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Prime Position: No Woman No Try

By Charlie Willett
No Woman No Try Amazon Prime Premiere- Credit: Hera Media

‘No Woman No Try’ releases on 25 March 2022, marking Amazon’s latest addition to a growing bank of sports documentaries. The film follows three female rugby players through the 2020/21 season, pulling back the curtain on the highs and lows of the game. 


Director Victoria Rush explains that the idea for the documentary came about in the wake of the 2020 ‘I Am Enough’ movement, a response to Canterbury using models rather than rugby players to showcase their women’s Ireland kit.

Despite massive amounts of social media traction within the women’s rugby community and an apology from Canterbury, Rush felt that the ‘I Am Enough’ movement was stuck in an echo chamber and not making real impact and change.

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Youth Unstoppables – Mastercard
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Speaking to RugbyPass, Rush says: “We know social media wouldn’t have been big enough on its own, what we created next had to be bigger. It had to be bigger than rugby, it had to be bigger than sport and I had to speak to the collective experiences of women all over the world.

“I felt that the best way for something like this to be seen and heard was a documentary shedding light on the incredible stories of these women in our sport. Breaking down barriers, creating conversations and making stars of female rugby players.”

Shaunagh Brown, one of the players featured in the documentary, is made for the screen; a ball of energy, the England and Harlequins prop cuts a charismatic figure who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. Speaking on gender stereotypes, Brown is full of no nonsense one liners, noting that she “didn’t stop wearing a dress to go against society”, rather that she “just wanted to hang upside down on monkey bars without showing [her] knickers.” It’s no surprise that Brown’s childhood was full of rough and tumble outdoor play – before rising to rugby stardom in a mere three seasons, Brown also represented England in the hammer throw at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.


Next up is Zainab Alema, a growing presence in both social media and the rugby world. The Richmond prop has gone public with her ambition to become the first black Muslim woman to play for England’s Red Roses. Her initial vision was to see a Muslim woman representing her country, but after some reflection the prop decided to dream bigger – why shouldn’t that woman be her?

No Woman No Try overlays Alema speaking about her rugby goals (cup of Earl Grey in hand) with footage of the prop’s hard carries – there’s a reason team-mates call her ‘the bulldozer’. Will she make it? We’ll have to wait and see, but that’s not really the point.

Regardless of whether Alema achieves her dreams, having a visible role model not just on the field but in the public eye could be a game changer for other girls and women picking up the oval ball. On finding out that it was “there in black and white” in the lawbook that hijab was allowed on the field, Zainab Alema stepped back into rugby – now she can inspire other women like her to do the same.

On the subject of clothing, let’s turn to Stefania Evans. As well as playing in the Premiership for Richmond, Bristol Bears and now Worcester Warriors, Evans is the founder of the astoundingly popular Ruggette RFC, a rugby apparel brand catering exclusively for women.


Perhaps ‘astoundingly popular’ isn’t quite the right phrase here – 2.7 million women play rugby globally with a rise in interest of up to 45% and yet there is very little provision for women in terms of female-fit kit (as shown by Harlequins’ gaffe this season). Evans speaks about how she is often faced with concerns from buyers around only wanting to buy one fit of shorts for men’s and women’s teams, to which she responds “women have worn the men’s shorts for the last 75 years, why not swap it over for one year and have the men wear women’s fit?”

Ruggette has grown exponentially since inception, demonstrating the appetite for smart investments and business opportunity within women’s rugby. First mover advantage will favour those who invest early – women’s sports fans are more likely to purchase products linked to their sport, and make the bulk of household spending decisions. Selling the game day experience is also an area which clubs should work on – as Evans neatly put it “it’s not my uterus’ fault I don’t have a half time show and merchandise on sale”. Shaunagh Brown agrees, asking investors to “give women an opportunity and we will show we are worthy, as we always do.”

Despite the fact that 40% of athletes in the UK are female, they receive only 3% of sports media coverage. The quality of such coverage is objectively poorer than that afforded to their male counterparts. Although some games from the Premier 15s are now shown on BBC iPlayer, the majority require logging in to an obscure website through a complex registration process to access sub-par live streams.

‘No Woman No Try’ is a landmark event in terms of quality footage and production in a film exclusively about women’s rugby. Despite running over 75 minutes, there is the sense that there are still stories left untold, and it would be unsurprising if Amazon were to build on this with an All or Nothing style documentary on a Premier 15s team in future. All in all, ‘No Woman No Try’ showcases the game in all its grit and glory, from the training field right up to Premiership success – and it’s a bloody good watch.

‘How can we support women’s rugby?’, I hear the men reading this ask – and during the film former England and Harlequins wing and rugby pundit Ugo Monye asks this directly, saying that he wants to help grow the game without being called out as ‘woke’.

As it turns out, the answer is simple; watch women’s games, share results and commentary on social media, and turn up for matches. We don’t all need to be shouting from the rooftops with a megaphone (although if you need someone to do this, Victoria Rush will gladly volunteer!)

No Woman No Try is released on Amazon Prime on 25 March 2022.


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