Wychwood School, Oxford, marked the beginning of the Women’s Rugby World Cup this week by inviting numerous local primary, preparatory and secondary schools to participate in its own tournament in partnership with Oxford Harlequins RFC and supported by Rugby Centurions.
The independent all-girls school organised the inaugural Rugby World Cup as part of its commitment to developing the game and increasing opportunities for women’s rugby locally.
More than 230 girls aged between 10 and 16 took part with Rochelle Clark MBE – England’s most capped international player, and Bryony Cleall, a Wasps and England player, was in attendance to treat participants to inspirational talks and pass on some expert advice from the touchline.
Ruggette RFU’s founder and CEO, Stef Evans, who also featured in the ‘No Woman, No Try’ documentary on Amazon Prime and is a current University of Worcester Warriors player, supported the day.
Schools including Wychwood School, St Helen and St Katharine, d’Overbroeck’s, Rye St Antony, The Oratory School, Didcot Girls’ School, SS Philip and James, and The Oratory Prep School fielded teams. The event was sponsored by Carter Jonas, Rugette RFC, Rugby Centurions and RFU.
The day was split into two sessions, with over 80 pupils aged 12 and under from five participating schools put through their paces before being divided into national teams to compete in a fun and inclusive Rugby World Cup competition.
A further tournament for more than 150 pupils aged 13-16 took place in the afternoon, with each of the six schools assigned to represent a country competing in this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Oxford Harlequins’ Pat Metcalfe-Jones, a triple Oxford Blue, Head coach of the Wasps ACE Girls Programme, and former head of women’s rugby at both Oxford Brookes and Oxford University, coached and oversaw the day.
All girls received a T-shirt produced by Ruggette RFC and smaller gifts provided by Rugby Centurions and Oxford Harlequins RFC as mementoes of the day. The U11 and U12 age groups received participation medals, and trophies were presented to the winner and runner-up teams from U14 and U16 age groups.
The day followed last year’s successful Rugby 7’s Festival, which was organised to build on Wychwood’s commitment to further develop its sports program and provide unique opportunities for its pupils and the local community.
Jane Evans, Head of Wychwood School, Oxford, said: “It has been a breakthrough year for women’s sport following the Lionesses’ triumph at the Women’s Euro and ongoing Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
“To see so many young girls developing their rugby skills, working as a team and experiencing competitive game situations is wonderful, and we hope it can inspire a new generation of future superstars in time for the next world cup in England in 2025.”
Fran Centamore, Director of Sport at Wychwood, said: “Interest among our pupils in sport has exploded in the last year. After our relaunch of a curriculum rowing program last year, introducing rugby 7s at Wychwood has provided yet another opportunity to our pupils, and it has been fantastic to see this develop over the course of the last 12 months.
“To have the support of Oxford Harlequins RFC enables us to offer an extensive program and facilities to our pupils to help them take their aspirations as far as they wish. Events like these are designed to introduce girls to the game, foster collaboration and friendships and further promote equality in sports within schools across the county.
“We were pleased to see hundreds of girls apply themselves to the day’s activities, which perfectly demonstrated how sport and teamwork can complement students’ physical, academic and social development.”
Rochelle Clark MBE said: “Encouraging youngsters at a grassroots level to take up rugby is so important. The women’s game has developed so much, but the key to continued progression is ensuring more children enter the sport.
“It was a pleasure to see so many children enjoying rugby in Oxford and the passion in the community. Congratulations to Wychwood School for hosting such an inspiring event that promoted rugby, teamwork, fitness and ambition.”
Established in 1897, Wychwood School in Oxford is an independent day and boarding school for girls aged 11 to 18 that seeks to deliver academic excellence through the creativity of thought. It is also a member of the Girls’ Schools Association.