EVEN at 14 it was not a case of if Millie Wood would play for England but when, according to the award-winning coach who guided the Cheltenham girl through her teenage years.

In the week when outside centre Millie has captained England U20s to two emphatic victories over the touring Canada side, Minety RFC coach Cliff Garland has been recalling the “popular but quiet girl” who first came to his sessions and stayed six years.

Garland set up U15s and U18s girls’ sides under the banner ‘Supermiren’, an amalgamation of Cirencester RFC, Minety RFC and Supermarine RFC – and Wood was his star player from the outset.

“It’s fantastic what Millie has achieved already and I am exceptionally proud of her,” said Garland.

“It was never a question of if she would play for England but when.

“She had a good grounding in rugby before she came to me at the age of 13 or 14. We had a number of good players but Millie was the stand-out.

“She was very powerful and very quick with fine ball handling. But there was great subtlety to her game and an intuitive awareness. Everything came easy to her. She was always very popular but quiet in the early days. She let her actions do the talking and then matured into a good leader who led by example.”

Wood went to Hartpury College and to the University of Gloucestershire whose girls’ side won the BUCS Championships, both in sevens and 15s.

She now plays her club rugby with Lichfield and in addition to being captain of the England U20s team, she won her first senior cap – and scored on her debut – against Canada in the Women’s Rugby Super Series held in the US last year.

Wood, whose late mum Heidi won a Commonwealth Games swimming medal in 1978, is no ordinary rugby player but then Garland is no ordinary coach.

In 2011, he was presented with an RFU award in recognition of ‘his tireless energy for the sport of rugby and Minety Rugby Football Club in particular’.

Later the same year he picked up one of the gongs at the Wiltshire and Swindon Sports Awards.

But he capped even that when collecting the BBC West “Get Inspired” Unsung Hero Award which earned him an invitation to the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year ceremony in Belfast last December, when he chatted to the likes of subsequent Rio goal medallists Adam Peaty and Nicola Adams.

Of his own protégé, Garland insisted: “I would expect Millie to secure a regular place in the full England team for some time to come.”