RFU aims for 10,000 more female players
ESPN Staff
August 19, 2014
Sarah Hunter reflects on their triumph

The Rugby Football Union aims to have another 10,000 female players in the game by 2017 as they look to push on after England's victorious World Cup campaign.

England coach Gary Street believes his side's win could see the game propelled on to the next level and for RFU rugby development director Steve Grainger, while applauding the triumphant 2014 crop, he hopes it could be the start of new interest in the women's game.

In a column for the Daily Telegraph, Grainger paid tribute to Katy Mclean's side and outlined his plans to push the women's game on with increasing the number of participants central to his aims. He wrote: "There has been a tremendous spike in numbers in the past 12 months alone, from participation figures of 15,000 girls and women playing the sport showing a rise to 18,000 in that period.

The tipping point for women's rugby

  • It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport. Women's rugby only needs that prefix for mere official classification, the distinction is superfluous. Over the past 17 days, the rugby world has been engrossed by the show in Paris. Old-fashioned stereotypes have been disproved. It culminated in Sunday's final where England saw off Canada 21-9, a triumph should catapult the game on to the next level.
  • In the pool stage, Ireland's win over New Zealand helped raise the public consciousness while Canada's semi-final triumph against France was a game for the ages in front of the most vociferous of crowds. But England's triumph against Canada should be the catalyst for increased awareness of the sport.
  • "I think this could be the tipping point for women's rugby worldwide," England coach Gary Street said. "This tournament has made everyone realise that women's XVs is one hell of a game and the standard has been incredible."
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"That increase has been double the growth we have seen in any other single year. We want to see another 10,000 put on that mark by 2017. The victory against Canada on Sunday has made everything seem possible."

Central to the plans will be increasing the number of clubs who focus on women's rugby alongside increasing the numbers of players in both schools and universities.

"We have been getting ready for this moment for the last 18 months. And now we have the chance to take advantage of all that preparation. On Sept 3 we are unveiling at the House of Commons a new initiative to create a hub of 200 clubs that have a core of women's sides.

"Rather than trying to force every club in the land to set up a women's team, we want to create these hubs right round the country so that we can have meaningful competitions and concentrate our resources. At the moment there are 640 women and girls' teams in 330 clubs.

"We have put a lot of focus and energy into getting the game into schools and universities.

"Two years ago we set up our All Schools programme which was designed to take rugby into state secondary schools that were not playing rugby. Forty per cent of the uptake from the 200 schools that have responded to the initiative have been female. That is tremendously encouraging for everyone. We now want to bring another 100 schools on board."

The England team are all amateurs having to combine their rugby with full-time work elsewhere, but Street hopes the game will become increasingly professionalised in the wake of their win over Canada.

"I think there will be some kind of professionalism, without a doubt," Street said. "I think any sponsors who have been watching the games out here will have been impressed. The amount of TV support shows it's a viable commercial product. There are definitely winds of change there."

The victorious 2014 side © Getty Images
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