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England Rugby launches women and girls action plan

  • Read the four-year plan here 
  • Find out more about the Strategic Plan here 

England Rugby has launched the women and girls action plan for the next four years. The plan is part of the RFU's overarching Strategic Plan and funding agreement with Sport England.

Running from 2017-2021, the action plan recognises the significant growth in the female game over the last four years and sets out a plan for the next four years to continue to grow the number of women and girls engaging in rugby.

The plan’s ambition is to get more women playing more often. It includes proposals to grow playing numbers, improve the opportunities to play, ensure that those with talent can progress, increase the numbers of females engaging in coaching, refereeing and volunteering and improve the female-friendliness of rugby facilities.

Underpinning all of this is a commitment to strengthening England Rugby’s commercial partnerships in this area and change perceptions of the game.

On the rise 

Since 2013 the number of women and girls enjoying contact rugby in England has increased by over 10,000, as a result of campaigns including Pitch up and Play and Inner Warrior. 

This huge surge in popularity has seen 300 rugby clubs across England providing playing opportunities for more than 25,000 women and girls each season.

There are currently 512 women and girls teams in England and 27,500 existing players.

By 2021 England Rugby wants to grow these numbers, engaging 100,000 females in rugby and converting 25,000 of those into new player – almost doubling the current figure. In addition, the action plan sets out an ambition to: 

  • Have active senior women's teams in 100 more clubs
  • Increase the number of active adult women’s teams by 350
  • Increase the number of girls engaged in rugby through CBRE All Schools 
  • Encourage more women to become team managers, volunteers, coaches and referees. 

'Only the beginning'

Over the past four years our focus has been on working with volunteers in constituent bodies and clubs to successfully grow the numbers of girls and women playing and enjoying rugby," said Steve Grainger, RFU rugby development director.

"We have achieved great growth and exceeded our targets, with some 27,500 female players currently registered.

“Our current achievements are only the beginning and, as evident in the women and girls action plan, we are determined to enable as many women and girls as possible to experience and enjoy taking part in rugby union."

Alongside an increased commitment to growing grassroots rugby, the action plan also features an increased focus on enhancing opportunities and offerings within the professional game.

The performance of England Women, the Red Roses, has been a catalyst for growth, inspiring other women and girls to take up the game. Over the past couple of years the elite women’s teams, both playing sevens and 15-a-side, now benefit from having professional contracts.

In addition, England Rugby’s recently introduced 10-club Tyrrells Premier 15s to help raise the standards of domestic rugby. 

“At the time of the 1991 Women’s Rugby World Cup there were around 35 English clubs with women’s sides, compared with over 300 rugby clubs now hosting women’s and girls’ teams, and girls playing in schools and clubs at age group levels," said Deborah Griffin, RFU Council women’s and girls; representative and Board member. 

 "A huge amount has been achieved. My biggest wish is to see all women and girls able to play at their local club, with coaching and development as good as for boys and men.”

Click here for England Rugby’s women and girls action plan.

To find a rugby club near you, click here. 


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