A new women’s section at Upper Eden RUFC in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, has proved to be incredibly popular, attracting over 40 women into the club.
The side was formed in 2018 following interest from female supporters who wanted who have a go rather than being sat on the sidelines! A group of around 12 girls started training on a Wednesday night with Upper Eden Rugby Veteran, Dave Pearson, agreeing to provide some coaching. Once word got out, they were soon joined by others looking for a new way to exercise.
Last year, the Eagles, Captained by Bianca Cousin, supported the Windermere Warriors in the North West Merit League, playing a hugely successful first season and finally winning the league title with a tight 28-24 victory at Colne & Nelson. But this time around, the Eagles are flying solo in the newly formed Women’s Challenger Series, designed to give new and inexperienced teams the best possible opportunities to develop. They are already off to a very promising start having won both their first two friendlies and their first league match at Kirkby Lonsdale RUFC.
There is a wide age range within the team, with women and girls aged between 17 and 47, most of whom had never played rugby before joining – which just goes to prove that it’s never too late to start! They now have a training squad of more than 40 who come from a variety of sporting and non-sporting backgrounds, and they continue to actively recruit into an increasingly diverse squad.
Developing a women’s team has given the club a fantastic boost and draws in ever more players and supporters, as women’s rugby becomes progressively popular, both locally and as a mainstream sport. This is of course thanks in part to the phenomenal success of England’s Red Roses, whose 2017 World Cup final against New Zealand got a primetime slot on Saturday night TV.
We are seeing a real cultural shift in rugby, as more women and girls than ever start playing at grassroots level, and the benefits for women, for women’s sport and for our clubs and communities are huge. Long may it continue!
Author – Laura Kay