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American set to break new ground with Reds in Super Rugby Women’s

By AAP
Charli Jacoby poses for a portrait during the USA 2021 Rugby World Cup headshots session at the Pullman Hotel on October 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Charli Jacoby will tell you cheerleading and rugby union have a lot in common.

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And the Chicago prop, set to become the first American to play in Australia’s rebranded Super Rugby Women’s, would know.

Jacoby was a 20-year-old student at Ohio’s Kent State University when her classmates, who had some rugby experienced, convinced her to ditch the pom poms and pack into a scrum.

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“You’d be surprised how much it translates,” the 34-year-old told AAP ahead of the Queensland Reds’ grand final rematch with Fijiana Drua on Sunday at Ballymore.

“The guys holding up the girls in cheerleading, it’s like a lineout … lots of teamwork and coordination.

“The girls on my floor at Kent State told me to come along that day and it was a lot of fun. I never knew rugby existed.”

Jacoby then scoured YouTube to learn how to scrum and 14 years later she is a 24-capped American prop who has played in a World Cup and in England’s Premier 15 with Exeter and Loughborough.

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The qualified primary school teacher plans to retire from playing after the next World Cup and transition into coaching as the country prepares to host the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2031 and women’s event in 2033.

Former Reds women’s assistant coach Sione Fukofuka is now the USA women’s head coach while Wallaroos fullback Lori Cramer has returned to the Reds from the NSW Waratahs after a season in Exeter with Jacoby.

“I love everything set piece, I love defence,” Jacoby said.

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“Coming here, I joke that when I leave Australia – it’s less structured than in England – I better have some footwork because I’m so used to running hard and straight.

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“To play here and take home all I learn … we don’t have many coaches that have been in high performance environments like this.

“And everyone needs a good personality hire, and I think I bring that.”

Jacoby’s scrum craft will aid last year’s beaten grand finalists as much as her booming voice and all-round presence.

“What an American to bring,” Cramer said.

“She’s definitely the loudest out there; an absolute foghorn for a set of lungs.

“Someone like Charli with character and technical knowledge, it’ll be great for our younger girls.”

Grant Anderson has taken over as Queensland coach while centre Cecilia Smith will assume the captaincy after Shannon Parry’s retirement.

The Reds have finished runner-up five times in the competition’s six-year history.

Cramer, who also finished second in her season with the Waratahs, needs no reminding.

She expects the two-time defending champions Drua to be even tougher to beat with another pre-season of conditioning to match their sheer talent.

Wallaroo forward Liz Patu has been named for her Reds return just eight months after the birth of her child.

Test debutants Faitala Moleka and Tabua Tuinakauvadra will aid the ACT Brumbies’ building effort.

They’ll play the Waratahs on Saturday at Allianz Stadium, the hosts desperate to improve on last season’s semi-final exit after four-straight titles.

“It was hard,” Waratahs captain Piper Duck said on Thursday.

“That’s my first time ever being kicked out in the semi finals, so it definitely hurt.

“But it’s just made us hungrier.”

The Melbourne Rebels have recruited Wallaroos captain Grace Hamilton while Trilleen Pomare and Michaela Leonard, who played with Jacoby at Exeter, will lead the Western Force.

They have named 11 new faces in the side to play the Rebels in Friday’s season opener at Perth’s HBF Park, including Reds five-eighth Renae Nona and flanker Lucy Dinnen, the 2021 Super W player of the season.

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