Who Run The World? – The Rapid Rise of Women’s Rugby

Women’s rugby has been on the rise in recent years, the most recent World Rugby review in 2018 found that ‘in total 2.4 million women and girls are playing rugby at all levels, accounting for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of players globally and an increase in player numbers of 60 per cent since 2013’. 

The participation rates in both rugby sevens and the 15 a side game has close to 500,000 new players joining every year globally. According to World Rugby, women’s rugby is growing faster than men’s rugby and it is estimated that by 2026, 40% of the total number of rugby players will be female. 

While women’s rugby remains a predominantly amateur, minority sport — it is a burgeoning one played in over 80 countries. Support from governing bodies is rapidly increasing as they recognise that women’s rugby will help grow the game.

women's rugby
Byron Bay
Australia

Why Has Women’s Rugby Seen Such a Rise?

World Rugby have been driving in recent years to accelerate the global growth of women in rugby. In 2017 they set out an ambitious plan to double the number of registered players worldwide. In the first year of the plan the number of registered female players grew by an impressive 28 percent to 581,000. It is clear that world rugby is actively increasing funding and resources into women’s rugby and they are seeing the results.

The ‘Women In Rugby’ initiative from World Rugby with the campaign ‘try and stop us’ is a clear demonstration of World Rugby’s ambitions for women’s rugby. World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said that “by launching this unique brand identity and proposition we are demonstrating our unwavering commitment to growing participation and exposure for women’s rugby around the globe”. These sentiments were reiterated by World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont with his triumphant comments: “We firmly believe that the development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade’.

“We are demonstrating our unwavering commitment to growing participation and exposure for women’s rugby around the globe.”

SIR BILL BEAUMONT – WORLD RUGBY CHAIRMAN

Further success can be seen in increased diversity at the highest level with the introduction of 17 new female members to its council. Moreover, the next World Cup in 2021 to be hosted by New Zealand will be the first to not be gender assigned. All future World Cups, whether for men or women, will be known as the Rugby World Cup followed by the year designation.

The introduction of rugby sevens to the Olympics has undoubtedly been one of the key factors in the rise of women’s rugby. Sevens has led to a rise in popularity of the sport, particularly in emerging nations. With the Olympics comes investment from national governing bodies, rugby now has greater credibility on a global stage. It is estimated that £20 million was invested into rugby by national Olympic committees after sevens was announced as an Olympic sport. Sevens is a great introduction to rugby and provides a gateway to playing the standard 15 a side game. 

women's rugby
girls rugby

Where Can I Play Women’s Rugby?

Wherever you are in the world, you have a pretty good chance of finding a rugby club. With the sport being played in over 80 countries from all over the world. This number continues to rise as rugby becomes more recognised globally. Due to numbers and resources, the more common form of the game is 7’s, however more and more 15’s competitions are emerging in all nations.

Recognising the incredible growth in women’s rugby the Women’s Rugby Super Series has increased from four to five teams. These are some of the best women’s teams in the world and where rugby is most popular. Below I have outlined a number of the leading nations:

England

In England, the RFU now boasts professional programmes for both the sevens and 15s teams. This hopes to boost the development of the game at not only the top but also at the grassroots. They are looking to double the number of female participants by 2021, increase the number of women’s teams by more than 75% to 800 and host 400 active women’s clubs. The RFU also aims to increase the number of women referees, coaches and volunteers across the entire sport.

The women’s premiership secured £2.4 million of investment in 2017, the biggest financial contribution the women’s club game has seen. This represents the clear top down support the women’s game is receiving in England.

Australia

In Australia, Super Rugby W is the top level of women’s rugby. The teams replicate their male counterparts – NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds, Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Rugby WA. Fox Sports shows every Super W game and this has increased the marketability of women’s rugby in Australia. The league has successfully filled the gap between the club and international game.

New Zealand

The top level of women’s rugby in New Zealand is the Farah Palmer Cup, which runs in a provincial format much like the men’s Mitre 10 cup. At the international level, the Black Ferns lead the pack, having won 5 of the past 6 World Cups. 

North America

The USA and Canada both have women’s rugby programmes that are as (if not more) successful than the men’s teams. In college sport women’s rugby has been recognised by the main governing body the NCAA as an emerging sport. This means that more funding is available to women’s rugby and the number of scholarships given is rising every year.

women's rugby
girls rugby

A Final Word

Women’s rugby has come a long way from the days when women had to play in secret to avoid public pressure and societal issues. Thankfully as a society women’s role in sport has dramatically changed. But there is still a long way to go until women’s sport is put on a level playing field with their male counterparts. As a rugby player and fan I am proud that World Rugby is recognising the imperative role that women will play in the growth of the sport we love.

