THE men's game took nearly 120 years (adopting the formation of the Rugby Football Union as a starting point) to develop a World Cup competition; the women's game has managed it within a generation, though the tournament unveiled yesterday still awaits as does the men's event a main sponsor.
The inaugural women's World Cup, which will be staged in Wales next April, has grown out of the European Cup held in France in 1988. Several other countries expressed an interest in joining France, Britain, Italy and The Netherlands in an international tournament and the Women's Rugby Football Union (WRFU), which organises the game in England, Scotland and Wales, responded to the challenge.
At simultaneous briefings in Richmond and Cardiff yesterday, WRFU officials said the tournament will open on April 6 with pool games, which will be curtain-raisers to men's matches. The final will be on the Cardiff club ground on April 14.
Of the 14 countries where women play rugby on an organised basis, Germany declined an invitation because their development remains comparatively limited; but England and Wales will join the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden and Japan, while acceptances are expected from New Zealand, France and the Soviet Union.
``The women's game is expanding all over the world,'' Deborah Griffin, who chairs the organising committe, said. Although its roots are oldest in the United States, the expansion in England and Wales since the formation in 1983 of the WRFU is considerable: from 12 to between 90 and 100 clubs, organised in a four-division national league and with a regional competition.
Moira Swinbank, a director of John Taylor International, the event managers, expressed confidence that, once television coverage was confirmed, either a main sponsor or four special-category sponsors would be found to contribute the Pounds 100,000 the WRFU seeks for the running of the tournament.
It will be staged in Wales because of the accessibility of grounds and the enthusiastic support offered by the Sports Council for Wales, the Welsh Rugby Union and Cardiff RFC, as well as the civic authorities. A silver trophy has already been purchased for presentation to the winners but, thus far, lacks a name; I wonder if William Webb Ellis had a daughter?
Copyright (C) The Times, 1990
"Women's game on the ball; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 28 Nov. 1990.