Meet: Laura Keates

Resilience and determination are among the game-changing qualities that have propelled University of Birmingham dental student and women’s rugby union player Laura Keates to sporting fame.

Laura made her rugby debut in 2011, having captained the England Women’s under-19s team in 2007, and played at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France. But after damaging her Achilles tendon while preparing for the 2017 World Cup in Ireland, she didn't play again for England until the team defeated France in November 2020. It took patience, courage and persistence to return to full form, but she came back fighting.

Laura started working as a lifeguard and receptionist at the University’s sports centre after previously completing a Zoology degree at Birmingham in 2010, and she is quick to recognise and applaud the flexibility she was given to take time off for training and games during those five years.

With a record of more than 60 caps for England, Laura was part of the winning side that saw off Canada in the final World Cup match in 2014, also earning the accolade of Team of the Year at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. As a consequence of this success, she helped to significantly raise the profile of women’s rugby.

Game Changing Birmingham: Rugby star and current student Laura Keates (Video transcript)
Laura Keates throwing a rugby ball in the air outside the University of Birmingham's School of Dentistry

Her World Cup success led her to re-evaluate her career path and to make the decision to change direction. In 2017 she embarked on a dentistry degree at the University of Birmingham, a career that Laura highlights as requiring a very similar skills set to that of a rugby player, with teamwork, determination, communication and creativity being key. Now in her fourth year, she recently became a patron of the dental charity Dentaid. Supporting the charity involves volunteering at clinics and fundraising events and promoting the charity’s work in improving oral health in a safe and sustainable way here in the UK and abroad. This includes providing outreach dental clinics for refugees and asylum seekers, domestic abuse survivors and people combating addiction to drugs and alcohol as well as homeless people.

Laura Keates sitting in a dental lab wearing a dental tunic and her Rugby World Cup winners medal.
Close-up of Laura Keates looking directly into camera