Kat Merchant has played international rugby for nine years, where the 28-year-old has earned 58 caps and has scored an impressive 44 tries for England. The Worcester player, who made her debut against Ireland in the 2005 Six Nations, has excelled in both 15s and sevens, featuring in two World Cups in both forms of the game. Merchant retired on medical advice, after sustaining a number of concussions during her career.
What was that feeling like hearing the Ref blow the final whistle and the realisation that you were the Rugby World Cup Champions?
To be honest it was relief. After feeling so devastated losing the 2010 World Cup final it was just a huge relief not to have to go through that pain again!
How has women’s Rugby changed since then?are you seeing more women take up the sport and playing it?
I think it definitely made people more aware that women?s rugby existed. We won SPOTY (BBC Sports Personality of the Year, UK) Team of the year 2014- only the second time ever a women?s team has won it. This was so important as it made non rugby fans aware of what we had achieved and hopefully inspired more women and girls to play.
Although still currently a World Champion, you retired in 2014 with an incredible playing career behind you with a World Cup Win, six 6 Nation Champion medals and 58 England Caps?What was the decision behind your retirement and do you miss playing?
I retired through injury. I picked up my 11th concussion at World Cup and was advised by specialists to hang up my boots. I really struggled at first as it was my entire world. I?m still finding my feet now in what I want to do next. When you work every day for such a big goal it?s tough to know what to do when you haven?t got that set goal anymore.
You are now a Personal Trainer and Rugby Coach; what lessons from your career are you taking with you into your coaching and is there anything in-particular you try and in still into your team or players?
I coach the skills and tactics I learned as a player. I also like to instill belief in the players- I want them to be confident in their ability as an individual and collectively as a team. So much of team sport comes down to mind set. If you don?t believe you can win- you won’t.
What is it that you love about coaching?
I love giving players new ideas to work with and when they use them in a game successfully it feels great that I?ve helped them achieve that. You also go through wins and loses with your team- seeing your team work so hard and get a result on a game on paper they should lose is an incredible feeling.
What are your thoughts about the lack of female coaches in Rugby? Why do you think so few women coach and what can be done to increase this number?
It’s a tough environment to break into. You need to be prepared for a lot of shocked faces and even being mistaken for physios by referees. If you are confident and knowledgeable then women, men and children will listen to you.
Can you tell us how the role of Head Coach to the Sri Lanka Women’s team came about and what was your experience like of working with the team?
I was offered the role as Sri Lanka were looking for a high level women’s player who was a level 3 coach. It was a great experience, it was challenging because of the language barrier but very rewarding as the team were hard working and committed. I got to see the 7s circuit from a coaches perspective and actually found I was more nervous than when I played!
What advice would you give to an aspiring female rugby player who has a dream of winning a World Cup?
Find your nearest premiership club and go along- play as much rugby as you can and take on board all the coaching knowledge. Becoming a world champion takes a lot of time and dedication but it was 100 percent worth every 6am brutal fitness session and hours upon hours of contact sessions.
What advice would you give to a fellow female rugby coach to help them progress in their career?
Be confident! Be clear that you are knowledgeable and take no messing around!