Nancy McGillivray, centre, with Claire Tucker and Viki Pakula of Haines Watts Exeter

Rugby star thanks sponsors and supporters as she returns after a year out

Exeter Chiefs Women rugby player Nancy McGillivray has thanked her colleagues and sponsors for their support after a dangerous tackle threatened to end her career.

The promising centre – a feature in the England Red Roses squad at the start of 2023 – was forced to undergo double knee surgery after rupturing ligaments in a match last May.

The offending player incurred a ban, while the move known as a ‘crocodile roll’ was outlawed by World Rugby in May this year. Nancy, meanwhile, has undergone 12 months of surgery and bespoke rehabilitation in her mission to get back to full fitness.

Now with a renewed two year contract to play at Sandy Park, the 21-year-old hopes to pick up where she left off with Exeter and England, with renewed contracts for both club and country.

The 20-year-old was beginning to feature in the England squad and had just been awarded a transitional contract with the national side when her injury occurred in May last year.

Resulting double knee surgery has been a success, and support from playing and medical staff at Exeter Chiefs, and corporate sponsors Haines Watts, helped Nancy recover.

She named Chiefs physio Andy Davies and men’s team scrum half Sam Maunder, as well as women’s team-mate Claudia McDonald and head coach Susie Appleby as key figures in her challenging year.

“It’s been a really tough time, physically and mentally – I couldn’t bend my knee for four months, the physio was incredibly painful, and I’ve been spending four days a week at Sandy Park just rehabbing my injury.

“Sam Maunder did his knee too just before me and we both had ACL surgery in the same week. We did lots of swimming sessions together and it was great to have someone to share that with.

“Andy Davies has been a legend, and it’s been great to have contact and support from Claudia and Susie. I’m really grateful to Haines Watts for their backing, too. Everyone’s been really supportive.

“Now I’m feeling good again and I just want to start playing. I know it’s going to be a long process through months of fitness work and testing, but I enjoy that.

“I want to start playing regularly for Exeter, get back involved with England again, then ultimately there are World Cups to think about – next year and 2029. I’m still only 21 so I’ve got a long way to go. For now, I just want to fully commit to my rugby and get back on the pitch.”

Born in London and raised in Hong Kong with an Irish father and a Thai mother, Nancy has only lived in the UK since 2020. She graduates from Exeter University this summer with a degree in Exercise and Sports Science.

For the past two years she has been supported with corporate sponsorship by the Exeter office of SME accountancy specialists Haines Watts, after the company’s head of accounts Claire Tucker spotted her playing.

In the second year of sponsorship, Claire said: “I watched the game where she sustained her injury on the TV at home. It was such a shame and looked awful. I was devastated for her when it happened right at the end of the match. I squealed like someone had just hit one of my own.”

“Since it happened we’ve been in regular contact with Nancy and it’s great to see her recovering, with a smile on her face and getting back to fitness.

“Haines Watts supports a number of sporting outfits in the area – Sandford Cricket Club and Exeter City FC – but this one’s personal because it’s an individual. As fans of rugby as well as Nancy’s sponsors, we’re all excited to see what she does next season and backing her as her career develops over the coming years.

“Exeter Chiefs Women is only a fledgling team but, as a business, they’re running it really well and the results are showing. The competitiveness in the women’s game is only going to increase in line with its popularity but the team is well set for the future and, as this season comes to a close with the Premiership final at Sandy Park, there’s an exciting season ahead next year too.”

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