A week after the victory over France, France in the international women’s rugby rankings rightfully rewarded England. In addition to maintaining the top spot in the international women’s rugby rankings, England has held an impressive record over the past five years. Ireland’s dominance over Wales, concurrent with England’s solid victory over Ireland in the Calcutta Cup, culminated in Ireland overtaking England in the rugby world rankings. This year, England and France may have been the top two nations in women’s international rugby, although the French are still behind New Zealand in the official Rugby World Rankings.
Although England are not the Rugby World Cup title holder, with the postponed tournament hosted by runner-up New Zealand, this Women’s Rugby World Cup is the leading force. The Black Ferns are New Zealand’s senior women’s rugby team and the most dominant team in women’s rugby, having won the Women’s Rugby World Cup titles in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2017.
Kathleen “Kathy” Flores was on the US women’s rugby team when she won the first Women’s Rugby World Cup against England 30 years ago. Carol Isherwood captained the first English and British women’s rugby teams before an injury ended her career less than a decade early. After that, Carol Isherwood became manager, helping England in the 1994 World Cup before becoming the first woman to be on the IRB Rugby Committee. Inspired by another rugby player, Isherwood was studying at the University of Leeds when she created a rugby team for her girlfriends.
The United States beat England in the final to win the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup. In 1993, Ireland and Scotland spun off from the Women’s Rugby Union (WRFU) A to form their unions. In the early 1990s, women’s rugby and funding were still poorly represented. Compared to these sports, the history of women’s rugby is fragmented and incredibly new, so much so that anyone who has played or has accounts, photographs or records back before the 60s and 70s, may not realise how important they are. Stories are important.
Moreover, surprisingly, there are simply no other records of women or girls playing rugby in any form in the nineteenth century, either individually or as a team. There are vague hints that some women played rugby in France in 1903 and a passing mention of a coach organising a women’s match on the beach in England in 1913. Still, there is no indication that women or girls actively participated. In rugby until at least 16 December 1917, when Cardiff Arms Park hosted a charity match between Cardiff Ladies and Newport Ladies, Cardiff won 6–0. In January 2019, each touring women’s team member received constant contact for the new season, making it the first women’s rugby team to go entirely professional.