By Ali Donnelly,
Its been a hectic fortnight since we launched this site but first of all I want to thank anyone who has contacted us directly to offer some valuable and appreciated feedback.
We are overwhelmed at the response weve had since we launched and hope that youve found lots of reasons to keep coming back. With thousands of visitors from 58 countries, were confident we can build on a good start as we progress as a site and as a team.
Its also been a busy two weeks for womens rugby internationally with Malaysia fielding a national side for the first time ever, Singapore packing in two games ahead of the Asian WC Qualifiers, details announced by the IRB about the Dubai international 7s in December and of course the highlight being the decision that the Olympics will feature womens rugby 7s from 2016.
The Olympic decision raises plenty of interesting questions about the impact 7s will now have on the womens game. Currently the plan for Olympic rugby is for a competition of just 12 teams for women and men though that may change. Its worth noting that at the Rugby World Cup Sevens earlier this year there were 16 women's teams a number which gave real developing nations like Brazil, Thailand, Netherlands and Uganda a chance to pit themselves against seasoned international teams like New Zealand, France and England. A 16-team Olympic competition would be fantastic and that may happen depending on negotiations and planning in the years ahead.
What is certain to happen though is that 7s will now have to be fully incorporated into the rugby structures of the majority of the nations playing womens rugby. Only a handful of countries currently have solid 7s and 15s structures existing side by side with England having advanced the most over the past year on this front.
Sevens can no longer now be simply a summer pursuit as unions wil simply have to intersperse the normal rugby season with 7s tournaments and competitions that start to develop 7s skills in order to get up to speed quickly and in time for the qualifying tournaments for 2016.
This will of course put strain on the finance and resources of lots of unions around the world and there is always a danger that some nations will make 7s an absolute priority given the exposure and money that Olympic inclusion could generate. Its a line that must be treaded carefully and the IRB simply must make efforts to ensure that developing womens nations are pushing a 15s programme alongside their development at 7s.
An interesting footnote to all of this was something I came across in the Australian press which suggested at the ARU may consider offering its female 7s players semi-professional contracts if the IRB were to create an international women's circuit to shadow the existing men's series.
That of course would spark a debate in itself about the ability of other nations to compete with semi-pro players but it highlights the changes we could see in the womens game in the years ahead.