Recently, I spoke to Alex and Tamara who both hail from England but have found a love for rugby on the other side of the world in Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast.

It is thanks to strong and empowering women like Tamara and Alex, whose stories you can read about below, that are encouraging more and more women and girls in their local areas to play rugby.

 Read Alex and Tamara’s experiences of playing rugby in Australia and the rise of women’s rugby.

Alex

Byron Bay Bullets


Tamara

Byron Bay Bullets

Player Profile: Tamara – Byron Bay Bullets RFC

I am Tam, originally from Devon in the UK but have been living in Australia for the last 8 years but have only got back into Rugby the last 2 – 3 years. I was president of the first women’s rugby team in Byron Bay Rugby Club’s 120 year history. 

How Did You Get Introduced to Rugby? 

Rugby was never a sport I was ever thinking of rejoining after school but I met the coach and some of the girls who started the small team at a friend’s birthday. It was actually a dare to see if I would join and attend a training session between my friendship group. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I did but it’s oddly addictive! 

How Did You Get Into Playing?

I went to the first group training session and loved it, I couldn’t wait for the next one. I committed from day one and had so much fun. Meeting other sporty girls like me (mostly internationals) but some Aussies too so it was a good mix. 

As we were a new team and in a regional area without many other teams around, we had some friendly games but generally had to travel a few hours to other states to get games underway at first. 

After our first year of training hard, some local news interviews and a little community spirit – we started spreading the word and local teams in the nearby zones contacted us. By our second year, we were involved in a full season of games, competing against 9 other teams in 2019.

What Are The Biggest Misconceptions About Women’s Rugby?

“You aren’t strong enough”. “This is a man’s sport”. This is unfortunately something we hear all too often. With the right leadership, training and support – Women have and will continue to show that we are more than capable to take this further and further and expand and grow this sport. 

What Do You Love Most About Playing Rugby? 

THE TEAM & CLUB!! I have never been a part of such a humble, powerful, committed group of strangers in my life. 

In such a short space of time, this helped me develop new friendships and also for me personally, brought me and old friends together! Being a team, supporting each other, lifting each other up and having your teammates back each other – it’s such a special community. 

At first, it was really hard to be taken seriously in such a male dominated sport and club. We had to work extremely hard to feel like we were ONE club and not divided by gender. We had to show we were there for the long run and were willing to put in the work to progress and make the club proud. 

Byron Bay also hosts an international 7’s competition every year in October so the organisation and preparation for this was very rewarding and fun. Getting the community together, raising money for local charities, getting volunteers involved and bringing the town alive for this annual sporting event was pretty special. We had teams from all over the world join us (Tonga, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Singapore and all over Australia). 

Why Do You Think Women’s Rugby Has Seen Such a Rise in Recent Years?

The sooner we see women and men as equal the better. Personally, the more women have persisted to show what we are capable of, the more we have been accepted into this mainly male dominated sport. We have made news headlines, shown enormous growth, progression and strength and it’s inspiring for the younger generations to come – to be brave and resilient.

Would You Recommend Playing Rugby Overseas to Other Women? 

110% YES!!! This brings a whole new concept to working and living overseas. Your team becomes your family. You develop life long friendships, see everyone go through highs and lows but at the end of the day you are in it together. Injuries, hangovers, growth (personal and team), the wins, the losses, team building – the lot!

Player Profile: Alex – Byron Bay Bullets RFC

Hello I’m Alex. I’m 27, I’m originally from England and I came over to Australia at the end of 2017 with a working holiday visa, planning to travel and work for the rest of the year. Surprise surprise, I’m still here two and a half years later! 

It was Byron Bay I really fell in love with, and I love my life of work, surf, chill and fun in paradise. Outside of rugby I’m a bit of everything at the moment – personal trainer, partnerships/ PR manager and building an acting career!

How Did You Get Introduced to Rugby?

I actually played as a mini, so primary school age, in England! I have two younger brothers so anything they could do I wanted to do better. I remember being the only girl in the team playing tag rugby until I was U11, then we had to split from the boys and I gave up to focus on swimming. There were only 3 girls, so there wasn’t even a proper chance to pursue it back then. I am a big international rugby fan, and even though I stopped playing, my love for the sport was maintained through my dad and family always playing and supporting. I ADORE going to Twickenham in England and the whole atmosphere of watching the sport. Rugby spectators are the best.

How Did You Get Into Playing?

