Loughborough Lightning’s Sadia Kabeya, Emily Scarratt and Abi Burton, and former player Sarah Hunter, were all honoured at the Eterlast RPA Awards 2023 held in London on Wednesday evening.
Kabeya, 21, took the award for England Women’s Player of the Year (which was voted for by members of the Elite Players Squad), after a series of incredible displays during the TikTok Women’s Six Nations which helped propel England to a Grand Slam success.
“A huge thank you to the girls who nominated me for this award,” she said. “To be named amongst such talented teammates is a privilege in itself, but to win is something I am beyond grateful for.
“It’s been a great year for the Red Roses and hopefully it only continues!”
Meanwhile Scarratt was awarded the RPA Special Merit Award, alongside Dan Cole and Owen Farrell, for the outstanding achievement of reaching 100 appearances for her country.
She said: “To play 100 times for my country is amazing, and to make it in my home town meant so much to me.
“Thank you for this award, and I can’t wait to play for the Red Roses in the next few years to come.”
Hunter – who has now moved into the England coaching set-up from Loughborough – was inducted into the RPA’s Hall of Fame alongside Doddie Weir, and said: “This is an absolute privilege, and it means even more to be inducted alongside the legend that is Doddie Weir, so thank you to the board for their nomination.”
To conclude an incredible night for Lightning, Abi Burton was awarded the RPA Blyth Spirit Award for her strength in coming back from a serious illness and returning to rugby.
Burton, 23, spent 25 days in a coma and was wrongly sectioned for 26 days with an immune disorder earlier this year.
James Gallagher, Rugby Programme Manager at Loughborough University, said: “We’re all incredibly proud of everyone linked to Loughborough who collected an RPA award. Each winner has done incredible things for the sport at the very highest level and to be recognised in this way is such an honour for them.
“The development of players – and people – on the rugby programme is one of our core values. To see these players progress and pick up these accolades is wonderful for them as individuals and for us as a programme.”James Gallagher, Rugby Programme Manager at Loughborough
RPA General Secretary Christian Day added: “A huge congratulations to all the winners at this year’s Eterlast RPA Awards.
“To be voted for by your peers, and particularly those that you play against, remains the greatest accolade for any rugby player and all our winners have had outstanding seasons, so they should be hugely proud of their achievements.”