Amid all the hype over England winning their first Six Nations grand slam since 2003, how many sports fans know their female counterparts just lost out on their own slam title to France?
While women’s football continues to grow in popularity, aided by the exploits of the England’s Lionesses, women’s rugby union battles to attract anything like a similar level of attention.
Alice Thompson, who coaches a team in East London, believes it’s partly down to negative perceptions and stereotypes.
“I feel that rugby gets portrayed at times as being too masculine and not a feminine sport,” she told Elephant Sport. “Everyone knows its physical but sometimes people have to play it and try it to see it.”
“Also it has to be more commercial to catch more attention. I think we as woman who love to play rugby must promote the sport and get other ladies to play it. Local leisure centres should run free rugby classes to offer women a chance to participate.”
Thompson, 23, began coaching a year and a half ago, following in her father’s footsteps.
“My father did rugby coaching a few years ago locally and I use to go and watch him run training sessions. I liked the tactics in the sport and also the physicality.”
“He also use to take me park with a rugby ball when I was a young kid and we use to throw it around and tackling one another to have a laugh.”
“The BBC covering the Six Nations is good because we are finally getting the recognition we deserve”
She admits that rugby “may be too rough and hard” for some women. “Some can’t handle the pain and never come back after their first experience.”
For those who persevere, the core strength and fitness routines are very similar to those used by male players.
“Training involves going to the gym and pumping weights because we have to be strong. We also do a lot of fitness work in the park because to improve speed, strength and stamina, not forgetting the need to eat healthily.”
Thompson says her club is currently looking to expand its female participation.
“At the moment we only have one squad with up to 24 players as we lost many players to injury. Some will be returning soon as they are making a good recovery. In the meantime, we are looking to add more players by having trials, and we aim to have a B team as well.”
With the elite women’s game receiving more – but still not a huge amount of – media attention, she’s hoping more women will be keen to give rugby a try.
“The BBC covering the Six Nations is good because we are finally getting the recognition we deserve. This will also help get more fans watching because it is our women’s national team. I hope this will happen with many other sports as well because i think women’s sport are as important as men’s.
“Apart from more media coverage we can see that schools, colleges and universities are now starting to have female rugby teams in order to help women contribute in the sport. Local authorities are also helping with the funding of teams by giving money to the clubs for equipment and training facilities.”
Image courtesy of Scott Ray via Flickr Creative Commons