I started playing again in Byron Bay! A friend I worked with suggested I come and play tag, which Aussies play in the rugby union off season. It was actually this social side of Byron that I think kept me here. I found my love for it and skills really hadn’t totally gone, so it was awesome to pick it up and rekindle a fire I didn’t even know was there! Then I met Tamara and Katie, who told me there was a women’s 7s team, The Bullets…! I was not expecting to ever play contact rugby but, low and behold, within a month I’d been asked to be the team captain and had an amazing group of women that I got to train with and play matches with. It was actually kind of scary to play again, and I’ll never forget the first game of tears in the first half! But I’ll also never forget the comeback in the second, where the whole team just came together and smashed it to find this amazing belief in each other.

What Are The Biggest Misconceptions About Women’s Rugby?

Probably that you become super manly and hench. This is not the case – rugby requires agility, flexibility, strength and speed. Our team is certainly the perfect example of all shapes and sizes. Yes you need strength and size on the team, but two training sessions and one 7s match a week does not make women bulky or muscly.

I think another misconception is that you need to know the rules before trying it, or need to have played before. This isn’t the case, I would recommend trying some training sessions and getting a feel for it that way. 

Often everyone is at the same level of thinking they should know more, but with consistency and support we built a team last year from girls who had never played to a team that was a serious contender by the end of the season.

Thirdly, there is a fear around contact and getting hurt. I’m not going to lie, you can get injured (I fractured my sternum last year!). But we do everything we can by learning technique to prevent this from happening. Tackling is also FUN, and when you’re in the game you just go for it and feel the adrenaline kick in to sprint over the line or get in an awesome position to pass the ball.

What Do You Love Most About Playing Rugby?

The TEAM! Training with a team is the best exercise you can do for your soul and fitness. I adore it. I love the people, the work ethic, the support, the laughs! When someone isn’t feeling it, you’ve got a whole group there ready to pull you through the other side. If I’m ever not feeling like training, I literally drag myself there and within 2 minutes of seeing everyone I’m grinning again. 

I also love the challenge and new skills I’ve learned – crikey, it takes mental capacity too. To have coordination and communicate and pass and catch accurately. For me, I’ve also loved being a captain. Being able to see so much improvement in the team, who all pretty much started as beginners at the start of the season. By the end of it the changes were INSANE.

I have made an entire group of friends through rugby and it really brings you close to people you would never meet otherwise. That’s the other love – the social side! We get the boys and girls all together on match days and it’s pretty wild. If you like a bevvy but can’t catch a ball, join up regardless.

Why do you think women’s rugby has seen such a rise in recent years?

I think the media has done a great job of putting women’s rugby on a level playing field with the men’s. We now have televised tournaments with the same name as the boys – finally girls are seeing role models they can relate to rather than be scared of a sport which didn’t have the female touch before.

Would you recommend playing rugby overseas to other women?

YESYESYESYES. I found a new family here – if in doubt, just try it. Beginner, intermediate, expert – we are all in it together.

How to Make a Rugby Highlights Video

Nowadays when looking to play overseas most clubs will ask to look at some footage of you playing. The best way to do this is to create a highlights video showcasing the best of your abilities. Creating a good rugby highlights video will help you stand out to potential clubs and put you in a better negotiating position to any packages that may be on offer. Whatever the result, it’s a pretty cool thing to have and to post on your social media accounts.

The best rugby highlights videos are short and sweet. Try to make your video between 3-5 minutes. Decide in what order you want your footage, it’s important that your video isn’t just lots of random clips.

If you’re ahead of the game you might have been saving your videos from the season as you go. But if you’re like me you may have to get hold of all the games from the season. Go back through and pick out the bits that show off the best parts of your game. It’s better to have more clips than you need rather than not enough as you can always cut some out later in the process.

Making a rugby highlight video is actually a really fun process. Going back through all the games of the season and remembering moments you had forgotten brings back great memories.

Which Video Editing Software to Use

Below I will let you know about the video editing programmes I have personally used but there are plenty more out there aside from these.

For Apple users, iMovie, is a free application and gets the job done. This software was designed with the average technology user in mind, and therefore is very straightforward and easy to use.

Splice is a great app that is simple and easy to use. Make the most of the 7 day free trial that they offer before they start charging you. A week should be plenty of time to put together your rugby highlights video..

If your club/school/university use Hudl and you have access to the videos on there, they have an easy to use highlights creator built in to the software. 

What to Include in Your Rugby Highlights Video

For most coaches the first thing they look for in a rugby highlights video of a player is their attacking ability. This provides them with a sense of your athleticism and what level of rugby player you are. I notice that a lot of players make the easy mistake of just including tries and big runs. These are obviously an important part of any rugby highlights reel but they do not offer a well rounded overview of your abilities. Remember at the end of the day, you’re trying to show yourself in the best way possible.

