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Is Women’s Rugby Actually The Same Game The Men Play?

OK, so women’s rugby is the new big thing. Among those who tell us what the next big thing should be at least.

Spectators know that women’s rugby isn’t actually the same game as male. But is there a rigorous method of testing this?

There might be.

The injury rate is going to be a measure of two things. How close to the tolerance line fitness levels are and also, with how much brio – violence if you prefer – the game is being played.

If the generally fit try to play then the injury rate will be lower than if the unfit do, but also than if the entirely fit do. Just because training a body right to the limits causes injury as the possible cost of squeezing out that last five or three percent of performance. As does that trying to perform on the field to that last 5 or 3% of capability. Hamstrings twang, tendons pop.

Then there’s that speed and level of violence contact of the game itself. For anyone who’s never been to a live match the sound of a tackle is something surprising. Blokes are hitting each other solidly and at speed. You can hear the clatter 20 yards away on the sideline.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Women’s rugby is a lifeline for the future prosperity of our game[/perfectpullquote]

OK, that could be true. Get a generation of women playing and that’ll be many more parents interested in shuffling kiddies off to practice to create the next generations of players and fans.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] I joined a record club crowd for Harlequins v Gloucester-Hartpury in the Tyrrells Premier 15s on Saturday. It was entertaining, though one-sided at 62-0 to Quins, and showed what the game has and could become. It was skilful and physical, without endless stoppages for scrum resets and moaning at the referee. I have supported and watched women’s rugby since 1991, when I did some coaching with the England forwards. I do not support it because it is the right thing to do ethically, though it is. I do so because I think it is a great game and has qualities that apply to all genders. Some apply to all sport, such as teamwork, friendship, taking responsibility, learning to win and lose. [/perfectpullquote]

All of that is entirely true. I was terrible as a rugby player but enjoyed it all the same, playing well into my 30s at a very, very, low level.

But, here’s the thing. Is women’s rugby really the same game as men’s? The way to test this perhaps being to look at the injury rates. Do we see the same sorts of injuries, at the same sort of frequency, across the two gender versions of the game? If so we’d take that as evidence that it’s being played with the same brio, to the same edges of tolerance – given the difference in gendered physique – and if not then it’s not quite the same thing.

To find out all that need be done is research current records. Not that we’re actually going to do that of course. But it would be interesting to see the results, wouldn’t it?

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5 years ago

Perhaps Dr. Rachel McKinnon should be asked for their view, and whether or not they’re inclined to give up cycling, to play rugby, to test the theory…?

5 years ago

If it’s the same rules, it’s the same game, just open to a subset of the population (or, more precisely, closed to a subset). I’ve seen plenty, and it’s generally entertaining and skilful. And there’s plenty of blokes who wouldn’t want to be involved in the collisions. In terms of differences to the men’s game, the most noticeable thing to me is a relative lack of kicking skills.

Sam Drew
Sam Drew
5 years ago

Generally the same, but much slower, and like another poster said, the tactical kicking is null compared to the men’s game.

As for injury rates, theoretically possible, however your likely show that women’s injury rates differ, for example the ACL is significantly more likely to rupture in women, partly due to strength, partly due to biomechanics. There’s even some interesting evidence suggesting that the ACL is significantly more unstable during menstruation.

Long story short, same as football, stick an under 18s boys team against the women’s national team and it would likely be a whupping

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