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'A game for all': NZR launch 10-year plan to grow women's rugby

(Photo by Greg Bowker/Getty Images)

New Zealand Rugby has launched an ambitious 10-year plan to transform the women’s game and tap into the explosion of interest sparked by the Black Ferns triumph on home soil at last year’s World Cup.


The governing body undertook 1500 hours of consultation with more than 2200 people in the rugby community before drafting the New Zealand Women and Girls in Rugby System Strategy, which was released on Wednesday.

“We are riding an extraordinary wave of excitement and engagement with women’s rugby in Aotearoa, the likes of which we’ve never seen,” New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chair Patsy Reddy said at the launch in Auckland.

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“We truly believe that rugby is a game for all and there’s a huge opportunity ahead of us over the next decade to engage more women and girls.

“What’s crucial is that it is done in a deliberate, structured, and focused way.”

NZR will invest $NZ21 million ($A20m) in “women’s rugby initiatives” this year under its action plan, including the employment of six new officials around the country to drive the change.

Guided by the strategy, New Zealand’s provincial rugby unions will draw up their own action plans to deliver key objectives.

Among the objectives is an average increase of 2500 women and girls playing the game every year to achieve a target of 50,000 by 2033.


“The impact the Black Ferns’ victory has had on our local community is massive and there’s huge interest and growth in playing numbers,” Tanya Dearns, chief executive of the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union, said.

“We want those women and girls to feel safe, love playing, become leaders on our club boards and stay involved in the game for life.”

Competition for young female athletes might be stiff, however, with New Zealand Football also looking to leverage its co-hosting with Australia of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in July and August.


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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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