The Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW) is the governing body for women's rugby union
Rugby union, often simply referred to as rugby, is a full contact team sport which originated in England in the early 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand...
in England. Its headquarters are at Twickenham Stadium
Twickenham Stadium is a stadium located in Twickenham, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is the largest rugby union stadium in the United Kingdom and has recently been enlarged to seat 82,000...
Women's rugby union
Women's rugby union is a sport identical to the men's game with the same rules, same sized pitch, and same equipment. However, it has a history which is significantly different, due to various social pressures, and the self-image of rugby union in general...
was first played seriously in Great Britain in the late 1970’s. Early teams were established through the student network and included Keele University, University College of London, Imperial College, York University and St Mary’s Hospital.
From 1983 until May 1994, Women’s’ Rugby in England - and across the UK - was run by the Women’s’ Rugby Football Union
(WRFU). When it was formed there were 12 founder teams as members: Leicester Polytechnic, Sheffield University, UCL, University of Keele, Warwick University, Imperial College, Leeds University, Magor Maidens, York University and Loughborough University.
In 1992, Ireland broke away from the WRFU, followed a year later by Scotland. As a result in 1994 the England and Wales also established their own Unions. England's Union became the Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW)
. Today the RFUW has over 500 clubs in membership, including over 200 Senior clubs, nearly 100 student sides, over 200 junior teams (U15 and U18), and around 50 Schools. Most of these clubs today are women's sections within larger men's clubs.
In September 2010 the RFUW was integrated into the Rugby Football Union
The Rugby Football Union was founded in 1871 as the governing body for the sport of rugby union, and performed as the international governing body prior to the formation of the International Rugby Board in 1886...
as a "Constituent Body", retaining significant levels of independence in the management of coaches and teams while at the same time adopting many of the RFU's structures - for example the RFU's 11 Regions (used for development and talent identification) were abolished and replaced with the four RFU Divisions.
By and large the structure and regulation of women's and girls' rugby in England is similar to that of the men's game, reflecting the close working relationship between the RFUW and RFU especially on development. However there are a number of significant differences:
Counties, Regions and Divisions
Although the local administration of both the men's and women's game is managed via the same Constituent Bodies (CBs) - generally counties (such as Surrey, or Devon), or groups of counties (such as Notts, Lincs & Derby, or Berks, Bucks & Oxon) - prior to 2010/11 the structures above county rugby were very different.
Instead of the four divisions used by the RFU, the RFUW divided the country into 11 regions
. These varied slightly over the RFUW's history, but at the time of their abolition they were:
- North West,
- North East,
- East Midlands,
- West Midlands,
- Thames Valley,
- South East,
- South West (North), and
- South West (South)
Furthermore whereas the RFU's divisions were (and are) largely elite bodies, the main purpose of RFUW's regions was development and talent spotting as part of the RFUW Pathway
. From 2010/11 this became the responsibility of the county CBs.
Most senior clubs now play in the RFUW's national league structure
. The RFUW also runs a National knockout cup competition, and (until 2008) ran a National 7s tournament.
Junior rugby is played in two three year-wide age bands, U18 (for ages 15-17) and U15 (for ages 12-14) - younger girls play alongside boys in the RFU's "continuum". These age bands were introduced in 2007 replacing U17 and U14 bands which in turn had replaced U18 and U16 age bands in 2004. Girls cannot play adult rugby until they have passed their 18th birthday. From 2010/11 most clubs joined a national league structure introduced by the RFUW. These largely replaced the knock-out National Cups for U15 and U18 teams.
The RFUW continue to organise a National 7s tournament for junior teams.
The RFUW currently organises a Divisional programme at three age groups (U15, U18 and Senior), a Super Fours competition for the top players, and international fixtures for U20, A and Full International teams.
The first Women's international rugby union
Women's rugby union has a history going back to the late 19th century but it was not until 1982 that the first international fixture took place. The match was organised in connection with the Dutch Rugby Union's 50th anniversary...
match in Great Britain took place when Great Britain played against France in April 1986 at Richmond Athletic Ground, London. France won 14 - 8. Since then Great Britain has played Holland and Italy and taken part in the first European Cup against France, Holland and Italy. Great Britain has not played since they beat Italy in 1990. England first played against Wales on 5 April 1987, when they won 22 – 4 at Pontypool Park, Wales. An England v Wales International has taken place every year since. England have also now played more internationals than any other team (see here for a complete list).
The first ever Women's Rugby World Cup
The Women's Rugby World Cup is the premier international competition in rugby union for women. The tournament is organised by the sport's governing body the International Rugby Board...
was held in Cardiff, Great Britain in 1991. Twelve countries participated in the Tournament, held over a week. France, New Zealand, USA and England emerged as the semi-finalists, with USA beating England 19 - 6 in the final at Cardiff Arms Park. England gained their revenge in 1994 beating 38-23 in the final, and have since reached the final in 1998 and 2006 losing on both cases to New Zealand. England are due to host the next tournament in 2010.
The 1995/1996 season saw the introduction of a Home Nations Championship between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which England won in its inaugural year. England won the Championship every year except from the 1997/98 season when Scotland won it. France joined the competition in the 1998/99 season making it the Five Nations Championship with England achieving the Grand Slam.
In the 2001/02 season the competition expanded to be known as the Women's Six Nations Championship
The Women's Six Nations Championship is an international rugby union competition contested between six European women's national teams. The competition began as a "Home International Championship" for the four home nations in 1996....
, and England have won the title more than any other nation, including five back-to-back wins between 2006 and 2010.