Source: Loughborough Lightning

Sadia Kabeya re-signs for Loughborough Lightning

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Red Roses international Sadia Kabeya extending her Loughborough Lightning contract highlights the Club’s intention to retain its top talent, says Head Coach Nathan Smith.

Flanker Kabeya, capped 13 times by England, has become the latest Lightning player to commit to a new deal after announcements this week confirming that Cath O’Donnell, Lilli Ives Campion and Bo Westcombe-Evans had all also extended their contracts.

The 21-year-old joined in 2021, making her debut against former club Wasps, and has gone on to make 37 appearances for Loughborough, scoring 12 tries.

After playing age-grade rugby for her country, Kabeya made her senior England debut in the 2021 autumn internationals against Canada.

“First and for most, retaining a world-class talent like Sadia shows the intention of Loughborough Lightning moving forward,” said Smith. “Her performances speak for themselves.

“I don’t feel that she is anywhere near the potential she could reach, and it is really important to keep these kinds of players, because it shows we are moving forward, and we are really lucky to have her.

“Defensively, Sadia is exceptional, which is something she has improved on over the last six months. Her tackle selection has also improved, she is extremely dominant in that area of the game, and a strong ball carrier going forward. She is the full package.”

Kabeya’s performances in her debut season at Lightning earned her the Rugby Players’ Association Allianz Premier 15s Player of the Year in 2022, and she was part of the Red Roses squad for the delayed 2021 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Her displays in England’s 2023 Six Nations Grand Slam – when she made 65 tackles, carried 53 times and beat 16 defenders – were recognised with the RPA’s England Women’s Player of the Year Award.

After missing out on last autumn’s inaugural WXV1 tournament in New Zealand due to injury, Kabeya returned to Lightning duty and hit the ground running in the 2023/24 campaign.

Despite playing in only six of the eight rounds so far, she tops the league’s dominant tackles (12) and average tackles per game (20.1) charts and has made the fourth most tackles (109).

“I feel like I have come on leaps and bounds as a player while at Lightning and I still have so much more to learn,” said Kabeya. “I’ve gone on to get a few caps for England, and I put that down to my progression from being at Lightning.

“Nathan has been great since he has come in. He really solidifies what he wants from us a team and he has put that into action. He is also really invested with the team and really invested with the players. Personally, he is there for one-to-one stuff, talking about things that I want to work on and it’s always good to have a hands-on coach.”

Kabeya, who is in the second year of a degree in Sports Science with Coaching and Physical Education at Loughborough University, scored her first tries of the current season when she bagged a brace against Trailfinders Women in Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby Round 9.

Red Roses Head Coach John Mitchell named her as one of five Lightning players involved in a three-day training camp held this week at St George’s Park ahead of the Six Nations.

“Having loads of internationals throughout the side, shows our strength as a team,” added Kabeya. “The way we play is inviting for other players of different nations to come and play here and that is credit to the Lightning coaching team.”

Lightning are not back in action until Saturday 10 February when Leicester Tigers are the visitors to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off: 2pm).

Focusing on the Club’s aims for the second half of the season, Kabeya said: “We are targeting that top four. The start of the season was a bit rocky for us but things are starting to click with a few new players coming into the squad and a new coaching staff.

“We are now getting into gear and coming off the back of a few good wins. So, we are definitely targeting a top four spot, but taking it game by game.”

With thanks to Loughborough Lightning

 

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