I grew up in a family where there was a lot of playing, watching and talking about rugby. I absorbed most of the rules just through being in the same house as these rugby fans. Even the family pet dog’s name, Deano, was inspired by rugby. I’m sure I caught several rugby games on the TV with my family as a child.
With all this enthusiasm for the game at home, I was excited to try playing for myself when it was given as an option at school in PE. But it was only touch rugby with no dramatic tackles. And then we moved away from the area, and that school, a month later before I could perfect my touch rugby skills.
However, over time that impression has gradually eroded. I married a Wales fan and instead of sloping off to the pub or making other plans to avoid having to watch televised rugby matches I started paying more attention and watching the games with my husband. Still, glancing at the TV and asking about the score is was about as far as I thought it would go. Until I found myself at Twickenham stadium, surrounded by 45,000 cheering people.
The atmosphere was good – it was an interesting game, the sun was shining, and the people were friendly. It wasn’t just my first match; it was one of the only times I’ve been to a stadium of that size (I went to a concert in one but that was years ago). Being in a large crowd all cheering on the same team is an experience in itself.
But as much as I enjoyed it, it got me thinking. Where are all the women?
I don’t mean in the crowd – while it wasn’t a 50-50 split, it wasn’t overwhelmingly male, either. I mean, playing.
There are plenty of women who play rugby – they just don’t get the coverage. You might think that is because the women’s teams are too few, or the games are dull. Not true. And it’s not because they’re not good enough.
During the last 6 Nations tournament, the England men’s match was shown on the BBC despite the fact that there tournament was effectively over, and there was no way England could win it. At the same time, the women’s match was available to watch. Not on TV though, just online.
The women’s England team went on to a comprehensive victory and a grand slam (meaning they one every game they played during the competition) – that’s their sixth in seven years. An incredible achievement.
Currently there really is no such thing as bad press for women’s rugby right now, or any press. Not even their recent achievements. Why aren’t those the matches that make the headlines?