International Women's Day and New Zealand Rugby

James Mortimer     09 Mar 2014    

This year only defines how strong Women’s Rugby has become.

The Black Ferns will approach what will be a potential tilt for five straight Women’s Rugby World Cup championships, with the pool matches based in Marcoussis, roughly 25km from Paris.

The Women’s finals will take place at the Stade Jean-Bouin – one of the home grounds of Stade Francais.

The four-time World Champions of late have played second fiddle to the Women’s Sevens team, even if they have had more than the occasional challenge in this season’s series.

The ‘Sisters’ are the reigning IRB Women’s Sevens Series and Rugby World Cup Sevens champions, remarkable success considering that in essence, the team is only a couple of years old.

Locally the growing game has enabled Women's Sevens coach Sean Horan's selection palette to have plenty of options.

The Women’s Provincial Championship featured a record eight teams last year, with Counties and Taranaki making welcome returns.

The 2014 National Sevens tournament had ten sides, and indication of the growth was shown when Manawatu lifted the title, ensuring that Auckland’s recent reign as the Women’s benchmark region was no more.

As Sevens vice-captain Sarah Goss led where team to glory, nearby Taranaki encapsulated the success of the ‘Go4Gold’ recruitment program as Gayle Broughton and Michaela Blyde made stunning debuts on the global circuit.

At the other end of the scale, Portia Woodman was the leading scorer last season, while Kayla McAlister was crowned the Sevens Women’s World Player of the Year.

Early success is being threatened as international Women’s programs are taking significant steps up – Australia, Canada and Russia have emerged as genuine threats to the New Zealanders in the abbreviated game.

China and Netherlands constitute the remaining two legs, after which eyes turn to France for the seventh Women’s Rugby World Cup.

The defending champion Black Ferns, pooled with Ireland, United States and Kazakhstan, will be wary of the competition.

The European Nations, spearheaded by England, are currently in action in the Women’s Six Nations, where New Zealand referee Nicky Inwood is overseeing matches.

The countries most experienced whistle blower has plenty of challengers in the local ranks.

Lee Jeffrey took charge of the Women’s NPC final last year, while Jessica Beard and Chelsea Gurr oversaw matches in Moscow during the Sevens Rugby World Cup.

There are more opportunities and pathways than ever before for young Women wanting to make their mark in rugby.

And today, we celebrate their achievements and those still to come…