Rugby, Rugby History, Women's Rugby

Women in Rugby

The women’s game is a dark horse with most rugby supporters knowing quite little about the women’s game. The women’s game has grown formidably since 2017 with a 28% increase in overall registered female players. From 2013 up until June 2018 World Rugby has seen a 60% increase in the amount of girls and women taking part in rugby. Currently, there are a total 2.7 million women playing rugby across the globe, meaning that women make up a quarter of the total population of players. The female game is therefore growing rapidly as women also make up 40% of the game’s 400 million strong fan base. Due to this, is seeing tremendous growth through women with more women currently joining compared to men.

What has drawn many women to rugby is that it allows them to break down a patriarchal stereotype. It is also highly beneficial and helps maintain physical fitness. Playing rugby is also good for the mind like many other sport, as well as having social benefits because it makes it easier to make friends and spend time with people before and after games.

WOMEN´S RUGBY TRIBUTE ▪️ Best Tries, Tackles & Offloads ᴴᴰ
Video by Creative Prop

The pay gap

There is much to do when it comes to gender equality in rugby. The biggest disparity is seen in the gender pay gap. The men’s game is professional meaning that players get full salaries that support them while they play. Most women get paid next to nothing for their efforts, which means they have to hold down a full time jobs whilst playing. If they get injured and cannot work this will put these women under immense financial pressure.

‘Men earn 93 times more than women’: Basketballer Lauren Jackson speaks on the gender pay gap
Video by ABC News (Australia)

England have become the first rugby nation to offer women full professional contracts to play. This could most certainly lead to their dominance in the game as these ladies will be able to fully devote themselves to training, meaning that they will not have to work a full time job whilst also having to focus on training. Other nations such as New Zealand, France and Australia have also made steps to give players better pay, but none have been as bold as the English in offering players lucrative full time contracts.

Figure showing the gender pay gap in rugby for England and South Africa
Created by Joshua Parsons


The justification for the pay gap between men’s teams and women’s teams comes down to media coverage. Most men’s games are broadcast on national television and aired at prime time. This draws sponsors to the teams that are playing in these games. In order to get more funding into the women’s game, more sponsorship is needed. The problem is that sponsors rely on media coverage. This is why sports such as tennis and athletics have equal pay for men and women, because both both genders have the same media coverage. Therefore, in order to get more money into women’s rugby there needs to be an increase in the media coverage. Inevitably, if there is no increase in the media coverage of women’s rugby then the cycle of unequal and low pay will continue.

The Female Athlete: Missing in Action | Cheryl Cooky | TEDxPurdueU
Talk by Cheryl Cooky
Video published by TEDx Talks

Can broadcasters take a chance on women?

People are definitely taking more interest in the women’s game and this is most notably seen in England and France where more investment is coming into the game. The women’s Six Nations competition is currently being broadcast on television, which will help in attracting new sponsors to those teams. Fans are also getting behind their teams and coming out in numbers to watch games. In March of 2018 an attendance of 17440 was reached at Stade des Alpes for the Six Nations game where England faced off against France. That same weekend saw the Principality Stadium fulled with 11062 fans who came out to watch Wales take on Italy. These numbers bode well for future investment in women’s rugby.

Will Men and Women Ever Be Paid the Same in Sport?
Video by Good Morning Britain

Women are needed

In order for rugby to grow and expand the mindset that rugby is a men’s sport needs to change. Women needed to be considered equal to men in the sport and investment needs to grow. Rugby can help break down the boundaries that separate men and women in our society today. The game still has a long way to go, but progress is already being made and hopefully soon both genders will be on the same playing field, which will be exciting to see.