Partners in life but rivals on the rugby field

Gemma Walsh, left, and wife Emily Rudge
Gemma Walsh, left, and wife Emily Rudge

Wigan Warriors Women team will want to forget their recent defeat to bitter rivals St Helens as quickly as possible – but for one player that will be easier said than done.

That’s because Warriors captain Gemma Walsh had to go home to wife Emily Rudge, who was playing for the opposition!

The couple came up against each other on the opening weekend of the season last weekend, a game in which the Saints ran out 6-4 victors.

Gemma and Emily, who met while on England duty nine years ago and wed last year, have found each other on opposing sides before but say the experience was one they were still adjusting to. Gemma, 35, said: “I don’t think we can ever get used to it because it’s such a surreal situation.

“Rugby league is a really tough game, and you’ve got to be really physical. You don’t go out to hurt the opposition, but if you see the person you love with the ball in their hand, you have to take them down. It’s quite different, but we’re kind of used to it now.

“A big part of it is that I’m a big Wigan fan. I was brought up supporting them. And we get brought up to hate St Helens, so seeing my wife play for them is odd.”

But the couple remained professional despite knowing they might have to put in some rough challenges on each other.

“We handled it a lot better than in previous games,” Gemma said. “I think we’ve let emotion get in the way a little bit in the past. But it went as well as it could go for us.

“Thankfully for me, Emily was quite gracious, she’s not one for rubbing it in. We spoke about it a little bit in the week leading up, and we managed to switch off our emotions for the 80 minutes.

“You’ve got to do that. In like the men’s game, you have families and brothers playing with and against each other.

“So for 80 minutes you just do everything you can to win.”