Four new club teams – Cilfynydd, Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd, Tumble and Whitchurch will join Division Three after completing a set of on and off-field criteria and fulfilling a season of friendlies, while the Arrows, Jesters, Llanelli Wanderers and Mountain Ash will join the Youth Leagues this season, thanks in no small part to the success of the new girls’ cluster centres.
North Wales too has seen a huge upturn in interest with three new clubs – Shotton, Holyhead and Pwllheli joining COBRA, Welshpool and Llangollen in a new development division set-up to provide playing opportunities for women in mid and north Wales with teams agreeing to lend players or amend team numbers or match format to ensure games go ahead and rugby thrives in the region.
Four of the teams came together at Cobra RFC on Sunday to launch the initiative, playing a number of short games ahead of Wales' second WRWC game against Canada.
Dave Roberts, Women and Girls Game Changer for North Wales said, “Spectators were treated to a feast of rugby on Sunday to help launch the new ‘Game On’ competition structure which will promote an amicable ethos of giving women the opportunity to play rugby at an appropriate level in a friendly and nurturing environment.
"We were thrilled with the turn out and the standard. Along with the games themselves it was a great opportunity for the players, coaches and managers to become acquainted and start discussing the season ahead. We are all excited for the new season and at the prospect of collectively growing the women and girls' game in north Wales.”
COBRA player Ffion Williams couldn’t be more enthusiastic about her club, region and country as far as the explosion in women’s rugby is concerned.
“We had 24 players taking part on Sunday including two new players who both did brilliantly and we are always looking to recruit. There is so much positiveness in the women’s game at the moment. In this area at least, I feel this is down to so many local heroes, from the COBRA RFC committee ensuring that women are a fully integrated part of the club and providing opportunities for us to complete coaching and refereeing courses, to the work of Dave Roberts and Dai Higgs in setting up the clusters and helping the clubs to work collaboratively to be more sustainable.
"We are lucky in that we have two great role models for North Wales women and girls in Rachel Taylor and Elen Evans who have worked so hard in the region over the years and to now have RGC women and girls sides provides a clear performance pathway for young girls coming through.
“We are excited to be playing in this new development league, we are naturally ambitious and are in it to win it – but given the standard on Sunday it’s clear we have some competition on our hands. It will provide a stronger platform, both for those who just want to play regular club rugby and for those who have ambitions to step up to the next level and we are thrilled to be represented within the RGC squad at the moment. And crucially, I think the structure will make it even easier for women to get involved with rugby.
“Previously I played football, but I’ve been made to feel so welcome by the club and everyone involved in women and girls rugby that I’m kicking myself that we didn’t have opportunities to play rugby when I was in school. However, I’m thrilled to be able to coach now, I think it’s vital for young girls to have female role models in sport. Coaches are key to this and a lot of the success of our club at the moment is certainly down to our coaches Nigel Rudd and Rhodri Davies.
“We are going to carry on during the season as the Rebels, particularly for the U15 and U18 age groups to start with and there is so much demand for girls to play rugby in the area now that we will do what we can to cater for that.
“It has been great to watch Wales Women over the last few weeks and the team will have our full support again against Hong Kong tomorrow.”
A number of women's clubs across Wales are running Try our Game sessions for new or lapsed players during the Women's Rugby World Cup. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find your nearest club.
Watch Wales Women v Hong Kong (UCD Bowl, Dublin) in their final pool match on ITV4 and S4C website (5.15pm).
Updated 17:29 - 16 Aug 2017 by Gary Williams