The Incredible Invisible Women’s Rugby Team

Today’s post comes from Anne-Marie, with something to say about women’s rugby. 

Women have a place in sport… we’re just not quite sure where that is.

It’s International Women’s Day on Friday and it always serves as a reminder to me to assess where we are. How far have women really come in the search for true equality? How much are women recognised for the achievements they/we make? How much autonomy do we really have over our bodies? You may be wondering what relevance if any this has to sport? Well, sport forms part of all our lives whether we participate in it, watch it or support teams or family/friends in it. It also happens to be one area where women’s achievements appear to me to be emasculated by men. An area where it took Katie Taylor’s almost single-handed persistent effort and campaigning just to get Women’s boxing to FEATURE in the Olympic arena. How appropriate is it then that there happens to be an International Women’s Rugby match being played on Friday evening?

There’s a women’s rugby team?

Ireland’s women take on France at Ashbourne RFC in what has been a fantastic Women’s Rugby championship so far. If they can beat France, the Women in green have the opportunity of securing the championship. They have already won the Triple Crown, HAMMERING England in the process. If they can beat France, all that will stand in their way for the Grand Slam is a final tie with Italy. So, with such momentum, potential and relative success so far why doesn’t EVERYBODY know about this?! Why aren’t they being hailed as sporting heroes across the land? Who’s ordering the open top bus so they can parade their silverware?

In contrast the Men’s team are having a dire campaign but they seem to have this air of being “the national team” and rugby fans seem compelled to support them regardless of their makeup. Our national broadcaster covers all their matches so you can’t miss them. The Brian O’Driscoll’s and Johnny Sexton’s of this world are plastered across advertising. But what about the Alison Miller’s or Lynne Cantwell’s? Why aren’t they household names? Why aren’t our daughters exposed to them as rolemodels of dedication, talent and hard work? On the other hand, the Irish Women’s Rugby team are like the Ed Sheeran’s of this world – unreliant on ‘marketing’ or hype, instead building a fanbase gig by gig. Match by match this team have gained support. They have genuine fans. They have dedicated family and friends who go to every match. But try to find any of their matches on telly and you will be sorely disappointed. Try to find interviews or news reports in mainstream media and they will take up a tiny proportion of sports coverage compared to the men. Even the dedicated rugby programme Against the Head, despite the contrasting fortunes of both International teams, will confine the Women’s coverage to less than ten minutes.

Can’t we find them.. anywhere?

Irish rugby TV are the only body who appear to be trying. They live stream the home matches and provide highlights of all of the Women’s championship matches. But who really wants to be glued to a laptop reliant on wifi/broadband connection speeds to see the fantastic rugby these women are capable of and have certainly shown in this championship. Where are RTE? Or TV3?

TG4 God bless ‘em are THE pioneers for women’s sport on telly – they have great coverage of women’s GAA. But nobody has picked up on our National Women’s Rugby team matches. Something has to happen to reward these women for their hard work and determination over the past decade (not just the past few months) and if winning a Triple Crown isn’t enough to get someone to pay attention then I wonder if winning a Grand Slam will. We can only wait and see.

In the meantime, proper rugby fans can take advantage of truly accessible, affordable and entertaining matches on our doorstep because you can attend the Women’s home matches for less than the price of a pint. Ashbourne RFC have created a great deal by allowing car entry for €20, regardless of the number of occupants and that includes your parking.

So, come Friday evening, I know RTE won’t have miraculously decided to change their programming and I won’t be relying on a dodgy internet connection, I intend being at Ashbourne RFC to cheer on the Women in Green. It promises to be entertaining and I know it’s better than watching the Men…

The Incredible Invisible Women’s Rugby Team