ALL the talk is of sponsorship for the domestic game, the turnover in players, the input from the divisional championship and it is all applied to women's rugby, where the international season begins tomorrow, at Wasps. England, holders of the world title they won in Edinburgh eight months ago, play Holland in what is the beginning of a new era for the game in England.
Since last season the administration has been rationalised, an international body has been formed and the four home unions have separated. The formation of the Rugby Football Union for Women, governing England only, has brought access to Sports Council grants and a greater accord with the men's governing body.
Victory over the United States also brought greater recognition from sponsors. National Car Parks has backed the divisional tournament, won by the North, and this week Vladivar Vodka brought a heady tang to the national knockout competition while marketing of the England squad is in hand.
But of the XV that carried off the world title, only eight remain to play the Dutch. There is a new captain in Gill Burns, the experienced Waterloo No8, and four newcomers, all of them behind the scrum as England look towards the next world tournament, likely to be in Canada in 1998, and examine the potential of the next generation.
Burns, 30, a PE teacher at Culcheth High School in Warrington, has no doubt about England's ability to sustain their high ranking.
ENGLAND: H Hulme (Clifton); J Molyneux (Waterloo), J Edwards (Blackheath), A Wallace (Leeds), A Cole (Saracens); D Mills (Richmond), S Appleby (Novocastrians); J Mangham (Waterloo), N Ponsford (Clifton), E Scourfield (Leeds), J Chambers (Richmond), S Wenn (Wasps), H Stirrup (Wasps), H Clayton (Waterloo), G Burns (Waterloo, captain).
Copyright (C) The Times, 1994
"Women's game on sounder footing; Women's Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 17 Dec. 1994