Attack

Some things I would advise to include in the attack section are:

  • Offloads: This shows your ability to control the ball into contact. An extremely valuable skill for opening up defences and creating space.
  • Variation of passing: Include various examples of your ability to alter the type of pass to the required situation. This is a good indication to coaches of your overall skill level.
  • Foot work: Show when you have used footwork that results in a positive outcome. Just because you didn’t score doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful piece of skill. You could have put the defense under pressure or forced an attacking overload.
  • Line breaks: Just like footwork, even if you did not score, it shows your ability to identify space. 
  • Support lines: Demonstrating that you are able to successfully track your teammates running lines and provide either support at the next ruck or keep play alive with offload support displays your game awareness.
rugby offload tackle attack defence

Defence

Now that you’ve displayed your power on one side of the ball, now you have a chance to display your defensive skills.

In the defense section it’s important to include:

  • What you do post tackle: Showing yourself making a dominant tackle is key. What comes after the tackle is as, if not more important. Make sure to show your effort on the floor to roll away. Even better show you getting to your feet and being a disruption to the ruck or stealing the ball.
  • Counter rucking: Demonstrate the strength you have off the ball.  It lets the viewer know that you can identify the potential to turn the ball over.
  • Key actions in a turnover: Demonstrate your knowledge of the game’s laws by including times where you clear out a ruck or hold up a player and turn the ball over.
lineout rugby video highlights

Position Specific

Finally you should highlight your position specific skills. This selection of clips should demonstrate your ability to use position specific skills confidently and with positive outcomes. Unless the skills major aspect is consistency, like kicking or lineout throws then don’t use too many clips of that one skill. Find below my position specific skills to include in your highlights reel:

Tight/Loose head prop (1&3)

  • Scrummaging (own ball/against the head)
  • Lifting in the lineout
  • Impact on driving maul
  • Close to ruck defence

Hooker (2)

  • Lineout throws (variation in length)
  • Controlling the ball at the back of a maul
  • Successful strikes at the ball in a scrum
  • Scrums hooked against the head

Second Row (4&5)

  • Ability in the air (particularly lineouts)
  • Clearing out rucks
  • Speed from scrum to rucks

Back row (6,7,8)

  • Speed from scrum to tackle/ruck
  • Any positive impacts in lineout
  • Turnovers at the breakdown
  • Carries from back of scrum
  • Defensive pressure from set piece

All Forwards

Demonstrate prowess when carrying into contact, the repeated ability to carry the ball over the gain line for your team.

Scrum half (9)

  • Passing from scrums/rucks/lineouts
  • Sniping runs
  • Confidence to direct forwards during phase play
  • Tracking of line breaks and tactical kicks
  • Sweeping behind the defensive line
  • Box kicking

Fly-half (10)

  • Ability to take and create space
  • Ability to manage a team in attack, direction of phase play
  • Kicking (goal, tactical, defensive)
  • Range of passing
  • Defensive capabilities

Centres (12 &13)

  • Ability to take and create space
  • Ability to put supporting players into space
  • Open play tackles and defensive coordination
  • Kick chase

Back 3 (11,14,15)

  • Catching high ball
  • Footwork and ability to finish
  • Clearance Kicks
  • Kick chase
  • 1 v 1 tackles
  • Long passing
  • Counter attack/Identifying space
  • Defensive Positioning
rugby kick video highlights

What not to include!

Most of these points are pretty obvious but I thought best to get them down in writing as a bad highlight can hinder your recruitment process, especially for the top level clubs.

Don’t order your clips chronologically – you might think it makes sense to make a high­lights video ear­ly in the season, then sim­ply add more and more plays as the year pro­gress­es. Start with your best set of clips and then decide on a categorical order. Remember, if your first 30 seconds are average they may not watch the rest! 

Poor quality footage – As much as you possibly can, include footage that is of a good quality and clearly shows you producing the skill it is intended to show. 

Repeated clips – No matter how good the piece of skill, coaches want to see variety in your play.

Don’t upset the flow – it’s annoying to watch a clip that keeps stopping and starting. Once you have highlighted yourself at the beginning of the clip, just let the play run through. The more fluid your video, the better it will look. 

Don’t hinder yourself with music – by all means have a backing track to your video but bare in mind who it’s going to and what the song is. For example, a song with lots of swearing in it might not go down so well.

Clips giving away penalties – Although you might think your cheap shot makes you look big and dominant. All it shows to coaches is a lack of discipline, something they don’t want in their squad. 

What next?

Once you’ve finished your video, show it to your current coaches and team mates. Ask for some feedback and make any changes that you need.

You’re then ready to show off your skills to prospective clubs. If you haven’t found any clubs yet check out some of the other pages on the site to help you out.