- 26,000 women and girls regularly play rugby
- Red Roses unveiled as the new identity for England Women
- Ambition to improve player pathway
The RFU has laid out its intent for the women’s game over the next four years.
As England Women look to defend their Women’s Rugby World Cup title next year the RFU outlined their ambition to improve the player pathway for the development of the international game.
The Red Roses was also unveiled as the new identity for England Women.
"England Rugby has demonstrated its commitment to the women’s game," said RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie,
"We wanted to create an identity for England Women that would inspire more people to get involved whether playing or supporting the women’s game."
'A pivotal moment to shine'
England stars Sarah Hunter, Natasha Hunt and Emily Scarratt were joined by Ritchie, RFU Director of Professional Rugby Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Rugby Development Steve Grainger and England legend Maggie Alphonsi to unveil the Red Roses at Twickenham.
The rose, as the emblem of England Rugby, epitomises the unique qualities of England Women as strong, relentless and glorious.
“The sport is in an exciting place with England as current Women’s Rugby World Cup champions and the rugby sevens in the Olympics Games in Rio showcasing women’s rugby to new audiences," added Ritchie.
"With more professional contracts, and ever-increasing investment in the women’s game from grassroots to elite level, we feel this is a pivotal moment to shine a spotlight on the game in this country.
“We want to grow our fan base and ultimately get more women and girls considering rugby as an option for them to play."
'Exposing the sport to a wide audience'
Grainger also revealed over 26,000 women and girls regularly play contact rugby, surpassing the RFU’s women and girls strategy target of 25,000, one year ahead of schedule.
"We have created more playing opportunities in schools, clubs and universities, increased investment in facilities and strengthened our coaching base," said Grainger.
"We are also grateful to Sport England, whose financial support has contributed significantly to this growth.
“With over 300 rugby clubs across the country now hosting women and girls’ teams, there are numerous opportunities for women and girls across England to participate in rugby whether that be sevens, 15s or O2 Touch.
"The England Women have also played a big role, driving interest in the game following their Rugby World Cup win in 2014 and exposing the sport to a wide audience through the sevens teams’ participation in Rio and the strong performance of the 15s last season.”
Since England Women lifted the Rugby World Cup in 2014, 20 professional full-time sevens contracts were introduced ahead of the Rio Olympics and the RFU launched a strategy to get an additional 10,000 women and girls playing regular contact rugby.
This year, England Rugby announced 48 professional contracts for 15s and sevens players, the first-ever sponsored women’s series will take place in November with the Old Mutual Wealth Series, and the Red Roses will wear the first women’s custom Canterbury kit for the 2016/17 season.
Old Mutual Wealth Series
England v France, Wednesday 9 November
The Twickenham Stoop, KO 7.45pm
Ireland v England, Sunday 13 November*
University College Dublin, KO 2pm
*Not part of Old Mutual Wealth Series
England v New Zealand, Saturday 19 November
The Twickenham Stoop, KO 12pm
England v Canada, Saturday 26 November
Twickenham, KO 5.05pm
FREE entry after the conclusion of the men’s game