NAIROBI, Kenya, May 21 – Africa will host its inaugural qualifiers for the Women’s Rugby World Cup with Kenya among four countries who have vibrant leagues battling out for the single slot in the 15s version of the sport.
The Rugby Africa Women’s Cup will be held in Johannesburg from Aug. 9-17 bringing together hosts South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Madagascar.
Considering that there isn’t yet an established African ranking for women’s fifteen-a-side rugby, the four fifteens teams were chosen on the basis of the level and frequency of play of the female players.
Katie Sadleir, general manager for women’s rugby at World Rugby, said the new event represents an opportunity not to be missed.
“The development of women in rugby is the greatest opportunity for our sport over the next decade. This is an essential part of world rugby’s vision of a ‘A sport for all, true to its values’ and is aligned with its mission to grow the global family,” said Sadleir on Monday.
“Women’s rugby is experiencing unprecedented growth and participation levels are at an all-time high. Women’s rugby in Africa is leading the way in terms of the number of women players registered worldwide,” said Sadleir.
The four teams competing will see the winner secure a place to play in New Zealand in 2021. Each team will play three matches and a points classification will be established.
The winner of the tournament will qualify directly for the World Cup whilst the second best team will play a match against a selected team from South America and join the global repechage tournament if victorious.
President of Rugby Africa, Khaled Babbou, says advancement of the sport in their continent is a priority objective.
“Organizing qualifiers for the World Cup provides a springboard for the players and a chance for teams to reach the highest level in the sport. Rugby development is at the heart of our concerns, and women’s rugby is a major strategic priority,” said Babbou.
Women’s rugby is still developing in Africa, and the only way to raise the bar is by its teams to face more international competition.
The continental rugby body held a conference in Gaborone, Botswana in May where they came up with a strategic plan, adapted to the geographical, economic and cultural realities of the African continent.
It all targets to promote the sport of rugby among women. The 12-team competition will be hosted by New Zealand, marking the first time it will take place in the Southern Hemisphere.