Rugbu Union

RFU urges more professional women’s game

Scotland have just 10 centrally contracted players on their national women’s team

The Rugby Football Union has appealed for more countries to professionalise their women’s set-ups.

Speaking at the launch of the 2021-22 Premier 15s season, which starts on Saturday, director of performance rugby Conor O’Shea said there was a push to “commercialise the game both internationally and domestically”.

But he stressed: “We need the other countries to professionalise more.

“You can’t work to the lowest common denominator, but you can’t leave it behind either.

“We might be ahead [in England] but that’s not good enough and we need to bring them along with us.”

He added that plans for the evolution of the women’s Premier 15s competition would be revealed in the new year.

Any changes to the league structure or bidding process for franchises were currently “in discussions”, according to O’Shea.

“We need to commercialise to make the game sustainable in its own right and there’s loads of different working groups on that, with the clubs, to see how we can make this really function,” he told BBC Sport.

What changes will we see in the league?

Harlequins' Rachael Burford lifted the Allianz Premier 15s Trophy in May
Harlequins’ Rachael Burford lifted the Allianz Premier 15s Trophy in May

The new season will see the league return to the regular laws of rugby union now the 2020-21 Covid-19 adaptations have ended.

The Premier 15s will also become the first women’s league in the world to introduce head injury assessment if a player is suspected to have suffered a concussion.

How the league structure could evolve was previously discussed by RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney in April, with the possibility of more clubs and conferences.

But any suggestion that the RFU could sell the league in the near future was dismissed by O’Shea.

Recent moves by several men’s Premiership clubs including London Irish, Leicester and Bath to launch women’s sides is seen positively by the RFU.

“It’s really good the Premiership clubs are investing in the women’s game; we should be applauding that,” said O’Shea.

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