Harpenden’s Sarah McKenna looking to put injury blues behind her ahead of huge year for England rugby

Harpenden's Sarah McKenna has been selected England's 2017 Six Nations campaign. Picture: JORDAN MAN

Harpenden's Sarah McKenna has been selected England's 2017 Six Nations campaign. Picture: JORDAN MANSFIELD/GETTY IMAGES - Credit: The RFU Collection via Getty Images

After an injury-plagued nine months, which saw her miss out on a trip to the Rio Olympics, Harpenden’s Sarah McKenna is looking forward to getting back on the field ahead of a big year for England’s rugby team.

The Saracens back is one of 33 players included in the Red Roses squad for the Six Nations championship, which starts against France at Twickenham on Saturday, February 4.

And with the defence of their Rugby World Cup title looming in August, the former Grove and Roundwood Park pupil is hoping to play a major role.

And with an ankle injury now fully healed that is the target.

She said: “I got injured last April and have been in and out of fitness with the same ankle injury. It put me out of contention for Rio and so after that it was a case of getting my ankle sorted, doing the rehab properly and taking the time I needed so it wouldn’t cause me any problems this year.

“I’ve taken quite a while to be back fighting fit and back playing. I’ve remained in the squad but have been working hard on my own to get fit and not playing. But it happens, that’s international sport.

“Not many people go on the pitch at a 100 per cent but luckily I’ve been given the time to sort myself out.”

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The England squad got together on Monday to start an almost eight-week long training camp.

But the focus for the moment is the annual tournament.

“We will be in camp throughout for the majority of the Six Nations,” said the 27-year-old.

“We’ve got the whole squad together throughout this period, which is a bit of a luxury. But most of the girls are now in a full-time programme so everyone is training full-time anyway. This is just a chance to train together as one.

“It’s a huge year but spirits are high. Now everyone has got together it’s got very real, very quickly. We’ve got the Six Nations, then a summer series in New Zealand before the World Cup so there’s loads of games to come and no-one is getting ahead of themselves.

“It’s a really long year and injuries happen, people come in and out of form so we’re not looking ahead to the World Cup just yet.”

McKenna says she will be used first and foremost at full-back but there is also the potential to start in the 13 jersey.

She explained: “Things might evole with how we get on together, who gels with who, so it’s exciting in that sense.

“Having played in the sevens squad last year, a lot of the backs have spent a lot of time together. We’re quite well gelled at sevens but not quite at 15s yet. But we’re getting there.

“It’s a good mix with lots of new faces bringing so much of energy, lots of youngsters chomping at our heels, but you need that blend with experience.”

Head coach Simon Middleton said: “This is a huge year and we now have a squad training full time. Our preparation is based around a world-class programme and the Six Nations forms a key milestone ahead of the Women’s Rugby World Cup in August.

“There is strength and depth in this squad and, while we will be taking one week at a time and working to build through the tournament, our ambition is to win the Six Nations trophy.”