“Women’s rugby de­serves more re­spect”

Rugby World - - FRONT ROW -

THIS TIME four years ago, women’s rugby in Eng­land was on a high. They had just won the 15-a-side World Cup and 20 top play­ers were then given pro­fes­sional sev­ens con­tracts.

Now it’s hit a new low. The sev­ens con­tracts don’t ap­pear to have worked, with Eng­land los­ing in the first round of this sum­mer’s World Cup, and 15s play­ers are in limbo. RFU CEO Steve Brown has talked of the union’s “am­bi­tion” to of­fer pro deals in both forms of the game and men­tioned they could be in­tro­duced this sea­son, which came as a sur­prise to play­ers.

The IRFU has also been crit­i­cised for its at­ti­tude to­wards women’s 15s. First, there was the con­tro­versy over ap­point­ing a part-time coach, then the fact they turned down a Test se­ries in Aus­tralia to run along­side the men’s June matches.

Those are just a cou­ple of ex­am­ples of is­sues fac­ing the women’s game and the first point to make is that com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs to be bet­ter. Play­ers de­serve to know about their union’s plans.

Se­condly, sev­ens and 15s de­serve equal foot­ing. A sur­vey con­ducted by In­ter­na­tional Rugby Play­ers (see P30) showed 68% of elite women’s play­ers feel more fo­cus is given to sev­ens.

One player said: “In my coun­try, 15s is an af­ter-thought. Sev­ens has pri­or­ity.” An­other said: “All the funds go to sev­ens since it’s be­come an Olympic sport. All the bet­ter play­ers get sent to sev­ens.”

If rugby is se­ri­ous about grow­ing the sev­ens and 15s games – and that’s the mes­sage we so of­ten hear from the unions – equal im­por­tance must be given to both, with re­sources and fund­ing shared be­tween both forms.

If they think there is more growth po­ten­tial in sev­ens, then be hon­est about it. But Rugby World would hate to see the 15s game ne­glected fur­ther and the chop­ping and chang­ing of pri­or­i­ties is do­ing no one any good.

In limboEng­land’s play­ers have re­ceived mixed mes­sages about con­tracts

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