There can be no denying that it has been an awesome summer for women’s rugby. We agree whole heartedly with Su Carty of the IRB (International Rugby Board) that the quality of play and competition, coverage and response to the World Cup tournament in Paris was “simply incredible”. And that’s before we get to the fact that it was the England women who came away victorious as World Champions following a 21-9 defeat of Canada; finally taking the trophy they have come so close to on previous occasions and worked so hard to achieve this year. The feeling that summer 2014 has brought a turning point for the women’s game was immediately underlined by the announcement that 20 of the England Sevens squad would be offered the first professional women’s contracts with the RFU.
Whether this turning point is in fact a watershed will only be evident in retrospect, and 20 contracts for national players in no way brings equity with the men’s game. But there is great news in that here in Bristol we can easily ride the wave of enthusiasm, show our support for the women’s game and encourage others to do likewise by enjoying top-notch matches on our doorstep.
This month sees the start of the RFU English Women’s Premiership and the no-doubt mighty campaign of Bristol Ladies to bag themselves the top spot. So, as ever, we are here to help you out – we have some pre-season pointers on Bristol’s team and chances. We are much aided, in this regard, by the great resource for all things women and rugby which is scrumqueens.com
At the end of the 13/14 season Bristol Ladies finished 3rd in the Premiership, keeping up a consistent pattern of upper table finishes in recent years. With more than a dozen of the team then departing for international duty this is a team with some seriously talented contenders on the books. Alongside half a dozen players from the Welsh national squad, including Wales captain Rachel Taylor, Bristol Ladies boasts four of the England winning squad in their line-up: world cup final try scorer Danielle Waterman, Kay Wilson, Sophie Hemming and Amber Reed. Alongside new overseas signings we agree that the Ladies’ coach Susie Appleby will experience some, “selection challenges” in 14/15.
But for those wanting to watch the game this does promise that both first XV and second XV matches will provide high quality entertainment, thrills and spills. A pre-season tournament on 31st August (before those internationals came back from their well-earned break) certainly proved the point with the players fighting hard to gain first team slots and Bristol winning 2 of the 3 games against Wasps, Skewen and Pontyclun. It looks seriously like Bristol Ladies are contending for a top spot in the Premiership this year.
So, if you want to ride the wave then you need to get along to support the season starting on the 14th September. First game is away at Richmond but the following week on the 21st will see Bristol Ladies take on Saracens Ladies at home at Portway Rugby Development Centre, Bristol BS9 2HS. All the home fixtures are available in our calendar. We know we’ll be getting along to the games and hope to see you there!
Oh, and if you think you want to ride that wave slightly more actively and actually give the game a go – it looks like the RFU are pretty keen on making that possible for you too! We may not be doing this – but you never know so watch this space!