A Bright Future – We chat with Richmond Women’s Sadia Kabeya

A Bright Future – We chat with Richmond Women’s Sadia Kabeya

Last weekend’s Tyrrells Premier 15s gave us a tightly contested and incredibly interesting game between Worcester and Richmond Women. While the Warriors would leave with the win there were a lot of reasons to be positive for the London side so we caught up with one of their most exciting young talents, Sadia Kabeya to gauge the mood at the Athletic Ground

Richmond walked away with a losing bonus point from their bruising encounter at Sixways, but Kabeya is adamant from the off that it wasn’t all negative for Richmond. “We took a lot of positives away from the game. That’s one of the best performances we’ve had so far. I’ve especially shown a lot of improvement. Obviously there are a lot of things we need to work on. This week in training we’ve really focused on our defence. It was a tight, challenging game for us but I feel it was a turning point. Previously Worcester were the only team we’d beaten so to lose against them has been a bit of a shock and it’s brought us together this week in training, made us closer as a team!”

That team unity is hugely important at this point in the season when things aren’t necessarily going the right way for a club. “One of our big things we do on the field is celebrate every win we have. Any good thing someone does – a turnover or a big tackle – everyone congratulates that player. That keeps us close as a team, especially when we are coming away from games with losses. There’s always a chance we’d drop our heads and go back into ourselves but as a team we lift each other up. It’s great that we have that family atmosphere in Richmond!”

“I felt very welcomed, very comfortable from my first week here” Sadia says of stepping up from Richmond’s centre of excellence into the first team environment. “For me Richmond was the right choice because of that family feel. Everyone helps each other out to grow as a team.”

Kabeya is on o the Premier 15’s most exciting young prospects and has already earned international honours from captaining England 7s under 18s team. “I’ve always been a 15s player naturally. I’m quite big compared to the other 7s players. I enjoy the physical aspect of rugby as well so in 15s there’s a lot more of that. Last year I had the opportunity to go away and play 7s though and I really liked the fitness, skill and precision you needed. I’ll do some more 7s this summer but 15s is the way I want to go. In terms of what is best for me, I feel I will excel more as a 15s player. 7s is something I can just go away and enjoy.”

Sadia during her time with England 7s

Kabeya certainly isn’t afraid to get stuck in and for someone so new to Premier 15s she’s not been afraid to get stuck in. She’s got a clear view of what she brings to the team too. “I’d say I’m quite a dynamic player. I’d back myself for pace against other back rowers, and for power. I like the big collisions around the contact area. I try to make dominant hits to drive opposition back behind the gain line. When I get a chance I like to try and be dynamic around the pitch. People say a good flanker should mix the best aspects of forwards and backs so that’s what I’m aiming to be!”

Growing up Kabeya wasn’t always looking to rugby, like Red Roses prop Shaunagh Brown she was a promising field athlete too. “I’ve always been athletic. Growing up I did gymnastics, until I was about 11. I moved into athletics then, predominantly as a field athlete. I did shot putt, discus and in the last two year my event was the hammer. Last year I got into the Team GB under 18s set up. I had to make a choice because athletics and rugby was a bit too much. I made a decision about which one I thought I could be most successful in but also which one I enjoyed the most and with rugby I love the social aspect of a team sport. In athletics, as a solo sport, I didn’t enjoy the individual pressure so much. I think the decision really paid off, last year was the most successful of my development years being able to captain the 7s and then joining Richmond and my Prem debut. I take a lot from what I learned in athletics though, the power and technique transfer through to rugby.”

As a young player it’s good to have experienced teammates you can learn from and Richmond has plenty of players who’ve been there and done it. Sadia is clear on the support they have given her. “When I first came to Richmond, I was a bit starstruck, getting to play alongside players I’d seen on the TV or playing for England. Getting into the season I’ve been able to really learn from the likes of Ro and Grace (Rowena Burnfield and Grace Moore). They’re such experienced players with so much knowledge of the game. The way they play – Rowena with her ball carrying and Grace with her agility around the pitch – they do things I want to bring to my game. Grace played at the same club as me before Richmond so to see her come up through the club, make the step to Richmond and play in the Prem, in my position, has really boosted me and given me that extra drive. When I arrived she told me she’d help me and look out for me and that’s the extra support I needed. Coming in young there’s so much I can learn and having these role models really helps!”

That hard work has paid off with a place in the England under 20s squad. “It’s going really well. This is my first year in under 20s and I’m one of the youngest in the squad so I’m taking the time to learn from the players above me. The coaches are really high level and know what they need to do and when so it’s been a really good start to the season. We don’t play until the summer so we’re working on our core skills until we get a chance to unleash them in tri-nations games then!”

This weekend Richmond play host to Gloucester-Hartpury and Sadia is clear on what to expect from the visitors. “We expect them to be a very physical side. They’ve got a strong pack and physical runners so for us forwards we need to get in their faces with some big hits and dominant tackles. Their backline has threats from the likes of Kelly Smith so we need to match them for physicality and aggressiveness. We know what we need to do to win, we’ve been focusing on our defence all through training this week and we’re looking forward to facing them.”

After this weekends games the league takes a break for the Six Nations, but Richmond will be in action in February to play out their rescheduled home game against Saracens, a weekend where the women’s rugby spotlight will be firmly fixed on the Athletic Ground as they play the only top-flight game. “We’ll still be training week in, week out through the break but having that extra playing time will keep everyone switched on. Sometimes it can be a shock to the system after a long break going back into competitive games so having a match there will keep us fresh and give us a chance to see where we are, take some things away and work on them ahead of the other games.”

Richmond take on Gloucester-Hartpury on Saturday and return to action on February 15th against Saracens. We’ll be in attendance for that and aim to bring our first match report. In the meantime stay tuned for more interviews!

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Matt

Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about theatre, but also enjoys covering sport, especially rugby.

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