Saracens and England star Sarah McKenna wants to transition to the touchline

England international Sarah McKenna hailed Giselle Mather as her coaching inspiration, as the Red Roses star seeks to launch her own career on the touchline.

McKenna has 45 caps to her name as part of a glittering international career that includes Six Nations Grand Slams, but now the Saracens back has eyes on making an impact on the bench.

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The 34-year-old recently took part in World Rugby’s Gallagher High Performance Academy, which seeks to accelerate the development of female coaches in the game, and McKenna joined up with Great Britain Sevens as part of the programme.

And she revealed how her first experience of a female coach aged 20 showed her just how important representation in rugby can be.

“I was really lucky that at England Under-20s our head coach was Giselle Mather (now Trailfinders Women DoR), and she was actually the first female coach I had ever had,” she said.

Giselle Mather

Giselle Mather coached McKenna with England U20 (Getty Images)

“That was really impactful because at that age, you’re 20-years-old, you have a lot of challenges and changes happening in life and she was really steadfast and an absolute rock for us, and someone that we all respected immensely.

“We knew she cared for us and absolutely wanted the best for us. It was a totally different approach to anything we had experienced before.

“That group had a really tight bond and were really proud of the figurehead that Giselle was in that group and wanted to perform our best for us, and she made us want to perform the best for each other.

“It’s about just being more visible, having female coaches who are more visible. It doesn’t have to be at the top of the game, although that would be nice, just having more and more women do it. On the other side, it grows the game in general; it gets more women playing the game, it gets other women wanting to coach.”

McKenna coaching career progress

McKenna teamed up with Great Britain Sevens on the Vancouver leg of their HSBC World SVNS Series, and the Red Rose was pleasantly surprised with just how hands on she was able to get as part of the programme.

And her brief experience only confirmed to her the need for more female coaches in elite rugby moving forward.

“A lot of us said we didn’t expect to be embedded in the team so quickly and it just showed how valuable we can be in those environments,” she added. “I don’t think any of us realised what sort of an impact we could have.

“All of the teams here are majority male staff, so GB were really welcoming and desperate to have a female in, they wanted to know what I thought and if I thought they needed a female coach.

“I definitely think there’s a place for it, I have seen teams with female coaches respond really positively to different perspectives, a different skillset. Players definitely like to look up to somebody who maybe has the same experiences as them.

“I have really enjoyed every experience so far. I want to keep enjoying myself as a coach, I know it gets tougher but as long as I keep enjoying it and I know I keep having an impact on people then I will keep doing it.”

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