- England hopefuls gather at Darlington RFC
- Festival underlines growth in women’s game
WOMEN’S rugby union has seen phenomenal growth in recent seasons and that trend will be evident again at Darlington RUFC on Sunday week (December 2, 2012) when around 450 women and girls will be involved in a Northern Counties Festival.
The event is a vital part of the England Player Pathway and offers the players involved a last chance to impress the regional coaches and press their claims for places in the Divisional trials in January.
All six Northern Counties - Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire - will be represented at Under 15, Under 18 and Senior levels for the first time, with the North’s current England Under 20 contingent of Abbie Scott, Rachel Roberts, Amy Needham (all Darlington Mowden Park Sharks) and Ellie Prescott (Waterloo) all expected to attend fitness permitting.
The importance of the Divisional programme was most recently underlined by the selection of Northerrn Division player Ruth Laybourn (DMP Sharks), who played and scored for England Women in the Autumn game against France.
This will be the first competition for several seasons when all the senior counties are playing against each other and will see Lancashire seeking to repeat the success they enjoyed last season when they won the Under 18 competition after a closely fought contest and swept to an emphatic win in the Under 15s, when they finished unbeaten and did not concede a point on the day while scoring 94 points in three games.
“We decided to make this season’s festival a real celebration and an opportunity to build the game for women's and girls' rugby in the North by holding it all at the one venue,” said North Talent Development Officer Rob Thomson: “We wanted to try to use the event to boost the work being done by the RFU in an effort to increase participation at club level.
“This is the second year of the festival and the first time the seniors have been involved in this format. I’m sure it will be a great advert for women’s and girls’ rugby and an ideal chance for young people who are thinking about putting a toe in the water to see what it’s all about.”.
During the 2011/12 season 13,645 women and girls were registered to play rugby in England, which shows that since records began in 2004/05, the women’s game has grown by 87%.
Worldwide, women's rugby is one of the fastest-growing forms of the game, with over 200,000 registered women actively competing in fifteens and sevens and 800,000 women and girls participating in the various forms of leisure rugby - tag, touch, sevens etc - around the world.
The programme at Darlington RFC begins on Sunday week at 10.45am.