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Bumps and Scrums: Documentary Around Pregnancy and Team Selection in Women's Rugby

Updated: Jul 8

Shortly after completing of our Netflix Documentary “Game On: The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport” we teamed up again with Sue Anstiss to explore ideas for new women’s sport content. A women's rugby documentary looking at pregnancy and its affect on a player's career was very quickly stumbled upon

There were many topics in the world of women’s sport we weren’t able to fit into a 60 minute feature and from that list we identified motherhood and maternity policy as an area that was at the forefront of current conversation. On a long car drive back from Manchester Sue suggested chatting to Abbie Ward, Bristol Bears and England Rugby Player, who was currently pregnant and would be the first player to utilise the RFU’s new maternity policy.

coach and player from Bristol Bears Women's team pose with the camera crew
The “Bump in the Road” team after day one of production in Bristol.

What’s more, Abbie had set herself the incredibly ambitious goal of retuning to professional rugby only 3 months after giving birth so that she could play for Bristol in their opening game of the season. This idea had all the right components, an important topic, an exciting goal and an incredible protagonist to follow on her journey. A few phone calls later and we had the first filming date in the diary to go and visit Abbie at Bristol Bears High Performance Training Centre.

Bristol Bears have made a strong commitment to gender equality and both their men’s and women’s teams use the high performance training centre. It’s a truly stunning venue set in the beautiful Bristol countryside and provided the perfect backdrop to watch Abbie’s story unfold.

mn filming women's rugby team training session
Ben gets in the mix as the team go through an outdoor skills session at the High Performance Centre.

Abbie’s story had an extra layer of intrigue, as Bristol Bears Women’s Head coach is her husband Dave Ward and come November, he would be the person who make the ultimate decision whether or not Abbie would be selected to play and achieve her goal. Throughout filming we followed both Abbie’s physical journey through pregnancy, but also Dave’s emotional journey as he watched his wife become a Mother.

This fascinating dynamic plays out over the documentary, as Abbie, Dave and the Bristol Bears team balance pushing Abbie to achieve her ambitious recovery targets, whilst also protecting her from overexertion and injury. With limited sports science knowledge and research on athlete’s returning this quickly after giving birth, the team are breaking new ground in Abbie’s training plan and discovering vital information that will help the next generation of athletes wanting to start families and return to play as soon as possible.

Dave the coach sitting in an interview scenario with the clapper board
Dave shares his experience during his master interview for the documentary.

It was a true pleasure to work with Abbie, Dave and the whole Bristol team who could not have been more welcoming during production. To see Abbie’s determination firsthand was incredible and in the film she speaks of how she was not only motivated by the desire to earn back her Bristol and England shirt but also to set an example for her team-mates that it was possible to return in this timescale and that you can be both an amazing rugby player and an amazing Mum.

Throughout production Abbie constantly exceeded recovery targets and often the physio’s are needing to hold her back from progressing too quickly. However in the final week of training, Hallie (Abbie’s Daughter) suddenly falls ill and is rushed to hospital with selection for the opening game only a handful of days away. Taking time away from training to care for Hallie in hospital, has Abbie done enough to cement her place in the starting lineup and outperform all the other second row’s vying for her spot?

Dave and abbie sit on their sofa with their daughter and a clapper board
Dave, Hallie and Abbie film their final shots for the documentary just before Christmas 2023.

The documentary is available in the UK on ITVX and Worldwide on RugbyPass TV, check out the trailer on the ‘Ben&Jack Studio’ YouTube Channel below…

Much love,


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