By Richard Sykes
In recent years women’s rugby has been one of the fastest growing sports in the world. From an era when it was considered an unsuitable game for women to play it has grown to gain widespread acceptance and is now played in over 80 countries worldwide.
The success of the national team in both the women’s World Cup and Six Nations tournaments, which have been running since 1991 and 2002 respectively, has done much to stimulate interest in the game in England.
England have appeared in seven World Cup finals and lifted the trophy in 2004 and 2014 and they have been the overwhelmingly dominant force in northern hemisphere international rugby.
With England well placed to notch up a twelfth Six Nations title this year and with the Olympic Games in the offing which features a women’s ‘7’s’ event the RFU have seized the moment to drive the women’s game forward at grass roots level.
They are promoting a series of ‘Inner Warrior’ rugby camps the idea behind which is to further break down the perceptions which prevent women and girls playing rugby and to encourage active participation.
At Huddersfield RUFC, under the leadership and direction of Head of Women’s and Girls Rugby Jess Bunyard, they are gearing up run two Inner Warrior camps in May.
Jess took up rugby herself at Goldsmiths College, London, where she represented the university as a back-row forward and gained BA (Hons) and MA degrees in Fine Art and Art History and Contemporary Art.
She is passionate about promoting the women’s game. After a club career with Brockleians, Barking and Halifax she is now a highly regarded and qualified coach and runs the ‘Breaking the Pane’ rugby podcast. After the recent easing of lockdown restrictions she is already up and running with the training of the women and girls at Lockwood Park.
Her sessions at Huddersfield take place on Tuesday evenings with the girls in action from 6pm-7pm followed by the women from 7.15pm-8.30pm.
Jess said: “At the moment we have a range of women and girls with different levels of ability and knowledge of rugby. Everyone shares in the learning experience which helps us to improve together, have fun and improve fitness.
“It’s been really great to see everyone outside and getting active again. Stepping out and trying something new after lockdown can be a daunting task.
“However, we aim to make it a welcoming environment and we can adapt the session for anyone’s level of ability. The players we have are very friendly to anyone joining, especially as lots of them are new themselves.
“Our training sessions are open to any girls in high school or above and women over the age of 18. We have a mix of ages including some mums who are enjoying having time to themselves and trying something new.”
At Huddersfield RUFC the RFU’s Allianz backed Inner Warrior camps are taking place on Tuesday May 18. The one for girls of high school age will run from 7pm until 8pm followed by a 75-minute long women’s event commencing at 7.15pm.
Jess added: “These sessions are aimed specifically at women who have never played before and are at any level of fitness. After lockdown it is important for women to take time to set personal goals and attendance at an Inner Warrior camp can provide the opportunity to do that.
“Anyone who’s interested in attending our women and girls rugby sessions can message us on Facebook (@hrufcwomens). We’re happy to answer any questions anyone has. If you’re thinking of coming along you don’t need any special equipment or boots. Trainers are absolutely fine. Just bring a water bottle and hand sanitizer.
“It doesn’t matter what level of fitness and ability you currently have, come and find your next challenge with us. It may be improving your fitness, learning something new, making new friends or just having fun outside.”