New research can link into growth of women's rugby

Women's Rugby is reaching out to a wider audience following the growth and success of England's national side

This week, a new global study found that over 80 per cent of general sports fans are interested in women’s sport.

The research, which was conducted by Nielsen Sports across the UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, highlighted that more than 51 per cent of male fans are engaging in women’s sport.

As for both male and females across the eight countries listed, the study revealed that 64 per cent have an interest in at least one women’s sport.

One of the intriguing aspects to come from the research was that interest levels were higher in sports where men’s and women’s events are staged together.

In recent times, we have seen this apply to rugby with England Women playing internationals after the Men’s side at Twickenham and that will occur again this coming November when England face Australia.

The study surveyed over 1,000 people from each country and also discovered that women’s sport is seen as 'inspiring' and ‘progressive’, which are both terms you can certainly attach to women’s rugby.

The success of England’s national team on the world stage continues to encourage young girls and women to get involved with rugby and with the RFU recently announcing the introduction of full-time contracts, it just underlines the increasing growth of the game.

Speaking to the publication SW Londoner, at the end of last month, 2014 World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi praised the RFU for their impact on women’s rugby: “The whole thread of England rugby runs through every gender, every person, you feel like you’re part of the clubhouse.

“There’s been this fantastic range of successes in women’s rugby. We won the World Cup in 2014, then the sport turned professional. I think what’s great is women’s rugby is becoming even more competitive. In France, New Zealand, Scotland, it’s good to see the women’s game is growing.”

The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition in England is just another example of the women’s game having a positive impact on the next generation, increasing the potential success of the national team but also promoting women’s rugby to consumers of all sport.

Over 2,000 people attended last season’s final between Saracens and Harlequins at Ealing Trailfinders’ ground which prompted Sarries captain Lotte Clapp to tell Rugby World: “For the people who came to watch, hopefully we’ve got them excited so it grows and grows. That’s what we want for women’s rugby.

“The game brings so much to me, it gives me so much confidence. It’s a great sport to be involved in and we want more people playing it and enjoying it. It’s very special.”

The RFU have invested £2.4m in the Tyrrells 15s and that is helping a huge number of players across the sport. With select fixtures as well as England internationals also been shown live on Sky Sports, the women’s game is continuing to receive excellent exposure.

But, it is not just the top level of the sport which is helping the development of women’s rugby. Each year, BUCS [British Universities & Colleges Sports] host their rugby finals day at Twickenham with the leading women’s and men’s teams in the country descending on England HQ to challenge for silverware.

Both the women’s and men’s finals are also live streamed so to be able to allow young players to showcase their abilities on a stage such as Twickenham, can only have a positive influence.

A handful of international stars, including Lagi Tumia and Ellie Kildunne, have played at university level and when you factor in other big events such as the Scottish Varsity between St Andrews and Edinburgh hosted at Murrayfield, it shows that women’s rugby across the board, does seem to be firmly on the rise, but also, it is starting become more publicised to all consumers of sport across the UK.