We look ahead to the next 12 months and what there is to most look forward to in the world of women's rugby.
Big year for Sevens
Sevens has returned and in 2022 a treble of the World Series, Commonwealth Games and World Cup will be up for grabs in just a few weeks between May and September. The World Series reaches its climax in Toulouse between 20-22 May, the Commonwealth Games tournament takes place in Coventry from 29-31 July, and then the Sevens World Cup will take place in Cape Town from 9-11 September.
Will it, won't it? On the wave of better coverge and more investment, this year's postponed World Cup in New Zealand comes at a pivotal time for the game. Another postponement would be a disaster, while a World Cup without overseas visitors would also be a huge disappointment and serve to halt vital momentum in the game. On the field the competition promises to be fascinating, with the hosts struggline at the moment and England riding high, with France on their coat-tails.
Africa Gold Cup
After the warm-up of last year’s Africa Cup games we are promised Africa’s biggest ever women’s test tournament in 2022. Dates, format and venues have yet to be announced but this promises to be a major step forward for fifteens rugby in Africa. South Africa will be clear favourites, but the rapid and exciting rise of newcomers like Madagascar will continue to challenge the traditional test teams such as Uganda and Kenya.
A new-look Six Nations
With a new spot in the schedule, the women's Six Nations returns to its full set of fixtures this year with a grand finale weekend set up in France in the last round when England visit. With a World Cup on the horizon, this is an important Six Nations in terms of building momentum, but more than that it is a chance for those who run the competition to assess whether there is merit in the argument than standing on its own, the women's Six Nations is ready to go it alone and can attract investment and interest out of the shadow of the men's event.
What happens next in Ireland
It is no exaggeration to say that what happens next in Ireland's ongoing dispute between the governing body and its players could have ramifications well outside of the country. What the players are calling for - a cultural change across the IRFU so that women are no longer seen and treated as second-class and better representation of women across the whole game - is no quick fix, but if tangible solutions are found and decent targets are set that can actually be met, this might well be the blueprint for many other unions.