England Women v France Women: Laura Keates on dentistry and World Cup hopes

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Laura Keates playing for the Barbarians
Laura Keates played for the Barbarians against England in June 2019
Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 21 November Kick-off: 12:00 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and online with live radio and text commentary

Worcester Warriors rugby player. World Cup winner 2014. Dental student.

Laura Keates’ Twitter bio takes an unexpected twist towards the end, but then so has her career.

The 32-year-old prop is part of the England side that will face France on Saturday as she continues her return to international rugby after 19 months away.

Keates, who earned her 61st cap in last weekend’s win against Les Bleues, was preparing for the 2017 World Cup in Ireland when she injured her Achilles in training.

Initially, she thought she would miss a tour to New Zealand happening a fortnight later but make it back in time for rugby’s showpiece event – then six weeks away.

Instead Keates was told it would be at least a year before she returned to international rugby, if she made it back at all.

“My last game was England’s Grand Slam win against Ireland away in 2017,” she recalls.

“I scored a try and was loving life with the World Cup coming up. Unfortunately injury struck. It was unbelievable.

“At the time, people spoke about it being career-ending.”

With one career possibly shut to her, Keates embarked on another.

In September 2017, a few weeks after watching England lose the World Cup final to New Zealand, the forward began a dentistry degree at Birmingham University.

She had already graduated in zoology at the same institution but decided to make the change at her mother’s suggestion.

“Life is random,” she says of the career move.

“I did some work experience and absolutely loved it. There were a lot of aspects of the job that fit me.

“There are no other dentists in the England squad. I think they need one. They all come to me asking for me to look at their teeth.”

Keates is due to qualify as a dentist in 2021, but with another World Cup on the horizon that could be pushed back.

After beating France last weekend, England are ranked number one in the world with 10 months to go until the tournament in New Zealand.

Keates faces tough competition for a place in the Red Roses squad as she vies with established international tight-head props Shaunagh Brown and Sarah Bern.

But when asked if she hopes to make it to another World Cup she says she is “smiling thinking about it”.

“It would be amazing,” she continues.

“Injury is obviously rubbish. I always wanted to get back in an England shirt but I wasn’t sure if that decision would be taken away from me.

“To get back at the same level and be competing is really cool.

“The possibility of that happening and me being back in the squad is pretty special.”

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