Rugby sevens’ Sister Act: How Megan caught up with big brother Mike

Updated 1:11 PM EST, Thu December 19, 2013

Story highlights

Mike and Megan Ellery both play rugby sevens for England

Both played in Dubai -- first time England teams has featured a brother and sister

Mike, 24, is three years older than Megan

The pair used to practice tackling each other as children

(CNN) —  

Mike Ellery was always used to having his little sister trying to copy him – but not even he saw her latest stunt coming.

While the 24-year-old was always destined to be a rugby star for England, never did he think that he’d be traveling across the world with his sister, Megan, in tow.

For the first time ever, England’s squad has a brother and sister competing on the international stage – just a bit different from tackling each other inside the family home.

“I can show you several scars and bruises from our upbringing,” Megan told CNN’s Rugby Sevens Worldwide show.

“I think we are quite a standard competitive brother and sister, so anything he’d do, I’d try and do better.

“We used to play across the landing at home whenever Mike wanted to try out his new steps, and yeah, it didn’t end well for me.”

Rugby sevens – the faster and shorter form of union – is one of the world’s fastest growing sports and will make its Olympic debut at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Mike, who signed a two-year deal to play sevens for England in 2012, learned his trade in the north of the country under the guidance of his father, Nick, in the family’s hometown of Penrith.

Rugby: Do you know the difference?

  • Union
  • Teams of 15 players
  • Tries worth five points, conversions two, penalties and drop-goals three each
  • More technical aspects such as scrums and lineouts
  • Possession constantly turns over
  • Amateur sport until 1995
  • 100 full member nations worldwide
  • League
  • Teams of 13 players
  • Tries worth four points, conversions and penalties two each, field-goals one
  • Teams get six "tackles" before turning over possession
  • Ball is often in play for longer periods
  • 45 national associations, mainly in Europe and Australasia
  • Sevens
  • Version of union with teams of seven
  • No penalty kicks at goal
  • Each half lasts seven minutes
  • Debuts at Olympics in 2016

It was here, while watching her older brother impress, that Megan dreamed of doing similar.

“Penrith is absolutely rugby mad,” she told CNN. “The whole town, the rugby club is just a huge community so we’ve been brought up with just a passion for rugby.

“When I was a lot younger, I used to spend a lot of my upbringing on the sidelines watching him play.

“I sort of had an interest in rugby since then and played from when I was about 11 to when I was about 13, then haven’t really played it since.

“But watching him compete in the Sevens circuit, it’s just such an exciting game. I really, really wanted to get involved so went along to the open trial and here I am.”

Megan’s presence at November’s Dubai Sevens was a big shock to both siblings – especially since she had been trying her luck at netball while at university.

Mike thought that his sister would be going away on a gap-year following her graduation – only for her to ghost in on the blindside and turn up right next to him.

With just three years between them, the pair remain close even if they do not get to see each other too often, with Mike traveling around the world on the men’s circuit.

“I don’t get to see her much at home as I only go home at Christmas time maybe,” said Mike.

“It’s nice to see her but then I’m immensely proud of her. Especially as she only started playing properly about seven or eight months ago.

“She’s picked it up quite quickly and she’s obviously got quite a lot of natural talent. I’m very proud of her.”

Megan showed off her talent in Dubai in impressive fashion – scoring four tries to finish the tournament as England’s highest points scorer.

For somebody who made the England squad after playing just a handful of games for her university side and development squad, Megan’s rise has been remarkable.

She will now hope to shine once more in Atlanta when the women’s second round gets underway on February 15, while Mike will be with the men in Las Vegas for their fourth leg of a nine-country swing in late January.

But for Megan, it is her brother’s achievements which will always inspire her.

“It’s kind of against my instincts to pay him a compliment, but obviously I have quite a lot of admiration for Mike and what he’s achieved in the game.”