Sophie De Goede, Alysha Corrigan and others making the most of “incredible experience” in Premier 15s

We caught up with Saracens’ Canadian stars, as well as Exeter Chiefs Women head coach Susie Appleby, to discuss the impact of overseas players on this season’s Premier 15s.

Should Saracens complete a hat-trick of Premier 15s titles next month then a group of Canadians who have called north London their home this season will have more than played their part.

Last year, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rugby in Canada became apparent, a number of the country’s test players began to explore the possibility of playing in England.

Saracens, who had signed Canadians Mackenzie Carson and Alexandria Ellis in 2019, seemed to be a good fit. Following discussions with head coach Alex Austerberry and a lengthy visa process, goal-kicking number eight Sophie de Goede arrived at the club last October.

“Obviously we've heard of the Saracens club, it has a pretty strong name within the rugby community,” De Goede told World Rugby. 

“So, to come over and be in the stadium and see the logo everywhere and then get the kit and actually then obviously put it on on the pitch and practise with the team was pretty surreal.”

She added: “I was just excited to get to play alongside everyone and just try to soak up everything that I could. 

“There's a wealth of experience within the team, so just trying to literally be a sponge and figure out what running lines people like and things like that, and I feel like it's been really great development-wise.”

‘An incredible experience’

Whether playing at number eight or in the second-row, De Goede has been a near constant fixture in the Saracens team since her debut against Gloucester-Hartpury in November.

In the intervening six months she has scored four tries in 12 appearances, and in the team’s most recent match, a 38-29 defeat of Loughborough Lightning last weekend, she added a quartet of conversions.

But, De Goede had not been the only Canadian talking to Austerberry and in January the number of Canucks at Saracens swelled further with the arrival of Alysha Corrigan and Emma Taylor.

“I came in mid-season, so it was definitely a little bit intimidating — in a good way,” Corrigan, who had not played a top-level match since November, 2019, prior to signing for Saracens, said. 

“Our team is filled with some of the best players in the world, and it’s just been such an incredible experience getting to train with them and play with them.”

The nature of the players’ visas means they are not allowed to work outside of rugby, and have made no money during their time in England aside from the modest match fees they receive.

De Goede has been able to continue her university studies remotely, and she and Corrigan, who lost her job prior to moving to England, have tried to ensure any spare time they have is not wasted.

“It's just been a lot of training and rest and recovery,” De Goede explained. 

“Honestly, with the extra time we've had, it's been really good for us to be able to get in more film work than we're able to do back home.

“Because we're not contracted back home, we have to always be balancing work and or school and rugby while playing with the national team. 

“So, now that we've been here, we've been able to be more full-time in our video analysis and in actually getting good sleep and things like that, that sometimes we almost have to sacrifice.”

Honing rugby knowledge

De Goede admits that coming from North America the players’ “knowledge of the game isn't quite where it is” in England. So, what have the pair learnt from their time at Saracens so far?

“Game management and tactical awareness on the field in terms of decision making, that's probably the greatest rugby take away,” De Goede said.

Corrigan added: “Also being pushed out of your comfort zone. In practice, it's just so competitive and there's so many smart people there, just to challenge you in every aspect of the game. Honestly, it's been great.”

Saracens are far from the only club who have benefited from an influx of players, particularly from North America, into Premier 15s this season.

Although the pandemic has prevented those players meeting up off the pitch, they remain in contact through the Canadian national team’s WhatsApp chat.

Last weekend Taylor, a second-row by trade, lined up at blindside flanker opposite DaLeaka Menin, who has won all of her Canada caps as a prop.

“It's always nice to see a fellow Canadian on the other side of the pitch and get to catch up with them after,” Corrigan said.

Driving Exeter forward

Last month six Canadians started Saracens’ win over Exeter Chiefs in north London, and visiting head coach, Susie Appleby has been impressed with the impact made by De Goede.

“Sophie’s phenomenal, she’s such an athlete,” Appleby said. “She is everything that the league wants to be encouraging. She's athletic, she's powerful, she speaks well off the field as well. 

“She just, as I said, epitomises everything that you want to be encouraging as a rugby player, whether it's male or female.”

