ENGLAND’s World Cup success has catapulted women’s rugby under the media spotlight of late – but England star Alex Matthews could be forgiven for struggling to keep up with it all, writes Fiona Tomas.

It has been a whirlwind few months for the flanker, who was part of the Red Roses team which stormed to a runners-up finish at this summer’s World Cup after a pulsating showdown with New Zealand.

From a domestic perspective at least, England’s World Cup journey was better documented compared to last time round, when Matthews was one of the youngest players to lift the trophy as a player in Gary Street’s squad three years ago.

And Reading Rugby club played their part recently by hosting an interactive session with members of Berkshire’s rugby community, where the rise of the women’s game and what more could be done to further enhance the sport were just some of the topics discussed.

Matthews – a guest speaker at the event – could not hide her delight at the increasing amount of attention women’s rugby is attracting.

“It’s been brilliant to hear the comments on the back of the World Cup,” said the 24-year-old, who previously plied her trade in Berkshire back in 2010.

“Although we didn’t win it, it’s been great to hear about the positivity that we’ve brought to the game.

“I didn’t look at anything [media-wise] when I got back. I had a stack of newspaper articles that family and friends had collected for me, I’ve sorted through them, but I haven’t even read them.

“It’s literally been private messages I’ve received off people from social media and friends of friends.

“But it’s been nice to have some family time – it was much needed.”

As one of the 17 women to be awarded a professional sevens contract by England Rugby, Camberley-born Matthews will now turn her attention towards another all-important year in her rugby career.

After five stages of the HSBC Women’s Sevens World Series, the squad – lead by England Sevens head coach Simon Amor – will bid for glory at the Commonwealth Games next April, before heading to San Francisco for Rugby World Cup Sevens in the summer.

And Matthews is confident in the squad’s ability, buoyed by the recent appointment of England women’s sevens head coach James Bailey, who was an assistant to Simon Middleton last season.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge. Fifteens is more my comfort blanket so with the sevens, I’m going to embrace it and try and not to stress too much,” said Matthews.

“Being an out and out forward on a sevens pitch is quite terrifying, but it will be good, especially with Simon and Bails.

“It’s exciting with the group of girls we’ve got. There’s a mixture of more experienced players with younger ones coming through. We’ll come together and see where it goes.”