Women’s rugby

A sur­vey of the world’s elite women’s play­ers raises con­cerns about the fu­ture of 15s

Rugby World - - CONTENTS -

he world’s top women’s play­ers be­lieve there needs to be more 15-a-side Tests and tour­na­ments if the game is to con­tinue to grow glob­ally.

That’s the key find­ing from a sur­vey con­ducted by In­ter­na­tional Rugby Play­ers (IRP) and in­volv­ing more than 250 in­ter­na­tional women’s play­ers – from coun­tries who com­pete in the 15s World Cup and on the Sev­ens Se­ries.

Three-quar­ters of those who took part be­lieve there are not enough 15-a-side games or com­pe­ti­tions and 68% feel there is now more fo­cus on sev­ens. Yes, there’s the World Cup and Six Na­tions, but some coun­tries play very few Tests be­tween the global tour­na­ments and fix­tures can be quite ad hoc.

Eng­land have reg­u­larly played au­tumn Tests, but that has not been true of other Six Na­tions teams – Ire­land played their first Novem­ber In­ter­na­tional as re­cently as 2015 – although it is im­prov­ing. Aus­tralia have rarely played in be­tween World Cups and last month wel­comed back-to-back Tests against New Zealand.

Some fear the gap be­tween the world’s top teams and those be­low will widen with­out reg­u­lar tour­na­ments. One player said: “All na­tions should have more op­por­tu­ni­ties to play Tests. For all to be com­pet­i­tive, they need more matches.”

TIRP Wel­fare Man­ager Isaac Boss says: “Play­ers feel that while some unions have been quick to ac­knowl­edge the growth in the women’s game, they need to step up and match that with more in­vest­ment and in­creased 15s com­pe­ti­tion, if they want to keep those pro­grammes alive.”

Tied in with the con­cerns around 15s is the fact 76% don’t think their unions are do­ing enough to pro­mote the women’s game. One pos­i­tive move this sea­son is Eng­lish and Ir­ish clubs play­ing dou­ble head­ers with men’s teams, which should take the sport to a wider au­di­ence. For ex­am­ple, Har­lequins face Bris­tol in the Tyrrells Premier 15s at the Stoop on 15 Septem­ber af­ter the men’s Gal­lagher Pre­mier­ship match against Bath, while UL Bo­hemian play High­field af­ter the equiv­a­lent men’s fix­ture two weeks later.

Of the play­ers sur­veyed, 40% can live off their in­come from rugby and 52% play both sev­ens and 15s. Only 4% of those ques­tioned have chil­dren, with 45% say­ing their rugby ca­reer had in­flu­enced their de­ci­sion to have kids.

One player said: “I’d like to see more done to sup­port women who have given birth and re­turned to the game. New Zealand is a pro­gres­sive model. What can be done to al­low women more paid op­por­tu­ni­ties to play, coach or ref?”

Phys­i­cal Test Wales v Scot­land in the Six Na­tions

Big stageQuins will play at the Stoop

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