The first round of rugby union’s Autumn International’s took place last weekend with victories for a free-flowing Ireland team, an all-attacking Scotland team and a somewhat lacklustre England team. Wales were the only home nation to lose to an in form Australia.

Whilst the rugby fest in the men’s game continues over the next three weekend, England’s Women’s team, the Red Roses, get in on the action and start their three test Autumn International Series against Canada this Friday at Saracen’s Allianz Park.

The Red Roses were World Cup winners in 2013 and runners up in 2017 after losing to New Zealand’s Black Ferns 32-41 in August’s showpiece final. The performance of the Red Roses has been a catalyst for growth, inspiring other women and girls to take up the game, with some 10,000 new participants playing competitive rugby since 2013.

Over the past couple of years England’s elite women’s teams, both playing sevens and 15-a-side, have benefited from having professional contracts. In addition, the RFU announced earlier this year an £800,000 investment in a 10 club “Tyrells Premier 15s League”.

Against this background, the RFU set out this week its four year plan for the women and girl’s game as part of its overall Strategic Plan and partnership with Sport England. The 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; and
  • encourage more women to become team managers, volunteers, coaches and referees.

Whilst the plan does focus on full contact rugby, it also aims to encourage younger girls to become involved in more social and less physical forms of the game such as touch rugby, a game prominent in the Southern Hemisphere in its own right for both single sex and mixed teams.

In yet further good news for the women’s game it was today announced that agreement had been reached in respect of both match and training fees for those involved in the forthcoming Autumn International Series; a figure of between £4,000 and £5,000 in total for those players involved in all matches has been reported.

Whilst this figure would be some way short of the £22,000 per match reported to be earned by member of the men’s Elite Player Squad it will be some compensation for those fifteen aside players whose professional contracts were controversially not renewed after the World Cup to allow the RFU to concentrate on sevens rugby instead, reflecting the cyclical nature of the women’s game.

Overall, the plan and accompanying investment by the RFU are to be commended.