Brown dabbled in firefighting, athletics and diving before finding rugby… now she’s aiming for WC glory
Shaunagh Brown has done more in his 32 years to date than most do in a lifetime.
This week, the England striker will add another achievement to what is already a remarkable resume when representing her country at a World Cup.
It’s something Brown never thought possible. As a mixed-race child from a single-parent family in Peckham, south London, rugby didn’t even cross his mind growing up.
But she’s a woman who never let anything get in the way of what she wants. Brown’s career to date has been nothing short of extraordinary. Her list of roles before becoming a professional rugby player is as follows: commercial diver, heating engineer, firefighter, hammer thrower and boxer.
“I usually don’t have a plan,” Brown said. “I just go with the flow and whatever…happens!”
Brown is also a passionate voice on issues such as race and equality. When her teammates remained silent, she was one of the few Red Roses players willing to engage in the debate over transgender players in rugby.
“I make commercial appearances and go to rugby clubs and schools to talk about my message. The bottom line is the empowerment of women,” Brown said.
The England striker will add another achievement to what is already a remarkable CV this week
“I remind people that they can do whatever they want, but sometimes to do that you have to make changes on your own. I’m a classic case of that in terms of all the sports I’ve played.
Brown represented England in the hammer at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but fell in love with the sport. Careers in commercial diving and firefighting followed.
“A lot of my dive work was in the Thames – you literally couldn’t see anything,” Brown said.
‘I had heard stories of seals in the Thames eating people! I thought I heard them coming, but found out it was a guy banging right on the boat above.
“It wasn’t a glamorous job at all, you’d walk out filthy.
“But if a job as a diver came up after I finished playing rugby, I would probably take it. The luxury of being paid to be a rugby player is that I don’t have to go out and find work.
Brown has certainly embraced his latest calling. “I didn’t go to a rugby school so I wasn’t exposed,” she said.
Rugby first fell on his radar while training with the Kent Fire and Rescue Service aged 25.
“When I was first called up by England I was in fire training. I had to ask for a week off and a lot of people said they would never allow that to happen. Many people would have accepted the first answer, which was “No”, but I am not one of them.
Rugby first fell on his radar while training with the Kent Fire and Rescue Service
At the time, England players were still amateurs. Brown made his England debut in 2017; two years later, Simon Middleton’s side were granted professional contracts.
“I ticked the box to play for England and now it’s the World Cup. After that, there is no plan,” she said.
Brown’s England are favorites for World Cup glory as they seek to extend their record 25 consecutive wins.
The Red Roses start their campaign in New Zealand against Fiji on Saturday. It would take a huge shock for them not to win the tournament.
England also face France and South Africa in Pool C. Middleton’s side are the best and deepest in terms of depth in the tournament. Hosts New Zealand, along with France, are likely to be England’s biggest rivals. No matter what, Brown will embrace the moment.
Shaunagh Brown’s England are heavy favorites for World Cup glory in New Zealand
She’s unlikely to make the squad for the next World Cup, which will take place in England in 2025. Her time has come and Brown isn’t going to die wondering.
“In the moments in training when you feel like you have nothing left and you can’t run physically anymore, you think it’s for the World Cup,” she said.
“My main goal is to perform at the World Cup. If I do that, the louder my voice becomes.
Brown certainly isn’t afraid to use her platform. In July, the RFU banned transgender women from participating in women’s rugby. It was a controversial decision.
“The most important thing with sport is that it breaks down so many barriers. No matter what is happening in the world, sport brings people together and I would never want to take that away from anyone. But there are issues around physics and player safety.
“It’s so difficult to include everyone, but at the same time I would never want to take the sport away from anyone.”
Shaunagh Brown is an ambassador for Umbro. For more information visit umbro.co.uk/rugby or follow @umbro_rugby on Instagram