RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie has revealed a plan to double the number of women playing rugby in England by 2021 with Ritchie stating that growing the women’s game in England plays a vital part in English rugby taking the next phase in their elite development plan.
The RFU aim to increase the number of women playing the sport from 25,000 to 50,000 in the next five years, as well doubling the number of women’s fixtures being played, to increase the number of teams by 75 per cent to over 800, and to also increase the number of active women’s clubs to over 400.
“The more people who play, the more women who play, the more we get improvement and growth into the elite game,” said RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie via The Belfast Telegraph.
“Women’s rugby is growing year on year, and what we want to do is to is support that growth, that development, at the community, local and elite level.”
England are the current Womens’ Rugby World Champions and will defend their crown at next year’s Womens’ Rugby World Cup in Ireland, with matches being held in both Dublin and Belfast in August of next year.
England Womens’ have also won 13 of the 21 Womens’ Six Nations Championships since 1996 and also helped Team GB reach the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics earlier this summer before they were beaten 25-7 by New Zealand and 33-10 by Canada in the Bronze medal game.
Ritchie is hoping the World Cup win in 2014 and the success of the Olympics can be used as a launchpad to help further propel the womens’ game into the eyes of the public.
“Those of us lucky enough to go to the Olympics saw sevens, and women’s sevens, displayed on a global stage, bringing women’s rugby to a broader environment,” added Ritchie. “We’re very proud of everything we achieved at the Olympics.
“It’s our shop window. The impact of winning the women’s World Cup last time round has added a stimulus to this. What we’re about is trying to make sure we do it again.
“We’ve invested about £20million in the last four years into women’s rugby.
“Retaining the World Cup in Dublin next year is a huge priority, and that’s why we’ve now introduced 48 professional contracts for women rugby players (as announced in July).”
Jack O’ Toole, Pundit Arena.