From The Vaults

22 March 2021
RFU150 - The Women's Rugby Football Union

As the Rugby Football Union celebrates its 150th year, we examine six influential governing bodies and their roles in the history and development of Rugby Union since 1871.

Part 6- The Women's Rugby Football Union

PARIS, FRANCE - AUGUST 17: A detailed view of the Cup ahead of the IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 Final between England and Canada at Stade Jean-Bouin on August 17, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

The first recognised women's international fixture took place in Utrecht in 1982 when Holland met France. The milestone reflected the growing popularity of rugby amongst women in Europe, that was mirrored by similar developments in the USA, Japan and New Zealand.

Two years later a group of pioneering young women met at University College London and formed the Women's Rugby Football Union (WRFU) to represent the women's game in England, Wales and Ireland. Three meetings later they had established a committee and a constitution, electing Carol Isherwood as Secretary and Debbie Griffin as Treasurer.

A match between Great Britain and France was arranged in 1986 and England and Wales began their journeys with their first international fixtures the following year. The WRFU only lasted until 1994, when England, Wales and Ireland set up their own independent governing bodies, but feature in this list because of their work in establishing the first Women's Rugby World Cups.

Overcoming significant difficulty, the WRFU launched the tournament that would prove to be the catalyst for the future development of the women's game in 1991. Held in Wales, 12 teams contested the tournament which the USA eventually won.

Four years later the tournament was due to be held in the Netherlands but opposition from the International Rugby Board (IRB) led to the host nation withdrawing at the eleventh hour. The tournament was rebranded as the World Championships and switched to Scotland, where it went ahead as planned.

The IRB did host the 1998 tournament and has delivered every subsequent tournament. In 2009, they formally recognised the 1991 and 1994 editions of the tournament.

See also:

Part 1- The Rugby Football Union

Part 2- The Scottish Rugby Union

Part 3- World Rugby

Part 4- The Northern Union

Part 5- New Zealand Rugby

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