Barging through barriers – Women’s Rugby Union on Varsity

Notts rugby

Platform chatted to Beth Robinson, President of the Trent Women’s Rugby society, to find out if the Rugby World Cup has helped the women’s game on campus.

For years it’s been perceived that rugby was a man’s sport and that if you wanted to get into the women’s game you have to be big and butch. However, since the recent success of the Women’s national Rugby Union team, who won the Women’s World Cup in 2014, there’s been a bit of a revolution.

According to the RFU (Rugby Football Union) there are now 18,000 women and girls who play rugby regularly in England. On top of that there are over 250 senior female rugby teams and university teams that are affiliated with the RFU.

This year’s Freshers Fair saw just how far the women’s game has come over the last few years. Over 160 women signed up for the society, leaving Beth with potentially a lot of squad depth to play with.

Beth Robinson pre-game

“When I first started two years ago we had one team now we have a development team, which are in their own league now. At our first taster session 20 turned up then. Another five then turned up at Brackenhurst (which is the first time we’ve had anyone turn up at Brack) and 20 people are coming to our latest session (which, at the point of writing was October 5) so we’ve got over 40 girls which is enough for another development team.

“We had loads of girls coming up to us that have watched the World Cup and either knows the game or was inspired by it.  We had about 100 girls sign up that have never played rugby before which is great to see.”

World Cup Inspiration

Despite crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages Beth still has fond memories of England in the World Cup are rather fond and won’t be forgotten quickly.

“I nearly cried watching England. It was hard. I went to the England Wales match, I’m going to see Wales v Australia. The atmosphere is amazing, having so many people getting behind England (despite the fact they crashed out) and belting out the songs like Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

“At a rugby match everyone is so much more friendly in the stands as opposed to football, where a lot of it is driven by rivalry. I watched the Rugby with people from Wales and they were really good, obviously we shared some banter but it was a really nice atmosphere.”

Evolution of women’s sport

Arguably one of the biggest success stories over the last few years is the way that televised sport has broken down several stereotypes of athletes. The Paralympic Games did a great job of showcasing the amazing sporting talent that disabled people possess and the Women’s Football World Cup, earlier in the year, showed that women can play football to a high standard. However there is still a sour taste in the mouth of female rugby players.

“We’re trying to get rid of the stereotype that all women that play rugby are really butch and really rough. We are quite girly girly, we’re talkative and approachable and I think freshers really appreciate that.”

“People are starting to see that it’s not just these butch girls who are playing, that anyone can get into it.  We will still go out for a social and people will be like ‘Oh, you’re all lesbians’ but it’s rarely true. A lot of the team are pretty girly girly.

“It is hard, but it’s getting better. I think due to the Rugby World Cup and the Women’s Rugby World Cup last year people are more talkative about women in the sport.”

As I get through my Desperado’s talk turns back to Trent and the biggest game of the season.

“I need to win varsity before I leave. Last year we had about five players who were injured and were our first team forwards and I think having them in the pack would have helped a lot.”

NTU face bitter rivals Uni of Nottingham
NTU face bitter rivals Uni of Nottingham

For the last four years Women’s Rugby Union team at Trent have tasted defeat in the varsity and although last year’s result was a slight improvement (a 12-24 defeat) it’s something that Beth and the girls are itching to put right.

“This year we’ve recruited girls who have been playing since they were four years old so we can use their experience to our advantage. I feel like our girls have a lot better friendship and teamwork. UoN have some great individual players but I feel like they rely on too much.”

If you’re interested in joining the Trent Women’s Rugby training is held every Monday 6pm-8pm at Moderns Rugby Club, which is roughly in-between City site and Clifton. For more information check out their Facebook and Twitter pages.

James Bavin