Sunday, 31 March 1991

World Cup: preview

Gareth Daniels predicts that women's rugby is about to win over the chauvinists.

``A WOMAN'S rugby playing,'' Dr Johnson might have observed, ``is like a dog walking on its hinder legs. It is not done well but you are surprised to find it done at all.''

No doubt 90 per cent of the male population of any rugby club would agree. For them, netball, hockey, lacrosse, even soccer, are OK for women, but rugby is a man's game.

Women's rugby gets a chance to kick views like that into touch next weekend, and for the seven days following. The inaugural women's World Cup begins on Saturday, with all games played in Wales.

Alice Cooper, the World Cup press officer, reckons that those chauvinists who come to scoff will remain to cheer after 10 minutes. ``It takes that long for men to realise that we are serious,'' she said. ``They come in with a lot of misconceptions. They soon see things differently.''

John Scott, a former England captain and manager of Cardiff RFC, a man not noted for diplomacy when talking about men's rugby, is an unlikely supporter. Women players, he suggests, have a lot of skill: ``And they train harder than many men. Their fitness level is superb.''

Scott insists that he is not one of those who casually dismisses women's rugby as some sort of aberration: ``If they want to play, let them.''

They will play, don't worry. Sides from countries around the world are showing the sort of amateur dedication hard to match in these pay-for-play days. Girls from as far away as the Soviet Union, New Zealand, Canada, America and Japan are paying their own way over, and will even fork out for accommodation during their stay in Wales.

This is because the ambitious plan to raise Pounds 100,000 in sponsorship fell a bit short of the target by around Pounds 95,000. But it is hoped, observed Cooper, who cannot say what the total cost will be, that gate money and programme proceeds will help.

The idea for a women's World Cup was born after the European Cup three years ago. Other countries like New Zealand and Canada asked: ``Can we come to the next one?'' and the answer of course was yes, turning it into a world event. And because the women were not allowed to play the big matches at Twickenham, Wales got the nod, with the Cardiff ground providing the venue for the semi-finals and final.

Meanwhile, Cooper said, the WRU were wonderful, and various local authorities and the Welsh Sports Council have been ``most supportive''. South Glamorgan County Council, in fact, is putting on a gala dinner after the April 14 final.

The preliminary rounds will be played next Saturday, although the decision to play the WRU Cup semi-finals the next day have squashed the plan to have a couple as curtain-raisers to the big games.

The top four teams go through to the semi-finals to be played on Friday week, with the final two days later.

Last week England beat Wales for the fifth time, but the host nation is not without hope. ``We've got a great pack,'' the team manager Dawn Barnett said. ``But we have to put it together behind.'' Then she said, ominously: ``Like New Zealand. They are so quick behind the scrum.''

New Zealand as ever, it seems, are the danger. The Japanese, with a couple of 4ft 9in players, will not be much of a threat in the lineout.

A dozen countries are involved and the post-game celebrations will be up to the sternest male standards. Even those legendary rugby songs? ``You name it,'' say the players, ``and we'll sing it.'' There could be room for women's rugby after all.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Women's World Cup finds a welcome in Wales; Rugby Union." Sunday Times [London, England] 31 Mar. 1991.

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