Women's rugby is growing with every passing year. We look at its development, which now sees it played on all five continents.
Though rugby has long been the preserve of the men, the women's game is generating real passion around the world. World rugby has a very clear objective in this respect: to double the number of registered players between 2017 and 2025. We take a closer look at the women's game and its development around the world.
Rugby is seen as a form of emancipation by many women and the game is being actively supported by the African Rugby Federation. As yet the continental enjoys little representation on the international stage: only Kenya play on the World Rugby sevens circuit and South Africa lie a relatively low 11th in the rugby union world rankings. Yet despite the lack of investment, the number of countries playing the women's game is growing every year and a continental sevens tournament was founded in 2018. It is contested by Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda, Madagascar, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Botswana, Mauritius and Zambia. World Rugby has also set up development programmes in schools, with more than 410,000 girls taking part in them.
Some of the biggest rounds of the IRB sevens circuit are held in Asia, with Hong Kong taking pride of place. On the domestic scene a rugby union championship has been set up and has had two divisions since 2014. Teams have widely varying budgets and smaller nations have great difficulty in competing with bigger ones, such as the Japanese, the only Asian side to make it on to the sevens circuit. However, countries do have the population numbers and facilities to spur the development of women's rugby. 2018 was a historic year for the continent, with India playing its first women's international rugby union match.
As is the case in the men's game, the Oceania region is steeped in rugby culture and is home to the best teams in the world. The world number ones in the women's game are New Zealand, who are also known as the Black Ferns in reference to their badge. The New Zealanders will host the next Women's World Cup in 2021. Neighbours Australia are the reigning Olympic women's sevens champion but have enjoyed less success in the XV-a-side version, where they are ranked eighth in the world. They play very few international matches, and have only played against New Zealand this year. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga meet every year in the Oceania Women's Championship.
Women's college rugby has a long history in the USA and Canada. The season is commonly made up of two parts: the first is taken up with rugby union and the second with sevens. The Californian city of San Diego this year hosted the Super Series, a friendly competition contested by the top five teams in the world. The South American Rugby Confederation organises a major sevens championship featuring every country in South America. It acts as qualifying competition for the Olympic Games.
In Europe, the Women's Six Nations Championship is an annual competition involving France, England, Italy, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. While England and France are Europe's dominant sides, Italy are improving fast. Rugby Europe organises a sevens championship for some of the continent's other nations, among them Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain.
You now know everything you need to know about women's rugby around the world.
Make sure you read our other articles about women's rugby.