- The introduction of world rankings for women’s Test rugby
- Women’s rugby is starting to get the recognition it deserves
- England vs Ireland at Twickenham
Our expert panel consists of:
Nick Heath (Commentator)
Lynne Cantwell (Ex-Ireland International)
Jamie Hosie (The Rugby Blog)
Owain Jones (Rugby World)
Ben Coles (Planet Rugby)
Charlie Morgan (Sport Magazine)
NH - Nick Heath
LC - Lynne Cantwell
CM - Charlie Morgan
NH: So the Women's Six Nations, it's coming around at a point where we've just had the World Rugby give the women's game some world rankings, so that's going to put a little bit of a different spin on it. Lynne, as an ex international you must be pleased that finally more and more little strings to the bow to put the women's game on par with the men's are all coming together.
LC: Yeah, it just seems to be just taking just step, by step, by step, just improving and just getting I suppose the recognition that yes, it deserves. But we've always said that we don't deserve it until we're good enough and I think we're good enough now and then things are just starting to fall into place. So the world rankings, yes, just came out and there's a good few Six Nations teams there in the first six, a little bit reflective of where we finished in the 2014 World Cup, but England obviously won in 2014
NH: Yeah, certainly and just sort of looking at the teams overall, the likes of Italy and, well, almost actually a little bit reference to the men's game where Italy and Scotland can be a little bit further behind. But certainly France after that 2014 World Cup where they were capable of pretty inconsistent performances, but something about how well they hosted that tournament and came together and their forwards. And they now seem to have a platform that if another nation isn't on top form, they can really upset. They've sort of snuck in next to England and Ireland to be a real force to be reckoned with.
LC: Yeah, absolutely. It's a pity from a Six Nations point of view, Italy and Scotland didn't make the 2014 World Cup. So they go back into the running, so trying to qualify for the next World Cup but when it comes to France, France hosted the 2014 World Cup in Marcoussis in 2014, as I say, and from a viewership point of view, there were one million people that watched the first night of the game, which was a Friday night game when France were playing.
Those viewing figures went to four million by the end of the World Cup because of the impact that it made, which was phenomenal. So as always, brilliant hosts and they certainly rose to the occasion as well and did quite well. They beat Ireland in the 3-4 playoff. They have a whopping pack, a whopping pack, that are so mobile. But again, a lot of the discussions at the moment are based around the extractions of the 15s games for this year's 7s, the Olympics in 2016.
NH: Yeah, certainly. Huge game at Twickenham in this year's Six Nations for the women. England women will be hosting the Irish after the men's internationals has taken place. So what will it be like for those players playing at a big stadium like that and how do you see that one going?
LC: Yeah, I think it will be tough. We played in England in Twickenham in 2014, the year of the World Cup and we lost. We had beaten England just before that the first time ever, so that was quite, that was tough. We'd never, ever beaten England in England and so it was one of the things we'd never, ever done. So there's a first time for everything. I think we definitely can do it. If anything, the year is now to be able to do it, but you know fabulous stage. England are outstanding how they support the women's game and we've been on Sky. The English Women's Premiership was recently on Sky 5 there as well, so that's just fabulous. That's really, really great for the game.
NH: Yeah, excellent.
CM: I interviewed Sarah Hunter recently and it takes a hell of a lot to stop her smiling. She's an extremely positive personality, but there's real determination about how England lost three games last year, which was the most ever, but also cumulatively the same amount as they've lost in the previous five tournaments. So there's a real determination for England not to be this transitional state, although they completely appreciate how big a shop window the Olympics will be.
I think they're treating this tournament very seriously. Guys like the people who have perhaps been left behind in that set up, the likes of Michelle Clarke and Sarah Hunter really need to step up and bring on the likes of Ceri Large has been there a long time, a fair amount of time now, and she'd be one that you'd look at to step up and lead a bit as well. So yeah, interesting times and..
LC: Yeah, I do think so and I think that just by nature, and the women's rugby community is a small community and it is ever growing. But just by virtue of that, everybody trains together, you know? So there is that element, there is professional structures there for obviously the women's, the 7s squads, but naturally the 15s squads, they train together or they should train together or they overlap quite a lot. So naturally that's just going to accelerate learning.
A lot of it's just coming down to at the moment I think the changes that we're seeing are hugely strength conditioning based. I think that naturally skills take longer to develop and obviously the under experience in the game takes longer again, so we can't fake that. But we're seeing a lot of big changes in the attrition in the game, the power of the game, the speed of the game, just because of those strength and conditioning changes, because the 15 girls are training as hard as the 7s are too and that's obviously transferring to the quality of the 15s games, which is all very positive.