Pre­mier 15s will al­low women’s game to flour­ish and ex­pand

The Guardian - Sport - - Rugby Union -

Katy McLean

Look­ing back at the World Cup, the thing Eng­land play­ers can’t shy away from is the re­sult. We went in there to win it and com­ing sec­ond is al­most the worst place to fin­ish but what helps to ease the pain a lit­tle bit is how the tour­na­ment was re­ceived.

There were 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple watch­ing the fi­nal on ITV. France had great fig­ures for the semi-fi­nal against us and peo­ple came out to watch – there were more than 17,000 at the fi­nal.

On the back of the pub­lic­ity of the World Cup, the Tyrrells Pre­mier 15s will make a huge dif­fer­ence to the women’s game. I’ve been play­ing rugby since I was five and I’ve never seen any­thing like the scale of the £2.4m that is to be in­vested. We just need to seize this chance.

It’s not just the money, it’s also the in­crease in stan­dards and that the RFU has a clear plan for the women’s game. I re­ally hope it’s go­ing to im­prove and strengthen the depth of the tal­ent pool that plays in Eng­land. Hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to vie with 10 teams in a com­pet­i­tive league will make us a bet­ter in­ter­na­tional side.

On the back of in­vest­ment, clubs will now be able to at­tract good coaches who have strong tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal knowl­edge. Games are set to be streamed as well. The women’s game will be out there reg­u­larly and we won’t have to wait for spo­radic in­ter­na­tion­als.

Ul­ti­mately, we want to ex­pand the game. There are 27,000 play­ing women’s rugby and the RFU wants to in­crease that. This league will be a great start­ing point. It’s eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble, it’s in the pub­lic eye and get­ting more girls into younger teams means more tal­ent to pick from.

The whole thing will be good for Eng­land. Hope­fully, we can see ad­vances sim­i­lar to those we have seen in women’s foot­ball. The BBC has been show­ing women’s foot­ball games and that shows it works. That’s where we as­pire to be.

Ini­tially games will be streamed on the in­ter­net al­though one match, Rich­mond v Wasps, will be shown live on Sky Sports in De­cem­ber. That’s the way I’d love to see our game go. Maybe in three or five years’ time will it be on a Saturday af­ter­noon af­ter men’s rugby? It might not even be all games but the big win­ner-takes-all games, like the equiv­a­lent of the women’s FA Cup fi­nal.

There’s def­i­nitely a buzz around my club: Dar­ling­ton Mow­den Park Sharks. I’ll be sup­port­ing the team for the first cou­ple of rounds from the side­lines and can’t wait to get back on the pitch af­ter my rest pe­riod post World Cup in time for our round three fix­ture.

I’ve been in­volved in the setup for a long time but we brought one of our girls who is rel­a­tively new to the game to the launch and she was sur­prised to see her­self on a packet of crisps. That’s the kind of ex­po­sure the game needs. Yes, we’ve had it at in­ter­na­tional level, but not so much in the league rugby which hasn’t been as easy to ac­cess.

As 15s play­ers we knew our con­tracts weren’t get­ting re­newed af­ter the World Cup and 17 con­tracts would be of­fered to sev­ens play­ers for this sea­son. Ide­ally, at some point in the fu­ture, 15s and sev­ens con­tracts will be pos­si­ble. For us at the mo­ment, we need to be putting on good per­for­mances so we give our­selves the best op­por­tu­nity for that to hap­pen again.

Hope­fully, the new league can kick start a plan for the fu­ture but, as with ev­ery­thing, you’ve got to start some­where and this new league could be it.

A com­pet­i­tive league will make Eng­land a bet­ter in­ter­na­tional side

David Rogers/Getty Images

The suc­cess of the World Cup has cre­ated a buzz around the game and the RFU is in­vest­ing £2.4m in the Pre­mier 15s league

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