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United Rugby Championship chief 'would love' to see women's competition

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Published in Rugby
Tuesday, 26 April 2022 07:12

United Rugby Championship chief executive Martin Anayi says there is a "will" to establish a women's competition.

Anayi said discussions had already taken place with URC teams as well as the five Unions which are represented in the 16-member league.

He cited England's Premier 15s as a benchmark and said a women's URC would boost the Six Nations.

"We're just exploring how that comes about now," Anayi said.

"There's definitely a will - we'd love to see a women's URC."

The growth of women's rugby has been reflected in the current Six Nations, with a record crowd of over 14,000 watching England beat Wales.

The Welsh Rugby Union handed professional contracts to 12 players earlier this year with another 12 players on part-time retainer contracts.

"We had a strategy day the other day and we asked everybody what are the top three things you want to see the URC doing over the next five years," Anayi added.

"A women's competition came in the top three of everybody.

"I think there's a real push and I don't think it's reacting to the market or anything like that - it just feels like we should have a women's competition.

"I've asked all of our clubs and unions as to where everybody is.

"What's really important here is what our unions are doing at the moment and their plans, and what can we do to help generate a better professional environment like they are doing in England.

"We are talking to World Rugby about that also because they've got their own women's 15 competition and talking to the Six Nations, which is really developing.

"We think the URC can be a key part of how the Women's Six Nations can get even bigger and stronger.

"We are just trying to work how we can bring that about. Does it need to be 16 teams? Probably not. If you look at Women's Super Rugby it's not all the teams.

"We do have women's teams operating in Ireland and it's a little bit hit and miss elsewhere

"But I think we can pull together a really great competition that needs to be in conjunction with what the unions would like to achieve and what the clubs would like to achieve."

The men's United Rugby Championship was inaugurated at the start of the current 2021-22 season, with South Africa's four top teams joining the competition.

But the South Africans' participation was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in November 2021.

Two weekends of URC matches in South Africa involving travelling sides Cardiff, Scarlets, Munster and Zebre were postponed following the detection of the Omicron variant.

Anayi admits the situation was "damaging" for the competition and that it had financial implications.

"It was the first time we were going to see them [South African sides] in the URC on their home patch and we then had to wait until March for it to come to fruition," Anayi said.

"It's a shame it didn't happen in November/ December but we bounced back and what we've learnt over the last two-and-a-half years is to be resilient and keep bouncing back.

"We took a huge hit cost wise on the year. We'll still be more profitable this year than last year and when I say profit that will go back to the clubs.

"I'm really looking forward to a season which doesn't have Covid affect it."

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