THE ENGLAND Women’s rugby team visited Downing Street on September 9th following their success at the Women’s Rugby World Cup last month in France.
The squad, Bill Beaumont (RFU Chairman), Ian Ritchie (RFU Chief Executive) and management staff from the women’s game were welcomed and congratulated by Prime Minister David Cameron and given a tour of his official residence and office.
It was a unique opportunity to reflect on a memorable tournament for the team who lifted the trophy for the first time in 20 years after reaching the three previous finals.
RFU Chief Executive Ian Ritchie added: “This is a great moment for women’s rugby in England and the attention and accolades they are receiving are well deserved. It’s been a whirlwind for all those involved in winning the Women’s World Cup and meeting the Prime Minister will definitely be one of their highlights. We hope their achievements will help to continue to grow the women’s game and the fact we now have a group of professional players working towards the 2016 Olympic Games shows the progress that is being made.”
Head Coach Gary Street said: “I think it’s great that the success the girls enjoyed over in France has been recognised. It was a surreal experience heading into Number 10 with the trophy and meeting the Prime Minister, but certainly one that we enjoyed.”
England captain Katy Mclean said: “The fact that we have had the opportunity to meet David Cameron shows how far our game has come. He was extremely knowledgeable about the World Cup and clearly took an interest. He mentioned that our achievements will have inspired the next generation and I hope that turns out to be the case. ”
The visit is the latest highlight for the World Cup winners and the women’s game in England. Following the team’s triumphant victory in Paris, the RFU announced that the England Women’s Sevens players would become professional athletes, for the first time, after signing full-time contracts for the season.
The squad of 20 players will compete on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit and seek qualification for Great Britain ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Many of the World Cup winning team also attended the Houses of Parliament last week where the RFU launched its strategy to capitalise on the growing popularity of the women’s game. The governing body announced plans to introduce rugby to 100,000 women and girls across the country.
It aims to grow the game to see 25,000 women and girls taking part in contact rugby by 2017, while expanding the reach of the game to attract more coaches, volunteers, officials, social players and fans. The women’s and girls’ game has seen great growth over the past 12 months with playing numbers increasing from 15,000 to 18,000 – double the growth seen in any other year.
Recently, Helen Grant, Minister for Sport said: “The future of women’s rugby at the elite level is bright. England’s Women’s team are an inspiration to women and girls coming into the sport, particularly after their brilliant World Cup win. I welcome the RFU’s strategy to get more women involved in the game be that as players, coaches or volunteers.”