Women’s rugby players from around the world united on International Women’s Day – Saturday, March 8 – to celebrate those who have played an inspirational role in the growth and development of one of the world’s fastest-growing team sports.
Global participation has broken the 1.5 million mark for the first time and girls and women are getting into the sport in record numbers, across all continents, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
2014 is already on track to be a landmark year on the field with this summer’s Women’s Rugby World Cup set to showcase the strength of the fifteen-a-side game.
The IRB Women’s Sevens World Series is also inspiring new young audiences around the world with its attractive brand of skill, speed and excitement across five global locations.
Off the field, the IRB’s ‘Get Into Rugby’ programme is introducing thousands of girls to rugby in more than 40 countries, female referees, coaches and disciplinary officers are being identified and trained, while high-profile players are pushing the ‘Keep Rugby Clean’ anti-doping message in their role as ambassadors.
The year will also see the IRB recognise the achievements of those who have excelled on the world stage through the IRB Awards, while inspirational players and pioneers will be inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame at the Women’s Rugby World Cup in France.
International Women’s Day caps a great week for Women’s rugby, following the announcement that Sky Sports will broadcast Women’s Rugby World Cup matches to audiences in Ireland and the UK.
Saturday saw the Ireland Women play their first ever international match at the Aviva Stadium, with the Fiona Coghlan-led home side running out 39-0 winners over Italy.
Meanwhile, England Rugby 2015 organising body CEO Debbie Jevans was recognised as the most powerful women in sport by a UK newspaper this week.
The popularity of social media is playing a major role in the attraction and growth of the sport, with players, coaches and match officials pledging their messages of support and excitement on International Women’s Day by using the hashtag #wrugby and joining the conversation at the @irbwomens Twitter account.
IRB Women’s Development Manager Susan Carty, who was on assistant referee duty for the Ireland v Italy game, said: “Today is all about celebrating women’s achievements in rugby and those who have inspired change.
“We now have more women and girls playing and engaging in the sport than ever before and we have a really exciting opportunity with the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016 and 2020 to ensure that Women’s rugby is at the very forefront of team sport and is seen as an attractive sport to play, through its character-building values.
“I hope that International Women’s Day has inspired a new generation of women and young girls to take up rugby and look forward to hopefully seeing them in Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and beyond!”
Tickets for the knockout stages of this summer’s Women’s Rugby World Cup can be found here, while tickets for the pool stages will be released in due course.