England captain Emily Rudge says the success of this year’s Rugby League World Cup should pave the way for a bright new professional era in the domestic women’s rugby league.
The St Helens forward will lead a 24-man squad into the tournament, which will also include 10 of her Saints team-mates as well as a seven-man contingent of Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos.
All have had to balance preparations for the tournament with full-time jobs, putting them at a distinct disadvantage compared to clear favorites Australia, whose players compete in the full-professional NRL women’s competition.
But Rudge, a PE teacher who has captained the national team since 2018, believes that could be a thing of the past if England can emulate the lionesses of football and claim a major title on home soil.
“It’s really difficult — it’s like you have two full-time jobs and you don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything as well as you can,” Rudge said.
“It’s a massive challenge but hopefully it won’t last forever and this will be the last World Cup where women work full-time and are still trying to become international elite athletes.
“If we can win the World Cup, I think it would be difficult to ask women to go back to their full-time jobs. We have a big role to play and success in this tournament will see things change faster than we might have planned.”
Over 16,000 spectators are expected for England’s opening game against Brazil in Leeds on November 1, a mark that would set a new record for an English women’s rugby match in that country using either set of rules.
England then meet Canada in Wigan on November 5 before completing their group stage on November 9 against Papua New Guinea, who defeated England three years ago in Port Moresby.
The Woman of Steel of 2022 Tara-Jane Stanley is one of four York City Knights players in the squad, while Leeds’ Zoe Hornby is the only uncapped representative.
Like Rudge, England head coach Craig Richards sees no reason why his side cannot upset the chances and overtake the Australians, who beat them 38-0 in their last meeting in Sydney in 2017.
“We’re 100 percent sure we can win,” Richards said. “There are a couple of nations where we need to do our best and we need some things to go our way but we’re really confident.
“There’s only so much we can challenge them because what we can’t do is suddenly train part-time athletes who are still working like full-time athletes.
“But we will do everything we can to finish them off. I wouldn’t have spent five years here and the girls wouldn’t have worked as hard as they did if we had thought differently.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/england-australia-nrl-st-helens-leeds-b2175669.html England’s World Cup victory can transform women’s rugby league, says captain Emily Rudge