, and the reasons why her role at Irwin Mitchell has allowed her to flourish in the game.
When did your interest in rugby first start?
My earliest memory of rugby is watching my older cousins play in a match in North Queensland, Australia when I was about 10 years old. I had no idea what was going on but enjoyed the spectacle. It was later, while I was at university, that I really fell in love with the game. I lived with a couple of rugby fans so we used to go and watch a lot of matches and I began playing more competitive touch and contact rugby.
How did you get into playing rugby?
I first played touch rugby in a sports lesson in high school. I really enjoyed it, but I lived in a small town of about 30,000 people so there were limited opportunities to play competitively for youths, and even less for a young girl. I didn’t get any exposure to high-quality coaching or competitions.
I was invited to play in a team with high school friends (all male) competing in a men’s league. This was particularly challenging as I had limited understanding of the game and was totally out of my depth physically and skill wise.
What made you fall in love with the game?
Jumping into the deep end by playing in a men’s league was probably the best thing I could have done. Despite feeling like a fish out of water, it did help me build confidence. I didn’t have the physicality to match the men so I had to learn to play intelligently. That’s really been the basis of my game and it’s enabled me to play for as long as I have at the top level. I’d have had a very short career if I’d relied on speed!
Not having had the early exposure to elite coaching and being spoon fed what to do possibly made me inquisitive and self-motivated. I’ve tried to observe others, analyse, ask questions, move around coins on a table to represent players to work out tactics, and work on skills by myself in the park.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement in rugby?
Probably achieving more than 100 international caps for England all at open grade level.
My 100th official match was a particularly special occasion as I captained the England Women’s Open team in the European Championships final against our arch rivals, Wales. We won for our seventh straight European title. It was further topped off by the Welsh team, very kindly (I’m sure due to the occasion), voting me as the player of the final.
Who have been your inspirations when it comes to rugby?
There have been so may over the years for different reasons. I’m always inspired by tough and fearless competitors like Richie McCaw, David Pocock, and great leaders like Alan Wyn Jones. I also admire technical geniuses like Johnny Wilkinson and tacticians like Eddie Jones.
One of my favourite all round players is a former touch player, now sevens star, Charlotte Caslick. As the women’s game evolves, I hope the next generation will have lots of amazing women at the top their lists as inspiration: trailblazers like, Rocky Clarke, Maggie Alphonsi, Sarah Hunter, Emily Scarratt.
At Irwin Mitchell, we’re committed to supporting our people’s lives outside of work. How has this helped you?
I work on complex high-value claims and it can be tough seeing what our clients go through. The work I do is really rewarding but it can be intense and high pressured at times. I’m committed to doing the best for my clients while I’m at work but I appreciate the chance to switch off and have a completely different passion outside of work.
I have been really lucky that Irwin Mitchell has enabled me to balance work and have a good work/life balance. I’ve never had a problem if I’ve had to leave early to get to a match or tournament, or needed extra time off.
Earlier in my career, I received sponsorship to enable me to attend the All Nations tournament in New Zealand in 2006 and World Cup in South Africa 2007.
I was also extremely fortunate to be able to get the time off I needed to play in the World Cup in Malaysia and attend the Rugby World Cup in Japan as a supporter. 2019 was an amazing year that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Irwin Mitchell.
Rugby is, in my opinion, the best sport and the partnership with England Rugby aligns us with a fantastic organisation. I have been fortunate to have had some contact with the England Rugby, as I sit on the London disciplinary panel. Its ambitions and core values are very similar to Irwin Mitchell.
As part of the partnership, we’ll be developing a mentoring programme aimed at keeping young people in rugby. How far do you think schemes like this go to helping young people in sport?
Sport, and rugby in particular has been such an important part of my life. There are so many transferrable benefits. I’ve obtained skills that have helped in my legal career and vice versa.
England Rugby promotes the core values of teamwork, discipline enjoyment, sportsmanship and respect.
Rugby provides all that and along with camaraderie and lifelong friendships. Any programmes that help young people experience that are invaluable.
What would your advice be for those who want to get involved in rugby, but don’t know where to start?
I’m probably a little biased but I think touch rugby is the perfect starting point to get involved!
It’s a gentler entry with less contact and it can be played at any age. It is also one of the few sports where males and females can play together in the same team. It’s extremely inclusive and I’ve played in teams with whole families playing together. Touch gave me the foundation skills and confidence to move into contact rugby.
Rugby clubs offer such a great community and there are opportunities to stay involved if the body or mind no longer want to slog it out on the field. It’s generally the people that make the sport great and it’s always possible to stay connected by refereeing, coaching, supporting, helping on committees etc.
And what’s next for you in rugby?
I hope to play in the European Championships in August for my 10th European title and all being well, the World Cup hosted by England in 2024 My team obtained a bronze at the 2019 World Cup which was bittersweet as silver was within our grasp. An improvement on the colour of medal, (ideally more the shade of gold!), is the next big goal.
I enjoy playing so much I don’t ever want to stop but if and when my body stops co-operating I’ll stay involved with the disciplinary work I do for the RFU and coaching.
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