PHOTO, CAPTION: More and more women are getting into rugby
More women than ever are playing rugby around the world. The numbers continue to grow year on year, and in 2019 there were reported to be 2.7 million registered women rugby players across the globe, as was reported on England Rugby, and predictions expect that number to keep rising. In fact, the number of men playing rugby actually declined, but because of the continued rise in the women’s game, the amount of rugby players worldwide continues to grow.
The true beginnings of the women’s game are similar to the men’s, in that it is mostly shrouded in mystery. There is not very much information available that explicitly explains how and when women first started playing the sport of rugby. The first solid fact that is known is that around 1884, Portora Royal School, which was located in Enniskillen, Ireland, created the school’s first rugby team and one of the players was a girl named Emily Valentine. This fact earned Emily Valentine to be designated as ‘the first lady of rugby’.
It wasn’t plain sailing from there though, as harsh social judgment forced any women who wanted to partake in the sport, to have to do it in secret. It was only after the Second World War though, when women’s roles were seen to be changing, that the sport amongst women began to truly take hold. It took until 1962 for the first-ever women’s rugby union team to be formed at Edinburgh University. It was even later, in 1978, for the Netherlands and Canada to form the first-ever rugby clubs that didn’t belong to a university.
The first Women’s Rugby World Cup was hosted by Wales in 1991 and was won by the United States after they defeated England by 19-6. Since then, it has been held every four years and has grown exponentially in both popularity and size. This has been helped massively in the past few years by much more media interest and much larger amounts of financing being pumped into the game, to try to give it more parity with the men’s game. ITV has begun showing the competition on their terrestrial channel and will do so for the future, as was reported on Ruck, which allows an entirely new audience to watch and appreciate the games.
With more and more money being pumped into the game, it has finally led to England’s Women’s rugby team becoming the first fully professional women’s rugby team, which happened in January 2019, after every player was offered a one-year contract. It shows how much ground there is still to travel, though, to reach true equality, as England is still the only country with a fully professional women’s rugby team.
This year’s Rugby World Cup 2021 was due to kick off on Saturday 18th September but has now been delayed until 2022. It is taking place in New Zealand and it will feature twelve teams, including heavy-hitters Canada, Wales, Australia, and France. England’s tournament fixtures were originally released in January, as we reported at Rugby World, and their first match was scheduled to be against competition debutants, Fiji, on the opening day of the tournament.
PHOTO, CAPTION: Crowds are beginning to grow too
When the tournament does, finally, take place next year the favourites going into the competition to win the whole thing are the defending champions and hosts themselves, New Zealand, whose nickname is ‘The Black Ferns’. They are priced at 11/10 with most online bookmakers. If you wanted to take a punt on the women’s rugby or any other sport, then head over to Asiabet as they’ve got you covered. They have cut through the noise of the online betting world and have spent many hours researching what different betting companies offer, which means they can recommend the best ones to you. They also have the greatest sign-up offers and cash-back deals in an easy-to-use list, so you know you’re getting the most for your money.
Another huge boost to women’s rugby was the announcement in March that World Rugby will be launching a new yearly three-tier global women’s tournament. The idea will look to build a more competitive international environment and will allow the World Cup from 2025 onwards to expand from twelve teams to sixteen. World Rugby chairman, Bill Beaumont, was quoted back in March as saying, ‘This is a landmark for the sport. Today’s announcement of a new, global international 15’s calendar will underpin the future success and accelerate the development of the women’s game.’
The event is going to be called WXV and entry into the competition will be via regional qualifiers. WXV 1 will be the top tier and that will contain the best placed three teams from the Six Nations and then the leading three from qualifiers featuring USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. There will then be two lower tiers beneath and teams can get promoted or relegated through the tiers, depending on how well they do against the other teams. The first-ever WXV will start in 2023. It sounds like it will be an exciting addition to women’s rugby, and will hopefully allow the game to grow even faster.
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