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More Steps Forward for USA Women Players in UK

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More Steps Forward for USA Women Players in UK

Jennine Detiveaux goes in for a try for Exeter. Photo Exeter Chiefs.

USA 7s start Alev Kelter has signed with Saracens in the Women's Premiership in England, putting at least a pause, if not an end, to her stellar 7s career.

Kelter's signing was announced this week and she will join the team and could possibly play this weekend. She joins fellow American Carly Waters, who has been a regular in the scrumhalf jersey for Sarries. This past week Saracens beat Durham 104-0, so she must be doing something right.

American women continue to be prominent in the Premier 15s in England. Kate Zackary is the co-captain of an Exeter Chiefs team that only two standings points out of 2nd in the league after a comprehensive defeat of Sale. Zackary was her usual excellent self at loose forward and scored a try. Also on the scoring ledger was wing Jennine Detiveaux, who blazed down the sideline for a key first-half score. Rachel Johnson, back from injury, was singled out for praise from the fans, who voted her Player of the Day.

In addition, Head Coach Susie Appleby said: “Rachel Johnson came back in and was immense."

Megan Foster, Exeter's newest American signing, started at flyhalf and directed the attack nicely. Gabby Cantorna, who was such a key component of the Exeter team last year, remains injured.

In that same game two Americans started in the Sale front row, with Catie Benson and Nick James leading a strong scrum performance. For her efforts, James was named Sale's player of the game. USA flyhalf Katana Howard started at #10 for Sale. 

With Kelter's signing that makes at least 10 USA players in the Premiership. Saracens, now with two, also leads the league with a record of 8-1, while Exeter is 7-3 with 34 standings points, two behind Bristol. Sale, on the hand, is struggling at 1-8, which is 9th in the 10-team league. They do have a shot at catching Worcester for 8th.

The prominence of the American players overseas is a positive in that it provides a daily training environment and much-needed high-level experience (not to downgrade the WPL, which is a strong league). But at the same time, it makes it harder to get the USA team together to train, an issue that was evident this past fall. (It should be noted that the players don't really get paid—for the most part their living expenses are covered, but they generally do not have work permits and cannot work in the UK; so many of the players work remotely for US employers to pay the bills.)

Still, as the international season builds toward the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, it's difficult to imagine that the fact these players are training and playing against some of the best in the world is a bad thing. Clearly Kelter is looking ahead to being a factor at the World Cup later this year. 

UPDATE: Exeter has added another American in 2016 MA Sorensen Award-winner and former Penn State All American prop Hope Rogers.