GB: Sarah McKenna

England full-back aims to develop her coaching skills on Gallagher High Performance Academy programme

It was women’s Rugby World Cup winner Giselle Mather who first sparked Sarah McKenna’s interest in coaching. Now the Saracens full-back hopes to be a role model herself for the next generation of female coaches.

McKenna was part of England’s Under-20s squad when she first came into contact with Mather, who was a Rugby World Cup winner in 1994 and assistant coach when the Red Roses repeated their success 12 years later.

The impression that Mather made on McKenna was significant and lasting, and has shaped the values and beliefs which she will share on the Gallagher High Performance Academy.

“It was at the age of 16 when I was first coached by a woman,” McKenna told World Rugby.

“Giselle Mather coached our England Under-20s cohort and she immediately connected, broke down barriers and built trust with a group of impressionable athletes.

“Having a female role model gave us positive behaviours and values to model. None of us had ever had such a knowledgeable coach and Giselle challenged the norms we’d been led to believe about females in the sport.

“We felt valued to have someone so knowledgeable coach us and felt immensely empowered that they were female.”

Having started playing rugby as a six-year-old at her local club, Harpenden, McKenna has since gone on to enjoy a successful career with England, winning 45 caps and the Premier 15s title with Saracens.

She is still playing top-flight rugby alongside developing her coaching skills as head coach of Old Albanians women, assistant coach of England’s Under-20s and coach of Saracens Women’s Academy.

Among the many career highs, there have been the occasional lows – including being on the periphery of England’s squad at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand – but all have provided McKenna with experiences that will help shape her as a coach.

“I went to the last women’s Rugby World Cup and spent most of my time as chief hydration monitor on matchdays,” she said.

“Despite the setback I had a unique experience across the tournament and was able to use the perspective of a player and a coach on matchday and understand where breakdowns occur between the two.”

Last updated: Feb 23, 2024, 7:05:39 AM