The drive is on to get more women involved in rugby with the launch of Strength in Numbers – a Connacht Rugby campaign reaching out to the region’s females to promote the sport to them.

Strength in Numbers officially launched at last weekend’s Connacht v Treviso match and involved a series of player interviews, information stands for potential recruits, and some informal introductory skills sessions.

The campaign will run for the duration of 2014 with the aim of raising awareness of women’s rugby to players, officials and supporters, and attracting them to the sport while further strengthening relationships between the 28 under-age, collegiate and senior clubs in the province.

One shining example of just where getting involved in women’s rugby can lead you is Mar Sheridan.

Five years ago, Mar had not even contemplated the idea of playing rugby. Now, with her main club Tuam RFC and on a dual-status registration with senior club Galwegians, she has earned caps for Connacht and is the current Connacht Rugby Women’s Club Player of the Year.

Mar explained: “I do think women’s rugby is growing personally. I only started in rugby about five years ago and I wasn’t aware of many teams but, in the last five years, teams have been coming through and there are a lot of under-age teams too, which is the most important thing.

“My local club [Tuam] decided to try and set up a ladies’ senior team and started advertising it by putting flyers out to coaches.

“We managed to get a team together and we have been quite strong for the last five years.

“With playing for them I got to know about Galwegians, they are in Division One, so I started training with them.

“The club has grown a lot. We have got under-15s and under-18s set-ups, and the senior side is going well.”

For Mar, who combines working full-time with rugby training sessions four evenings per week, one of the most enjoyable aspects is being a part of a team unit.

And rugby is the perfect start-up sport – all you need is a pair of boots.

“On a personal level it’s the camaraderie of the team you play with and the teams you play against as there is great respect shown by everyone and training is fantastic.

“It’s a winter sport, there aren’t too many of them, and it’s not expensive – you turn up at the club, get your boots out and off you go.

“Rugby takes up a lot of my time but without it I don’t know what I would do and you work to make it fit in [with other commitments]. That’s the thing with sport, if you can’t make training you don’t feel right.

“From watching it on TV a lot of people think that women’s rugby is a lot tougher than it actually is.

“You look at the hitting and it’s not as hard as it appears – it’s actually a very enjoyable game.”

Women’s rugby is not only an enjoyable game, it is one that Ireland have enjoyed plenty of recent success in.

They are the defending Women’s RBS Six Nations champions having won the Grand Slam in 2013, while this year they are second in the standings with three rounds of fixtures played.

They were narrowly beaten by England at Twickenham, taking to the field a short while after the men had played their Six Nations match at the same venue, and the chance to showcase their skills to a bigger audience comes again next Saturday when they host Italy at the Aviva Stadium.

That will be an historic occasion for Ireland as it will be the first time that their women will have played at the national rugby stadium.

It is with that fixture in mind that today has been chosen for the official launch of Strength in Numbers and next Saturday also marks International Women’s Day – another reason why today was the perfect chance to kick it all off.

And rather than run Strength in Numbers for a season, it has been decided to use the calendar year of 2014 so that it ties in with the Women’s World Series and Women’s World Cup, which will run through the summer, meaning more awareness will continue to be raised even when the clubs aren’t in action.

“It is to make more people aware that there is rugby out there, that it is more than just the Six Nations and the Grand Slam, ” Mar added.

“Maybe a few clubs might think about setting up women’s teams and developing the under-age sides in women’s rugby.

“It looked like there was good support there [at Twickenham] for both sides and for them to be shown on live TV after the men’s game was a massive thing for women’s rugby.

“It is a great sport, it is entertaining and enjoyable, and it is great to be able to use the men’s game as a platform for it to grow.”

So the message is a simple one – if you want to get involved in women’s rugby in any way, either playing or as part of the off-field team, now is the time to do so.

As Mar concluded: “I just think that you should go to a training session wherever your nearby club is, go three or four times, and if it is for you then you will really enjoy it.”


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