The Women’s Rugby 15s World Cup 2014 was the seventh edition of the tournament and no one could have predicted a short twenty three years ago that 20,000 people would watch a women’s Rugby World Cup final in Paris that riveted the fans not only there, but also the record TV audiences around the world.
The blow by blow accounts of all the games have been given very well by the media around the world and so we wanted instead to comment on the highlights
and some of the things that stood out for us as a team. To the champions the spoils and so England finally raised the trophy and became World Champions
of the Rugby 15’s format after four attempts.
One of the interesting things that made this WorldCup stand out was the amount of social media as well as regular media talking about rugby and the
exciting games etc. with little or no mention of it being ‘Women’s Rugby’. It was, first and foremost about sport and the story. Seeing front pages
and sports pages of publications all around the world was a great thing to observe.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) did such a great job in mobilising unions and fans around the world with 2010 records blown away on day one as
more than a million viewers tuned in on France TV alone to watch the hosts beat Wales. Three million French fans then watched the semi-final against
Canada, and 138 territories with a potential 289 million homes were broadcast to. What a TV audience for a sport and very importantly for advertisers
as well. This is whatwe need to grow the game, it’s a circle. The semis were all played to sold-out crowds as well - they couldn’t have delivered
more if they tried.
All this media coverage was very apparent when Ireland beat the Black Ferns for the first time in their history, an incredible event and somethingthat
will stay with me for a long time. Everywhere you turned from social media to online to print featured the story, confirming that great stories
can capture any nation’s imagination irrespective of gender.
The personal side to the biggest shock of thetournament (Ireland beating the Black Ferns) was on the one hand the incredible joy for the Irish team
and all our friends in it that day. We are so proud of them and what they have achieved. By contrast, however, there was heartfelt emotion for
the Black Ferns and the women we know on the team who as a result of this defeat did not get past the pool stages for the first time ever. No player
or team can be faulted for their work or passion. It was very clear that this World Cup showed that every team played with pride, passion, preparation
and desire. There were unsung heroes of this tournament too as teams, even when beaten, kept working, never giving up, which added to the success
of this tournament. A sentiment agreed across the board in the media.
This year’s IRB Women’s Player of the Year was Magali Harvey, who was deservedly named after the final, having from the start electrified every game
whenever she touched the ball, as well as producing the try of the tournament.
For those who love stats, the overall scores rose this World Cup compared to 2010. New Zealand topped the table again with most points scored, followed
by England, despite not getting to the final. They also increased their lead by 24%. Canada have in the last two tournaments had the top scorer
with England and New Zealand swapping respectively. To follow the increase, Emily Scarratt (England), as top scorer this World Cup, saw an increase
over the 2010 top scorer of 45%. New Zealand increased their dominance of the try, almost doubling that of their nearest rival England, as well
as seeing an increase of 50% over their previous WC top position.
As another World Cup came to an end so too did the glittering careers of many players, notably Maggie Alphonsi of England who played out of her socks,
Sandrine Agricole stretchered off in her final ever game for France, prop Jamie Burke who played her 50th game for USA and Amiria Rule after 14
seasons as a Black Fern. This was a watershed era and it will be interesting to see the current generation grow andthe young generation that is
emerging stand on the shoulders of those who delivered this amazing World Cup.
All those wondering if the 15’s format is old or dead given the money being put into the 7’s format or the Olympic status of 7’s and the lack of game
play in between World Cups need not worry. The 15’s format is alive and well, played with passion and pride and watched by more and more people
around the world than ever. Players love the format and so do the fans, so let’s see how the next four years unfold and wait with eager anticipation
as to what is in store for the next World Cup.