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Maud Muir: 'A big thing that we need to do in the women's game is be different to the men'

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02: Maud Muir poses for a portrait during the England 2021 Rugby World Cup headshots session at the Pullman Hotel on October 02, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

At the age of 22, England and Gloucester-Hartpury prop Maud Muir already has multiple Six Nations championships and a Rugby World Cup under her belt. In 2027, women will participate in a Lions tour for the first time, which opens up new heights to aspire to for current and future players.

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“It would mean a lot [representing the Lions]. I’ve watched the Lions tours growing up,” she said after the announcement of the 2027 women’s Lions tour.

The forward also explained that when she was growing up, her awareness of women’s international rugby was relatively nonexistent and her excitement for playing the game took precedence over representative aspirations, but stressed that the announcement of a women’s Lions tour is a compelling advancement for the sport.

She said: “When I was younger I just played for the enjoyment but watching it more recently, it [Lions] is such an important part of the game and so exciting that there’s a women’s tour coming about in three years’ time. It would be a very cool opportunity.

“When I was much younger playing rugby I didn’t even know that there was an England women’s team, I didn’t have any aspirations to play for England because I didn’t realise it was a thing. I didn’t really mind because I just liked playing rugby.

“However, in the past few years, especially as there has been more talk about the Lions [women’s tour], I have definitely thought that is something that would be really cool and now that it’s actually happening; it’s really exciting for the women’s game in general.”

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Muir, who has been named in both of England’s three-day training camps so far this year ahead of the upcoming Guinness Women’s Six Nations squad announcement, looks forward to seeing the growth and improvement of the women’s game in the time between now and the first women’s Lions tour.

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“It [having a women’s Lions team] means that the women’s game is improving. Although there has been a lot of debate at the minute that it’s just going to be made up of England players, I think it’s a step in the right direction.

“It’s going to be held in 2027, that’s still a while to go and the women’s game is growing so rapidly that I think it’s fine that we’re still behind the men in professionalism because it is growing so quickly and I think it will be a really exciting tournament when it happens.

“It makes everyone [even England players] work that bit harder. It’s more competitive, you’re not just going for an international shirt. It makes everyone want to work harder and hopefully that just means that the game improves in the next few years.”

The opportunity to be involved with the British and Irish Lions and all that comes with it has additionally sparked excitement about the off-field experiences that such tours present.

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“The coolest thing would be playing alongside the people from other nations,” she said. “I love playing at Gloucester-Hartpury because we’ve got all of the Welshies and Irish players and players from other nations there. To be with the best in that Lions team would be incredible. I’m a really big fan of [team] culture, and I think that would be a cool aspect of the tour as well, not just playing the rugby.”

Premiership Women’s Rugby in England regularly sees players from the nations which will make up the British and Irish Lions side in 2027 showing their talent in spades, and as a result, Muir believes that the league will be a key focal point in terms of selection.

“The PWR is a really high standard, sometimes even higher than international games. The way that the [women’s] Lions team will be selected, I think it will be very different from the men’s game when it comes about. In terms of England for the men, they’re contracted to their clubs, but we’re contracted to England. It’s really exciting playing alongside and against other nations [in the PWR], you can see the development of players.”

In addition, she emphasised the importance of women’s rugby continuing to push ahead with professionalism in the coming years at both an international and a club level.

“In the PWR at the minute, there are developments and I think they’ve got a plan over the next ten years to improve the professionalism. The PWR becoming fully professional might not happen in the next three years, but having more players that can do full-time programmes is definitely a step in the right direction as well as all of the Lions nations being professional. We’ve got the English, Welsh, and Scottish, and hopefully the Irish will become fully professional.

“Not just fully professional in terms of contracts, they need more money, they need more stuff in the programme to make it fully professional. It’s all well and good being fully professional, but if you don’t have the resources and everything that goes with it, it doesn’t really count as fully professional.

“The other nations can definitely look at England and take leaves out of their book in their programme because we’re a few years ahead of the others. There are always improvements to be made.”

Muir echoed the thoughts of other players when discussing the location for the first women’s Lions tour, but also expressed ambitions for the women’s game to carve its own path in some aspects.

“Realistically, the Black Ferns are the next best team [behind England] to play, so I think that is the best host country to go against. I’m sure in three years’ time they’ll be even better, so it will be an even more competitive fixture,” she said.

“It would be cool to have a Northern vs Southern Hemisphere fixture or something along those lines in future. I think at the minute, that’s more realistic to get a more competitive fixture and probably a bit more exciting really and something different. I think that’s a big thing that we need to do in the women’s game, is be different to the men. We don’t need to follow exactly what they’re doing. I think it would be really exciting to do a North vs South or something along those lines,” she added.

Royal London is a proud founding partner of the Women’s Lions.

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