The Gallagher High Performance Academy. Improving the pathway for women at elite levels of the sport.

The Gallagher High Performance Academy

• As part of this year’s inaugural WXV women’s rugby tournament, World Rugby and Gallagher have launched the Gallagher High Performance Academy – a global development and leadership programme for female coaches and other high performance roles at elite levels of the sport.
• Following on from the successful Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching Internship Programme, the Gallagher High Performance Academy forms part of the strategic plan to accelerate the global development of women in rugby and increase the competitiveness of Rugby World Cup 2025.
• Established by World Rugby and Gallagher – an Official Partner of Women’s Rugby, WXV and RWC 2025 – the Academy offers a fully immersive development and leadership programme, with the stated mission of increasing the prominence of female coaches and other high performance roles at elite levels of the sport; to have a lasting impact on the women’s game.
• This will include a focus on talent identification, professional support and championing the next generation of international level coaches as World Rugby looks to raise standards on and off the field, underpinning a more competitive game on the road to Rugby World Cup 2025 and beyond.
• The programme will develop existing coaching talent and identify new women coaches and other high performance roles in rugby, with the aim of improving the overall standard of women’s rugby around the world.

An immersive experience

• Participants in the Gallagher High Performance Academy are being fully embedded with their respective nations, before and during WXV 2023. They are being given meaningful professional development opportunities, as well as gaining valuable experience of working in a high performance sporting environment.
• Off the field, participants are receiving mentor support and have taken part in a series of online workshops, hosted by World Rugby, tailored to cover a variety of topics, ranging from game planning, tactics and skill development, to relationships, communication, creating the right culture. Online workshops have been supported by Gallagher, sharing relevant, best practice learnings that are transferable from the world of global business. 
• 2 x in-person workshops are scheduled to take place during WXV 2023, presenting participants with the opportunity to network, transfer knowledge and further share best practices.
• The support of the individual Unions has been fundamental. Their support for the programme – agreeing to embed individuals with their respective nations – is a) helping to facilitate the development of participants; and b) helping to improve the pathway for women at elite levels of the sport.

World Rugby’s target

• The Academy aims to help World Rugby achieve an ambitious target of having female coaches make up a minimum of 40 per cent of all coaches at RWC 2025.

The 2023 Gallagher High Performance Academy Participants

As part of the programme, 16 female coaches have been embedded with their national team while they are competing at WXV 1, 2 and 3; in New Zealand, South Africa and the UAE respectively.

The inaugural Gallagher High Performance Academy participants include:

  • Australia: Meretiana Robinson – Former Rebels co-captain has transitioned into coaching since hanging up her playing boots.
  • Colombia: Lissete Martínez – Colombia coach who came within 80 minutes of guiding her side to a first Rugby World Cup in Dubai last year.
  • England: Sarah Hunter – Former England captain and Rugby World Cup 2014 winner, she made 141 appearances for the Red Roses. Part of the England coaching set-up at WXV, as a defence coach.
  • Fiji: Tavaita Rowati – Former 15s and sevens international who took up coaching when a knee injury brought a premature end to her playing career.
  • Ireland: Larissa Muldoon – Two-time Women’s Six Nations winning scrum-half, who appeared at two Rugby World Cups.
  • Italy: Michela Merlo – Latecomer to rugby who rose to represent Italy and has been inspired to take up coaching by her mentor, Andrea Di Giandomenico.
  • Japan: Yoko Suzuki – Has embarked on a new career coaching schoolchildren and university students since the end of her time playing for the Sakura Sevens.
  • Kazakhstan: Natalia Vlassova – Former Kazakh international who took up rugby as a 12-year old, she now coaches at a specialist rugby school.
  • Kenya: Camilyne Oyuayo – Current skills and scrum coach with the Lionesses in both sevens and 15s, having represented Kenya at sevens as a player.
  • New Zealand: Crystal Kaua – Has coached extensively in New Zealand and Japan, including her current roles as head coach of Chiefs Manawa and skills coach and performance analyst for the Black Ferns Sevens.
  • Samoa: Alaiumu Sao Taliu – Assistant coach at College Rifles rugby club in Auckland; and now attack coach for Auckland Thunder, the province’s development team.
  • Scotland: Claire Bain – Assistant coach of Watsonian Women in Edinburgh, she is a former Scotland fly-half.
  • South Africa: Zenay Jordaan – The most-capped player in Springbok Women history, she retired after representing South Africa at RWC 2021.
  • Spain: Patricia García Rodriguez – Rio 2016 Olympian who captained Spain and represented her country in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
  • Wales: Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin – Wales U18 head coach and ex-international flanker, is hoping to inspire her daughter through coaching.
  • USA: Karameli Faaee – Former Women’s Eagles captain who made history in 2019 when she was appointed assistant coach of Rugby United New York, becoming the first woman to coach in men’s professional rugby in the USA.

Referencing the Gallagher High Performance Academy

Gallagher is a founding partner of World Rugby’s High Performance Academy. Please reference the programme as the ‘Gallagher High Performance Academy’, in its entirety, in all / any communications.

Further signifying its commitment to developing participation in the women’s game around the world, Gallagher is as an Official Partner of Women’s Rugby, WXV 2023 & 2024 and Rugby World Cup 2025.

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