FOR England star Alex Matthews, it was “a dream” to win the World Cup alongside former lecturer Danielle Waterman.
The 21-year-old studied PE, Biology and Psychology A Levels at Hartpury College under the watchful gaze of full-back Waterman.
And three years on, the duo were crowned world champions.
Waterman won her 60th cap in England’s 21-9 victory over Canada while Matthews, who made her England debut in 2011, replaced Marlie Packer in the 65th minute.
Back row forward Matthews said: “Nolli has become a good friend and she has helped me alot.
“I had an operation on my leg last November and had just three weeks before selection to prove myself.
“Nolli has suffered with quite a lot of injuries and she has guided me through mine.
“It was amazing, standing next to her in my first game with the national anthem playing and her little body under my arm, bless her. It’s been very emotional.”
Winning the World Cup caps a whirlwind month for the Richmond player.
Matthews graduated from Roehampton University with a degree in Sports Psychology in July, before turning 21 on August 3 in Paris.
The youngest member of the squad said it has been a “crazy” phase of her life, made even more surreal by the level of support the women’s squad has received.
“It has been amazing. I am so overwhelmed,” she said.
“I’ve never seen a crowd like it for a rugby game for us girls. It was just phenomenal. I never thought women’s rugby would get this much attention to be honest.
“There have been lots of tears since. I’ve never been so emotional.
“We’ve watched some very emotional videos that our analyst Dave put together and we all broke down after the final because we were so overwhelmed.
“What a thing to experience at the age of 21. It’s crazy, just absolutely mental.”
Waterman, who won the World Cup after suffering two defeats in 2006 and 2010 to New Zealand, has hailed the up-and-coming England star.
But she refuses to take credit for her meteoric rise to the top, instead insisting Matthews was born to play rugby on the biggest stage.
The 29-year-old added: “I didn't contribute to the fact she is a world class.
“I knew from the moment I met her she would play for England. She’s been a true inspiration this trip.
“She’s been fantastic in terms of off-field and is a great role model for the game.
“She’s a special young lady and this is just the start of her career and that is just unbelievable.”