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World Rugby to expand female coach development programme

Sarah McKenna is among the coaches embedded with sevens squads
Sarah McKenna is among the coaches embedded with sevens squads (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription (Alessio Tarpini/LiveMedia/Sipa U))

World Rugby will continue to accelerate the development of female coaches through an extension of its current global programme.

The Gallagher High Performance Academy will improve the pathway for women at elite levels of the sport and increase the prominence of female coaches and other high performance roles at the top level.

The original programme, designed in partnership with Gallagher - an official partner of women’s rugby, WXV 2023 & 2024, and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 - was launched in 2023 ahead of the inaugural WXV 15s tournament as part of a strategic plan to accelerate the development of women’s rugby, and increase the competitiveness of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 in England.

Following the success of the initial programme, World Rugby is rolling out the scheme to all formats of the women’s game, with 10 Sevens coaches to be inaugurated into the Gallagher High Performance Academy, in 2024.

World Rugby Chief of Women's Rugby, Sally Horrox said: "As we celebrate the second year of the Gallagher High Performance Academy by extending the reach of programme to encompass all formats of the women's game, we are not just shaping coaches; we are sculpting the future of women's rugby.

“Together with Gallagher, we continue to champion diversity, excellence, and inclusivity on and off the field.

"The Academy enables a clear pathway for aspiring female coaches and provides vitally important coaching opportunities as we strive towards our ambitious target of 40% female high performance coaching roles at Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025.

"We are already starting to see the fruits of our labour as coaches progress into full time roles around the world.”

With a focus on talent identification, professional support and championing the next generation of international coaches, the Gallagher High Performance Academy develops existing coaching talent, and identifies opportunities for new coaches and other high performance roles.

Sixteen women, from 16 different nations, took part in the first Academy in 2023. Each of the participants were fully embedded with their respective nations, before and during WXV, providing them with meaningful professional development opportunities, as well as the opportunity to gain valuable experience of working in a high-performance sporting environment.

Off the field, participants received mentor support and took part in a series of online and in-person workshops, hosted by World Rugby and Gallagher.

Workshops were tailored to cover a variety of topics, ranging from game planning, tactics and skill development, to relationships, communication and creating the right culture; as well as relevant, best practice learnings from Gallagher, sharing transferable skills.

All 10 newly inaugurated coaches took part in a rugby coaching masterclass at Dignity Health Sports Park, in Los Angeles. The inductees staged a series of live coaching sessions, putting into practice the skills that they have been learning through the Academy and the in game live experience they have gained from being embedded in their respective teams for the HSBC World SVNS Series.

They were joined by players and coaches from grassroots clubs within the local community, who benefitted from being coached by some of the most inspirational women in world rugby.

“We are proud of and excited for the extension of the Gallagher High Performance Academy into all formats of women’s rugby,” added Chris Mead, chief marketing officer for Gallagher.

“The growth of the programme is testament to its success and impact in its inaugural year, providing meaningful career development. Expanding the programme to make it more inclusive will further accelerate the growth of women’s rugby around the world and continue to raise opportunities for women both on and off the field."