When you think of rugby players, the image of a big, sweaty, hairy figure presents itself and women’s rugby used to be no exception.
Now, long gone are these preconceptions because women’s rugby has been made sexy with the women’s England rugby team definitely bringing sexy back after completing a historic 3-0 series whitewash against New Zealand Black Ferns last week.
RFU Chairman and IRB Council Member Bill Beaumont said: “I have been following the development and growth of Women’s Rugby with great interest. The occasion is a mark of how far the Women’s Game has come in a relatively short period and points to a very bright, very exciting future.”
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset added: “Women’s Rugby is going from strength to strength around the world and the high standard of international competition makes the IRB Women’s Player of the Year award exceptionally competitive.
“The Women’s Game has been elevated to unprecedented heights and the IRB is committed to ensuring that more women and girls across more countries around the world have the ability to get involved in Rugby at all levels.”
Women’s rugby has progressed leaps and bounds over the past centuries. It is believed to have begun in Ireland in 1884, with Emily Valentine training and eventually playing with her brother’s school rugby team. Later, the first documented evidence of a women’s team was from 1891 when a tour of New Zealand was held by a women’s rugby team. This was cancelled due to a public outcry however.
Women’s Rugby Football Union was formed in 1986 in Britain. The governing body had its ground roots in England but it played its matches as Great Britain and drew its players from the four home countries.
Queen Mary University of London rugby player, Rokayah Abdulmajed, said: “In the past 10 years women’s rugby has grown immensely in terms of recognition, funding and player participation. Having played rugby when I was young, it was never taken seriously, and there were few opportunities for girls to play”
She added: “I think that if people are made more aware of the England women’s success then it will encourage women to play rugby, however, it is so under promoted and receives little recognition at a professional level, although much more now than it ever did. I think that the perception of women’s rugby is changing vastly in the eyes of people heavily involved in rugby, but it needs to also come across to the public, something that the RFU are working hard at and starting to succeed.”
Now Women’s rugby has its own Six Nations Tournament and is supported by the RFU. Recent figures also show that more than one million women and girls are now playing the game in 112 countries globally, which is a huge feat in itself!
Image from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/womens-rugby-union (thanks!)