Premier 15s final: Saracens ship-builder Emma Taylor on Harlequins final

Emma Taylor is tackled by two Loughborough players
Emma Taylor will start in the second row for Saracens in Sunday’s Premier 15s final
Venue: Kingsholm, Gloucester Dates: Sunday, 30 May Kick-off: 16:00 BST
Coverage: Follow live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app.

Whether or not Saracens claim a third Premier 15s title on Sunday, Emma Taylor’s post-final plans are already settled: she will return to Canada to build ships.

Having a second job is not unusual in England’s top women’s rugby union competition.

Karen Findlay, the departing forwards coach of Sarries’ final opponents Harlequins, doubles as a Chief Superintendent with the Metropolitan Police.

There are mechanical engineers and members of the Royal Air Forceexternal-link but Taylor believes she is the first ship-builder to compete in a Premier 15s final.

The lock’s official job title is project engineering specialist and she helps coordinate the construction of vessels for the Canadian Navy.

“I don’t actually touch the ships,” the 28-year-old explains.

“If you know me, I’m a bit clumsy, so I think it gives everyone a bit of anxiety to think of me constructing a ship.

“I do a lot of liaising between our designers, the Canadian Navy and with our engineers.”

Taylor was one of three Canada internationals to join Saracens at the end of 2020 and has enjoyed a whirlwind five months with the side.

Her original plan was to use the time in England to prepare for the 2021 World Cup, but the postponement of that tournament until 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic threw her off course.

Given Taylor has been taking unpaid absence from the shipyard, the uncertainty of the past year has not been easy.

Her colleagues joked about the fact that they never really knew when she was coming back to work, but finally a date has been set.

Taylor will fly back three days after the final because “the ships won’t build themselves”, but is not ruling out a return to Saracens next season.

“I am so poor,” she laments.

“I am lucky that my parents help me out. Covid messed everything up this year. I need to go home and fuel the bank account tank and go again.”

Saracens' Bryony Cleall, Hannah Botterman and Zoe Harrison celebrate
Saracens are the only side to have won the Premier 15s, having done so twice

Premier 15s is ‘world-leading’

Despite the financial burden of committing to what is still an amateur league, Premier 15s has provided a haven for several internationals.

Taylor lives with fellow Canadians and Saracens team-mates Sophie de Goede and Alysha Corrigan.

Players have come from all over the world – Sweden, Spain, the United States – to join the league established by England’s Rugby Football Union in 2017.

Many of those who travel to play would not be able to compete to such a high standard in their own country, with Taylor saying many female players quit after university because of a lack of opportunities in Canada.

Saracens head coach Alex Austerberry believes this is one of several signs that the Premier 15s is a “world-leading league”.

“It is an attractive proposition for players and international coaches to send their players to get experience at the top level,” he explains.

“What we have got to ensure is that when the league is bringing in foreign internationals it is adding to the quality of it.

“English rugby is a better product, a better spectacle with those players in and we learn from them.

“It is a huge indicator of how much the league is growing and how much value it is seen to have across the world of rugby.”

‘One of the best games you’ll see all year’

Last season was left unfinished because of the pandemic, while this year’s final will be played between Saracens and Harlequins for a third time.

Saracens won both previous occasions in 2018 and 2019, but drew 17-17 against Harlequins when they met in the regular season two months ago.

Despite a perhaps predictable final line-up, the league has been more competitive this year and interest from men’s Premiership sides London Irish and Bath in establishing women’s teams is a promising sign for the future.

Whether Quins can turn the tables this time remains to be seen – especially without the help of injured England star Jess Breach.

Heather Cowell will replace Breach on the wing, while Scotland’s Chloe Rollie starts at full-back and Emily Scott takes Ellie Green’s place at fly-half.

Saracens will arrive at Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium with an altered backline as Holly Aitchison returns at inside centre, pushing Hannah Casey to 13 and Sydney Gregson onto the wing.

Regardless of the result, Harlequins number eight Sarah Beckett says fans will be in for a treat on Sunday.

“I think this is one of the best games of rugby you’ll see all year,” she says.

“You’ve got two of the top sides in the league going all out to try and win it.”


Harlequins: Rollie; Cowell, Tuima, Burford (capt), Wilcock; Scott, Riley; Cornborough, Cokayne, Brown, Ward, Fletcher, Brooks, Mew, Beckett

Replacements: Dobson, Viksten, Edwards, Eddie, Robinson, L Packer, Green, Mayhew.

Saracens: McKenna; Gregson, Casey, Aitchison, Clapp (capt); Harrison, Swords; Botterman, Campbell, B Cleall, De Goede, Taylor, Fleetwood, M Packer, P Cleall.

Replacements: Rettie, Clark, Rose, Galligan, Evans, Hayward, Corrigan, Laqeretabua

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