It’s a Woman’s Game

A couple of days ago I had a bit of a run in at the Co-op when I was picking up some Dairy Milk and a packet of Doritos. As I was walking out of the store, I heard a voice behind me making a comment I’ve become accustomed to: “You play rugby?” As a 5’4, pale girl with, lets face it, a pretty fantastic arse, I’m used to the incredulous tone this usually takes as well as the comment that usually follows an affirmative reply – “Lesbian!” So turning round to respond I cursed the fact that I’d chosen to wear my old rugby committee shirt, prepared myself for the awkward confrontation to come. However, on this occasion, the conversation took a different turn – the woman asking turned out to be interested in taking up the sport herself. She was looking for a team to join, so I gave her directions to a few teams in Plymouth and went home to enjoy my chocolate.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this considering that the England rugby team had won the women’s rugby World Cup (WRWC) the day before, but it isn’t a sport that gets a lot of media attention. In fact, this World Cup is the first time I’ve really seen much about it in the news or on the TV. I’m not sure how many people would know that England hosted the last WRWC in 2010, and the news of the England victory this year was relegated to 3rd place in the sports section of the BBC News mobile website the following morning. The top story was “Alistair Cook: England captain’s wife Alice convinced him to stay”, if anyone is interested. In fact, the matches weren’t even on terrestrial TV but on Sky Sports or available to stream from the IRB or WRWC website, if you knew where to look. This is a shame, because the matches were excellent. Two in particular stand out: the surprise Ireland victory over New Zealand, kicking the four time World champions out of the tournament before the Semi-Finals, and the England v Canada final, a repeat of a pool stage draw. For the Final, my whole family was glued to the TV. They aren’t huge fans, but its hard not to be drawn in to a Final played by two of the best teams in the world.

Emily Scarratt, the England 13, took first blood with two excellent penalty kicks in the first half, followed by a Danielle Waterman try bringing the score to 11-nil with nine minutes to go to half time. Canada responded with a penalty kick from Magali Harvey, the IRB player of the year, inspired by the French crowd’s cries of “Allez le rouge”. From then it looked like it was going to be a battle of the boots as Scarratt and Harvey matched each other on penalties, but a quick decision with seven minutes to go to full time resulted in Scarratt scoring a try which she then converted. The final score was England 21 to Canada’s 9.

The effect that this World Cup victory will have on the game in England is not yet known. Currently, the RFU figures suggest that rugby is regularly played by 18,000 women and girls and they’re hoping that the legacy of the World Cup victory will lead to another 10,000 women getting involved by 2017. 2015 in particular is expected to be a bumper year for English rugby, with the usual England leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series being joined by both the European Rugby Champions Cup Final at Twickenham and the Men’s Rugby World Cup at venues all over the country. 2016 sees the introduction of Sevens, for both men and women, at Rio. The added investment into the game is bound to benefit women’s rugby players and teams all over the country and Royal Holloway Women’s Rugby are looking forward to the opportunity, and the challenge, that the next few years will bring.