World Rugby has launched a transformational Rugby World Cup 2021 Coaching Internship Programme, providing talent identified female coaches with a unique 12-month placement opportunity with a team competing at the showcase women’s 15s event in New Zealand.
In line with the ‘developing inspirational leadership’ strand of the 2017-25 Women in Rugby strategic plan, World Rugby is committed to supporting the development of female coaches in the sport and has set an ambitious target of a minimum of 40 per cent of all coaches at Rugby World Cup 2025 to be women.
Internship participants will be fully embedded into each competing Rugby World Cup 2021 national coaching team, where they will gain meaningful professional development opportunities and experience working in a high-performance sporting environment, leading up to and during Rugby World Cup 2021.
Fully underwritten by World Rugby and International Olympic Committee development grant funding over the 12-month period, the innovative Coaching Internship Programme supports that mission by enabling Rugby World Cup 2021 qualified unions to nominate an aspiring elite level female coach from their union to avail of the internship opportunity.
The programme is an outcome from the comprehensive Women’s High-Performance Coaching review, commissioned by World Rugby in 2018 and conducted by World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Carol Isherwood, to understand the level of women coaching at high-performance level across both men’s and women’s rugby, and the challenges and barriers.
The ground-breaking report findings highlighted a significant lack of women’s representation at high-performance coaching level, with only one female head coach and three women’s assistant coaches part of Rugby World Cup 2017 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
As part of the review several recommendations were put forward to address real barriers for women aspiring to coach at the highest level in both elite men’s and women’s rugby. One of the recommendations was to improve the diversity of coaching teams and critical to this was the ability to create meaningful deployment and professional development opportunities for women who aspire to work in a high-performance environment.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We acknowledge that there are disproportionate levels of women in high-performance coaching environments across the men’s and women’s game and are committed to making impactful change in this area. Through the International Olympic Committee development grant that was awarded to World Rugby, we can deliver and amplify deployment strategies that provide female coaches with opportunities to gain meaningful experience in relevant high-performance environments. We are promoting and instilling change that will ultimately result in the diversification of the high-performance coaching landscape in rugby.”
World Rugby Women’s Advisory Committee Chair Serge Simon added: “We continue to sustain momentum in relation to developing inspirational leaders both on and off the pitch in line with the women’s strategic plan and addressing the area of coaching, where there is a severe lack of female representation. Building on the successful launch of the women’s coaching toolkit earlier this year, this unique Coaching Internship Programme will remove some fundamental barriers for aspiring female coaches in attaining head coach positions across both the men’s and women’s game.”
World Rugby General Manager for Women’s Rugby Katie Sadleir said: “We have set an ambitious but achievable target to have a minimum of 40 per cent of all coaches at Rugby World Cup 2025 be women. Through our women’s coaching network, of which there are 110 female coaches, we know there is a lot of talented female rugby coaches globally who are lacking opportunities to gain demonstrable experience in high-performance environments. This programme will provide the participants with an excellent opportunity to gain top level experience.”
Earlier this year World Rugby launched a new, online women coaching rugby toolkit, developed to assist unions and regional associations in recruiting, developing and retaining more female rugby coaches at every level of the game.