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Rugby Leaders Focusing on Development of Women’s Game

4 Sep, 2019

By: Michael Popke

One of the fastest-growing sports in the United States is rugby, with clubs established both in major cities and smaller communities. And evidence suggests the rough-and-tumble sport is becoming more appealing to females.

According to figures from USA Rugby, there were more than 115,000 registered rugby players in the country in 2016. Of those, 32,000 were in colleges, with the rest in high schools and clubs; 25 percent were women.

Globally, participation levels have hit 2.7 million, World Rugby reported earlier this year. And for the second consecutive year, more girls have entered the sport than boys, and more than 40 percent of rugby’s 400 million fanbase are female.

Credit, at least in part, the addition of men’s and women’s rugby sevens competition to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; the sport also will be on the 2020 program in Tokyo.

World Rugby has big plans for women in the sport. “By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby,” reads the mission statement on the Dublin, Ireland-based organization’s website.

In May, World Rugby introduced a “Women in Rugby” brand identity and launched the global “Try and Stop Us” campaign, aimed at increasing participation and engagement in women’s rugby.

“Not only is women’s rugby experiencing unprecedented growth around the world, but we are well on the way to realizing our vision of a more equitable game for all through the implementation of our ambitious strategic women’s action plan, which is having a transformational effect on all areas of the game,” claimed World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont at the time of the announcement. “From the highest levels of the sport’s governance to grassroots participation, we are wholly committed to driving gender-balance and ensuring that women have equal opportunities both on and off the field, driving increased involvement and engagement in the women’s game from fans, audiences, players and investors.” 

“Women’s rugby is a good metaphor for modern feminism; you’re in charge of your own body and power,” Emma Powell, a rugby-playing mother of six in Texas, told Shape.com. “Because there’s no boy’s club mentality there’s less sexual harassment than in other traditionally male sports.”

Indeed, ActiveKids.com cites six reasons “why rugby is great for girls:” The game promotes equality, boosts self-esteem, encourages resilience, is empowering, encourages life-long friendships and is affordable.

And count on efforts continuing. Rugby is currently one of the NCAA’s emerging sports for women, and has been working on growth on campuses in order to become a championship sport.

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