Over the course of the last two years we at FRN have worked very hard to incorporate a women’s competition into our annual 7s tournament, but one thing has stuck me again and again – why is it so hard to find women’s teams to participate in the tournament?
To those familiar with the 7s scene, it is quite common for tournaments not to feature a women’s competition. I used to think this was due to the typical male-dominated perception of the sport of rugby. However, now I know better. The reason is because is it near to impossible to find enough keen women’s teams to participate – especially at a social/amateur level.
Over the last two years we have spoken to several rugby clubs about their interest in including a women’s competition in their 7s tournament, but we observed most of them fail to deliver because they simply couldn’t get the interest.
This has led me to consider the reason for this lack of interest. Is it because:
(a) women’s teams do not like playing rugby 7s;
(b) women’s teams are not aware of these tournaments;
(c) there is no funding for women’s 7s teams;
(d) women’s teams do not participate in as many tournaments as men’s teams;
(e) women are simply not as familiar/comfortable with 7s; or
(f) there are fewer women’s teams so the interest just appears to be less.
I think the answer is probably a mixture of all of the above, but we have observed that most men’s teams are happy to try and put out a squad of players even if they have never played 7s, whereas women’s 15s teams will seldom enter tournaments.
This has led to the dichotomy in women’s rugby 7s in the UK whereby there are a handful of elite 7s teams like Storm, Moody Cows and Pink Ba-Bas, but there is no equivalent for social or mid-level female rugby players.
Now, I am not proposing there are no women’s 7s teams. Indeed, as our recent kit competition has revealed, there are some excellent and worthy teams like our shortlisted teams – the Mamas, Malibu Barbies and Ashfield Ladies.
Last year we also had some 15s teams enter the tournament and make their debut into 7s rugby. These included Millwall Venus and the Harlequins. However, what I am saying is that there is not enough of them!
It is precisely for this reason that FRN started its own women’s rugby 7s team this past year. We wanted to give women who are not quite at the elite level (sometimes out of choice) an opportunity to enjoy and participate in rugby 7s.
However, one team is not enough. We should encourage women’s teams to take up rugby 7s in the summer time. Not only is it now an Olympic Sport, but the skills that players can acquire playing 7s are undoubtedly beneficial to their 15s game as well.
There is often a perception that 7s is a backs game, which puts some players off playing. There is no doubt that pace and fitness is a factor. However, I have seen some great female props play 7s and there is no doubt that 7s fitness and skill is a benefit to both backs and forwards alike.
So, I guess my conclusion is this – women’s rugby players should play more rugby 7s. Encourage your 15s teams to enter tournaments, join women’s rugby 7s teams or make your own (after all, you only need 6 friends)!
If women’s teams fail to do this, then they are missing out an important opportunity to enhance their rugby skills in the summer time and also unwillingly support the trend of rugby tournaments not including women’s rugby competitions.