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Zackary Relishes Playing And RWC Challenges

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Zackary Relishes Playing And RWC Challenges

Kate Zakary is used to leading the USA out onto the field, but she applauds giving others leadership chances too. David Barpal photo.

Americans Kate Zackary, Gabby Cantorna, and Jenine Duncan have been key additions to the Exeter Chiefs in the English Women's Premiership team's inaugural season, and they contributed on the scoresheet this past weekend.

Flanker Zackary scored a try and also saved one late in the game with a key defensive play, while Cantorna was effective at inside center and kicked three conversions as Exeter defeated the Durham Sharks 31-6. 

That may be the last rugby these women see for a bit as the COVID numbers are getting worse in the UK and things have shut down. However, GRR did get a chance to speak with Zackary about her experience.

"The team's been great, a lot of international talent as well as a lot of home-grown talent, so it's been a fun mixture," Zackary told GRR. But while she's enjoying her time with the Chiefs, there are a few other things to think about, such as the Rugby World Cup Draw coming up for the Women's 15s Rugby World Cup in 2021.

Speaking on who she wants in the draw, Zackary didn't back down. "You definitely want a top-four team because you don't want to go through pool play playing some of those ... less-experienced teams," she said. "You get a good blowout against them, you get a good, tough match, you get to test your team ... before getting out of pool play. But then also I just want to see a team we haven't played—something new to experience. Australia, Fiji, those are a couple of teams we haven't played yet that I'd really love to play." 

Energized in the Premiership competition, Zackary said being able to play and "touch the grass" has been huge for her. Also key has been that she is on a professional side with experienced players—even the young players are experienced. For once she's not the captain, not the one who has to lead at every turn. It has been a useful learning experience for the former San Diego Surfer to just worry about doing her job, and letting others do theirs.

"This is a new challenge, new coaches, new playing styles, things like that, that I think will help in the long run and ideally great a more well-rounded player in myself," she said.

Meanwhile, it has been younger players with the Stars & Stripes games who have been given leadership roles, and Zackary says that's no surprise. 

"Nick James is someone who has been a pretty consistent scrum for us," Zackary said of the prop who captained the Stars, while Emily Henrich, still only 21, captained the Stripes. "Em is a great young talent but she's got an old soul of a rugby brain."

Some young players thrive under that kind of pressure, and she's excited to see them build their leadership resume like that.

See the entire interview with Kate Zackary here: