Linkins relishing chance to lift silverware with Saracens

Jemma-Jo Linkins of Saracens in action during the Allianz Cup Semi Final match between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs at StoneX Stadium on April 13, 2024 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)
Jemma-Jo Linkins of Saracens in action during the Allianz Cup Semi Final match between Saracens and Exeter Chiefs at StoneX Stadium on April 13, 2024 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

By Paul Eddison, Sportsbeat

When it comes to putting in the hours, Jemma-Jo Linkins does more than most but every long journey is worth it for the chance to play a cup final for Saracens.

The 21-year-old full-back is based in Canterbury where she is completing the final year of a sport and exercise science degree, travelling into London to train on Tuesday nights with Sarries.

Dual-registered with Beckenham, Linkins has got her opportunity in the first team in the Allianz Cup, and started the 36-29 win over Exeter Chiefs in the semi-final, as Saracens knocked out the holders.

That set up a final against Bristol Bears at Shaftesbury Park this weekend, with Linkins chomping at the bit at the prospect of a cup final.

She said: “I’m very excited about the final. It gives us an opportunity to show how we want to play.

"Just because the internationals are away, we can prove that we can play the same way, we can beat those teams like Bristol, and Exeter in the semi-final. Given the win in the semi-final, that’s going to give us a massive confidence boost going into the final.

“For us younger players, while the internationals are away, the cup gives us a bit more opportunity to express how we’re playing. It just shows that even though they are away, we can build and show how we want to play.

“I wasn’t expecting to start the semi-final and get near enough 80 minutes. It was a very good game and a very good first half.

“We knew that they had a strong forward pack, and that definitely showed in the second half. But for us, we also have a very strong pack and were able to dominate them in the first half. We dropped off a bit in the second and they came out all guns blazing but we managed to hold them off and managed to get the win.”

While she now gets the chance to train alongside the likes of Red Roses skipper Marlie Packer and England fly-half Zoe Harrison, Linkins’ path to this point has been far from straightforward.

She first got an opportunity at the top level with Wasps last season before bouncing back from that with Sarries this year.

The trips to and from training are draining, but she insists they are worth it for the chance to make it as a full-time rugby player, and with a bit of luck, to follow in the footsteps of Packer and Harrison in the future.

She added: “I only started at this level last year when I played for Wasps. That was very tough given the circumstances and that situation.

"Coming in this year, having all the internationals around me, not only during the cup campaign but training in general, having everyone around me definitely helps build my confidence and I can exploit different parts of the pitch that I didn’t necessarily know that I could do.

“I’ve known that I wanted to play rugby since I was young. I know that if I want to take those opportunities then I have to make the commitment to travel to London and get there when I can.

"It can be tiring and a lot of the days are very long, getting in late and going to Uni the next day. But rugby is what I want to do so I just have to ride it out.

“I didn’t even expect to get this opportunity at Sarries, which I’m very grateful for. I’m taking it one step at a time and getting this exposure in the cup and expressing myself on the pitch and proving that I deserve to be in the squad and hopefully eventually getting that exposure in the league as well. Then hopefully, one day in the future, I can play for England.”

The step to international level remains a big one, but with a cup final on the horizon, no wonder Linkins is dreaming big.

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