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Englishwoman Yapp breaks the mould as Wallaroos coach

Former England international Jo Yapp has become the first female to be appointed head coach of the Wallaroos, Australia's national women's rugby union team.


New Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp poses for a photo at the Rugby Australia HQ in Sydney, Monday, February 19, 2024. Image AAP

Jo Yapp hopes to be a trailblazer after signing on as the first female ever to coach the Wallaroos.


Ushered in on Monday, Yapp becomes the only female head coach of an Australian senior national team in a major football code after also enjoying a decorated playing career.


The former halfback played 70 times for England, including at three Rugby World Cups, and captained her nation to the final of the 2006 global showpiece.


Since retiring in 2009, Yapp has forged an impressive coaching career and experience in high-performance sport.


She spent five years as head coach of the England U20 women's team, was director of women's rugby at Exeter University for eight years and the England women's senior backs coach in the 2015 Six Nations.


The 44-year-old says gender shouldn't matter, but recognises her chance to showcase the skills of female coaches.


"For me, the best coach is the best coach whether that's male or female," Yapp said.


"But I also understand that I have got a role in terms of being a role model and seeing that there are opportunities for other coaches to come forward and to coach at an international level and also within Australia itself.


"More people can see that it's the same as playing, in terms of being able to go, 'right, that female was able to break through' because I think quite often as females, we undersell ourselves.


"So we'll see a job and just think, 'Oh, maybe I haven't got the experience for that'.

"But actually you have got the same level of experience.


"So recognising that and actually giving people an opportunity is really important.

New Wallaroos coach Jo Yapp poses for a photo at Rugby Australia HQ in Sydney.


"Later, down the line, you'll probably see more international (female) coaches because they're starting to get those opportunities."


Yapp's immediate focus is on transforming the Wallaroos into a consistent top-four nation ahead of next year's World Cup in England and ultimately the 2029 edition in Australia.


The new coach has identified strength and conditioning and game understanding as two areas in which the Wallaroos can quickly improve, especially as Rugby Australia (RA) moves towards offering full-time opportunities and pay for women's players.


"Other nations like France, New Zealand, England, they've got a huge history in terms of the players starting at a really young age into the game of fifteens," Yapp said.


"In the Wallaroos squad, some of the players come a little bit later from other areas, so there's a good piece of work there we can do on that."


RA boss Phil Waugh believes Yapp's appointment gives the Wallaroos the best chance to "go deep" at the next two World Cups.


"You've got to invest now. Otherwise, it'll be too late," Waugh said.


"Even now, we're we're certainly up against it for time to ensure that we continue to invest.


"Which is why the appointment of Joe full-time, leading the program and making that investment in our athletes to give them the appropriate resourcing, hopefully helps them go deep in 20 months."


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