What do Sean Connery, John F Kennedy, Daniel Craig, Chris Farley, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Javier Bardem, and J.R.R. Tolkien all have in common? They all have played rugby! Although they played men’s rugby, the rules are the same for women’s rugby. The pitch, rules, and equipment are all identical, though the histories of the two are very different. No one knows for sure when women’s rugby began, as public reaction to women playing such a physical, contact sport was extremely negative, and even violent. The first report of a women’s rugby game was found in the Liverpool Mercury in June, 1881 and described games with touchdowns, proving at least a version of rugby was played.
In 1895, a series of sporting cigarette cards were published featuring an image of a woman who appears to be holding a rugby ball. However, it is unknown if these cards were just amusing cartoons or an illustration of a game that was being played. The first confirmed record of a woman playing rugby occurred in Enniskillen, Ireland when a young girl played with her brothers’ rugby team, scoring a try. During World War 1, a few women’s charity games were organized, with the women wearing protective headgear (which predates their male counterparts’ use of the headgear by a few decades).
In Sydney, Australia, two women’s teams played in front of a crowd of 30,000 people in 1921; however the local authorities pressured the teams into never playing again in Sydney. Throughout France in the 1920’s, the game was extremely popular and even received support from several male rugby players. The 1960’s decade saw the game beginning to put down roots, especially in the universities of Europe. Initially, the matches were between men’s and women’s teams. This led to the development of the Association Francaise de Rugby Feminin (AFRF) in 1970, following the first fully documented and recorded women’s club match in 1968. This development let the game begin to fully evolve into a world game, with many countries creating teams in the 1980’s.
Today, the game of women’s rugby is run by the Women’s International Rugby Board (WIRB), although the Colorado School of Mines Women’s Rugby team is governed by USA Rugby. The team here at Mines plays local games against women’s teams such as the Boulder Babes and the Denver Black Ice. This environment allows the team to compete within their skill level.
This semester, the team will be playing in the Valentine’s Day Massacre Tournament on February 16, 2013 in the snow in Breckenridge, CO. This will be their only tournament this semester, as they are mainly a fall sport. This year, the team has reached an all-time high for participation, with over 25 members! The team is always looking for anyone with an interest in the sport with any skill level. For more information, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or visit their website at http://recsports.mines.edu/REC-Club-Sports-Women-Rugby.