Women’s rugby is back in the news as their World Cup comes to an exciting conclusion this weekend. Since getting underway in Dublin on 9th August, the 12 teams have battled in sell-out matches through to the semi-finals, which took place in at the heart of Ulster Rugby, the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast last Tuesday. England and New Zealand now face each other in the finals on Saturday 26th August and it promises to be a gutsy and enthralling match. With so much drama and compelling action, this Women’s Rugby World Cup has captured the hearts and minds of their fans in both Dublin and Belfast. #WRWC2017
Earlier in the tournament. World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont commented:
"This has been a very special Women's Rugby World Cup on and off the field, and Dublin has certainly played its part as an exceptional host. From the facilities to the excellent fans and superb volunteers, there has been a special family atmosphere. As we look to Belfast and the business end of the tournament, I would like to thank everyone involved..., but especially the fans and volunteers, who have been outstanding."
The Rugby World Cup - From Humble Beginnings
Now considered to be the premier international competition in rugby union for women, this is the 8th World Cup since it’s more humble beginnings in 1991. The USA took the cup then, although New Zealand has had the most wins, with four Cups under their belt. To add to this Saturday’s tension and competitiveness, the England team is in its fifth World Cup final in a row, having won twice including the last in 2014.
Back in the early days general support was much less widespread. There’s a story that the Soviet Union team travelled to Wales in 1991 with only enough money for their air fares and had to barter vodka and caviar to make ends meet. Customs officers were called in but thankfully no charges were pressed as generous donations from businesses and individuals came flooding in, including £100 from the mother of Bess Evans, the Wales hooker.
Happily, women’s rugby has become much more popular with businesses, broadcasters and the public over the last two decades. In 2006 the final in Canada was broadcast in a number of countries and streamed live online. Sky Sports finally cottoned on and in July 2010 they broadcast 13 live matches, including the semis and the final.
England captain and player of the year, Sarah Hunter, said at the tournament’s launch:
"The standard of women’s rugby has grown and grown and grown. That’s brilliant. As an international player, you want every game to be competitive and to have to play at your best to get the result you need. I think it will be a fantastic showcase of the women’s game."
A fact surely confirmed this week, when it was announced that the final would be shown on ITV. Hunter went on to say:
"That is brilliant news. We want to showcase our sport to the widest audience possible. So, to get a prime-time slot on terrestrial TV, so anyone can watch it and support us ... credit to ITV."
Who Will You Support in the Finals??
The last match is always an emotional, high tension roller coaster and this one between two rugby giants promises not to disappoint. Both teams have a strong reputation and a proven track record. So who will you be supporting on the day? We are maybe a little biased at TDR Academy as we’ve been organising the Sports Massage Therapists for the England team, the Red Roses, liaising with the team physio during their tour in Dublin and Belfast. Tanya’s been in the loop for the other teams, in conjunction with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), after previously working with the NZ Black Fern's last year, but has just not enough hours in the day to work on them this time - but thanks for asking - USA, France, Australia and NZ! Gary Wilson has played his part too for TDR working with the USA team post the semi final match to aid their recovery to help them get back on track to fight for their place this saturday - 3rd or 4th?
The England squad are a young one, with many still in their early twenties. Star of the semi finals against France, tight-head prop Sarah Bern is just 20 years old, while hooker Amy Cokayne is only 21. Head coach Simon Middleton feels that their youthful enthusiasm gives the team a psychological boost and that “they have that light-heartedness that youth brings. They haven’t been through these competitions so many times that they feel the pressure as much”.
The Red Roses have been billed as this World Cup’s favourites, but the Black Ferns will be champing at the bit to deny them. Who ever wins, it promises to be an exciting and dramatic final this Saturday 26th August 2017 at 7.45pm and we’re so proud to have played our small part in the tournament. Bring it on! #BringIt to Belfast! You can watch it live at World Rugby - who will you be cheering on?!