Exeter have enjoyed a remarkable first season in Premier 15s, beating each of the top four and compiling the league’s longest winning run (seven matches) along the way.

Appleby says that success would not have been possible without the impact made by the club’s overseas players. 

Exeter’s young squad has been supplemented by internationals from Canada, the USA, Japan, Spain and the Netherlands in their debut campaign.

“They've been amazing, both on and off the field,” Appleby said. “They brought leadership and culture that we knew they’d bring and that's what we needed when we started so late and with no prep and all that kind of stuff. 

“So, they’ve brought that on the field, but everything they bring off the field has really driven our programme forward.”

She added: “Those senior players, those experienced players have brought that desire to help the next generation, which is just amazing.”

READ MORE: USA Rugby excited to “discover, develop and inspire tomorrow’s Eagles” through Talent ID Camps >>

Last updated: Apr 24, 2021, 1:39:47 PM
RWC Sevens 2022 brandmark
wr-women-news-sevens rwc7s-news wr-news-sevens wr-women-news-2021 wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory rwc-qualifying
Dates and new qualification pathway confirmed as Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 looks to inspire a new generation of rugby fans
World Rugby and hosts South Africa Rugby today confirmed Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 in Cape Town will take place from 9-11 September, 2022
Photo of captain Babalwa Latsha playing for South Africa against Scotland
wr-women-news-regions wr-news Women's Development Women's wr-women-news
Historic televised match helps women’s rugby become visible in South Africa
We spoke to Babalwa Latsha and Lynne Cantwell following the historic broadcast of the Women’s Premier Division match between Western Province and Boland Dames last weekend.
Black Ferns v Barbarians
Women's Development Women's wr-women-news-2021 wr-women-news-power wr-women-news-regions wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News RWC2021 Rugby World Cup
Women in Rugby Clubs Toolkit helps Kiwi clubs capitalise on Rugby World Cup 2021 interest
We caught up with Rugby World Cup 2021 Leverage and Legacy Manager, Danika Charlton to talk about the toolkit and its importance to growing female participation in New Zealand.
RWC Sevens 2022 image
wr-women-news-sevens wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory rwc7s-news wr-news-africa
DHL and Tudor begin the countdown to Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022
World Rugby today welcomes its first partners for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2022 following the appointments of DHL as Official Logistic Partner and Tudor as Official Timekeeper as they extend their respective partnerships ahead of the eighth edition of the tournament.
World Rugby logo - one to use for generic releases
wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory
Reclassification of unions and widened representation on committees as World Rugby set to implement governance review recommendations
The reclassification of unions, implementation of an enhanced Integrity Code and wider representation on committee structures are at the heart of the package of transformational governance recommendations approved by the World Rugby Council today.
Algeria
wr-gov-council wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory wr-news-africa Media release
Rugby’s global expansion increases in Africa
Algeria and Burundi become full members of the international federation following approval at the World Rugby Council meeting
Australia's Wallaroos
wr-news Women's wr-women-news RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
Wallaroos and Manusina to meet in two-test series
Women’s international rugby will return to Australia after an almost two-year absence with the Wallaroos set to face Samoa twice in July.
RWC 2021 Brand Mark
wr-news wr-women-news Tournament News mz-advisory RWC2021 Rugby World Cup wr-women-news-2021
Scene set for super-charged Rugby World Cup as new dates in 2022 confirmed
Rugby World Cup 2021 revised tournament dates which will see New Zealand host the tournament between 8 October-12 November, 2022.
World Rugby logo - one to use for generic releases
wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory
World Rugby approves framework for global union transfers
The World Rugby Council has approved an amendment to the sport’s regulations governing national team representation that will now permit an international player to transfer from one union to another union subject to key criteria being met.
659617507DM00004_Olympic_Ga
sevens-news wr-women-news-sevens sevens Olympic Qualifying sevens-news-olympic wr-news-olympics-w Olympics wr-news wr-women-news mz-advisory wr-news-olympics-m
Olympic excitement builds ahead of World Rugby Sevens Repechage draw
Twelve women’s teams and 10 men’s teams to compete for the final two women’s and one men’s places at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.