The women’s rugby union has a unique opportunity to plan a brave future and avoid mistakes in men’s football
The British & Irish Lions have announced a high profile “Feasibility Steering Group” made up of players, administrators, sponsors and current broadcaster Sky to consider introducing a women’s version of the famous men’s touring team.
I deals with some of the questions arising from the idea and offers some answers …
Without quotas, a Lions squad selected today would be dominated by England’s professional players. Shaunagh Brown, the Harlequins’ and England’s props, is one of 13 people on the steering group, and earlier this year she and her international teammates Sarah Bern and Zoe Harrison carelessly spoke out against including French players in a women’s Lions squad.
On the other hand, Brown’s English striker Marlie Packer said I she supported such a team. “I’m open to it just because it would be a really good team,” said Packer. “There would be some tough choices to make.”
The superficially simple answer would be that the women’s Lions tour with the men, but when we think of the existing destinations, only New Zealand is conceivable in terms of strong opposition as Australia and South Africa are not at that level. There is strength in France, and who wouldn’t want to tour there for a month? Or the US and Canada maybe.
Given who set up the steering group, it’s unlikely that we’d say that Lions are a bad idea per se. However, the concept for the men is at a crossroads after Australia 2025 and maybe even before, with influential voices debating Lions’ place in the plan.
It is a credit to a small group of players, coaches, broadcasters and sponsors in the UK and Ireland every four years and one of the three host countries every 12 years and a great trip for fans who can afford it. And proponents would argue that it makes rugby popular in general.
But you wonder how much benefit do people find in Canada, France, Italy, the United States, or Spain – all of the countries that are in the top 10 women’s world.
Representative rugby is something to strive for, and it can be great fun and commercially attractive. There is a barbarian women team, and if a level other than club and international rugby is desirable, how about a north-south battle of the hemispheres or east-west or some other combination?
Golf understood that Britain had to become Europe in order to make the Ryder Cup more viable.
There is an argument for investing all available time and resources in maintaining what we already have. World Rugby launched the WXV competition, which starts in 2023, to give national teams a game plan between World Cups.
The club game is still finding a foothold – in England it has made its way into mirroring the men’s Premiership clubs in the semi-professional Premier 15s, though independent thinkers like Wasp head coach Giselle Mather are trusted guardians.
Ali Donnelly, founder of the women’s rugby website Scrum queens, told I: “The question that arises when making this decision is not, ‘This happens to men, so why shouldn’t it happen to women?’ but rather the right thing for women’s rugby.
“We are on the cusp of a big year in 2022 with a World Cup in New Zealand and the launch of an exciting new global calendar, but we have to accept that women’s football presents major challenges when it comes to setting standards outside of a handful to develop. ”of the top nations. That should be the most pressing focus for those involved in the sport for the next decade. “
The women’s rugby union is in the early stages – and this offers a unique opportunity to plan a bold and tailor-made future. It can avoid mistakes made in male gaming, including playing too many games and dubbing and overpaying players.
The rules of the game could be adjusted if necessary, and if the timing and format of men’s competitions like Lions, Six Nations and World Cup don’t work, let’s create ones that do.
Moving the Women’s Six Nations to its own time slot was an example. With goodwill and global cooperation, women’s football can grow with confidence and a solid foundation.