Sale Sharks Women Centre of Excellence pathway

Preparing girls in the North-West for a future in top-flight women’s rugby

The Sale Sharks Women Centre of Excellence is the second stage in England Rugby’s Women’s Performance Pathway, sitting above county level and feeding into England U18s.

The programme provides 30 players aged 15 to 18 with a high standard training environment to develop all components of their rugby performance and is based at Sale Sharks Carrington Training Ground with access to its world-class facilities.

Now mid-way through its first year uninhibited by Covid restrictions, the Centre offers pathways into Sale Sharks Women and beyond, with current first team player and England U18 Lizzie Duffy a graduate of the programme.


One of 11 centres around England, the counties linked to Sale Sharks Women are Cheshire and Lancashire.

Players are chosen from a selection day held at the start of the season, with the programme running from September to May.

For the RFU criteria and more information on nominating players from county level to Centre of Excellence Assessment Days, click here.

The Programme

The Centre of Excellence is run by senior coaches, players, and staff at Sale Sharks Women, with guest coaches including Women’s Performance Lead and World Cup Winner Katy Daley Mclean MBE.

Players compete against other Centres of Excellence in regional competitions in February before a national competition in March.

Several off-field sessions are also undertaken to prepare players for a future in top-flight women’s rugby, including strength and conditioning, analysis, concussion, nutrition, and mental wellbeing.

Coach, coordinator, and Sale Sharks Women player Leah Lyons said: “We give the girls experiences so that when they go into a club like Sale Sharks they are prepared.”

Next Steps…

Sale Sharks Women Centre of Excellence feeds directly into the England Women U18 Talent Development Group with players identified through the national and regional competitions.

For players who are not selected at this stage, the programme prepares them for future careers in Premier 15s first team environments, talent development groups, universities, or any other route they may wish to take.

Leah said: “These girls are young and don’t know if they’re going to university or college. If we have a girl going to university outside our area, we can communicate what we’ve seen to them – that she is a valuable player, to hold onto her, and areas to develop.

“The aim is to get as many girls into Premiership teams as possible.”

To find out more about Sale Sharks Women Centre of Excellence, contact

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