Ian Ritchie hails ‘significant’ 2016

  • RFU Chief Executive reviews 2016 achievements
  • Ritchie says Eddie Jones has helped ‘galvanise’ the team

RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie has praised the achievements of 2016, describing the year as one of “success across the board”.

From Eddie Jones’ team’s unbeaten year to the introduction of professional contracts for the Red Roses as well as success at both Rio 2016 and the World Rugby Under 20 Championship, Ritchie said 2016 had been a “significant step forward”.

“Restlessness to improve”

“People will rightly focus on the 13 successive wins under Eddie and he and his team deserve a huge thanks,” said Ritchie. 

“I think a particular highlight was the third test in Australia where the players put in an amazing performance at the end of the season to win a very hard series.”

Ritchie praised the improvements the side has made this year but stressed a desire to continue to develop.

“Eddie has galvanised this team and also brought a restlessness to improve and that applies to both the team and the Union as a whole. We need to get even better.”

Red Roses

This year marked the first time professional contracts have been awarded in the women’s 15-a-side game with 41 players across fifteens and sevens now under contract as well as seven contracts still be to awarded. 

“We are very pleased with the developments in women’s rugby, particularly with the launch of the Red Roses this year and the side put in four good performances in the Old Mutual Wealth Series,” said Ritchie. 

“That success was highlighted by Sarah Hunter being named Women’s Player of the Year by World Rugby and Rochelle Clark becoming England’s most capped player. 

“The team are building towards the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin next year which will be a fantastic tournament.”

From Rio to Cape Town 

Ritchie also commented on a landmark year for sevens following the sport’s inclusion at Rio 2016, as well as England’s recent win in Cape Town.

“You can see from the result in Cape Town how well the sevens programme is doing and that follows a brilliant event in Rio for both the men and the women who have been great ambassadors for the game.”

The next generation 

The England U20 win at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in June was the third time the team have won the competition in the past four years, which Ritchie said reflected the country’s strength in depth. 

“We talk a lot about the talent pathway and the success in Manchester showed the depth of talent we have in this country, which is a very good thing.”

Off the pitch, Ritchie said the sport was in a good place across the country with participation figures up, particularly in both O2 Touch and women’s rugby.

“There have been several significant steps forward this year and we are looking forward to continuing that in 2017.”