Female rugby player numbers rise but males on decline

While the number of games played in women’s rugby has increased, men’s rugby has again decreased.
Photo: PHOTOGRAPH

There has been a boom in the number of women playing, refereeing and coaching women in community rugby.

The number of women playing the sport has increased by a staggering 20 per cent since 2022.

However, junior men’s playing numbers continue to decline.

New Zealand Rugby has today confirmed 147,434 players for the 2023 season, an increase of 7 per cent, with women’s and girls’ participation at 29,448.

But the number of junior men is declining with 49,999 junior boys in the club registered, a 2 per cent decrease on 2022.

However, the senior men’s club grew by 3 percent in 2022 to 33,500 players.

Despite this, NZR Community Rugby General Manager Steve Lancaster said the results were pleasing as this was the first uninterrupted rugby season since the pandemic began in 2020.

“Covid has completely changed community sport across the country, and we have just finished our first regular rugby season in four years.

He said that rugby still faces challenges in the community game, especially that the number of junior boys is not back to where it was before Covid in some parts of the country.

“We have spent some time understanding the issues and, along with teenage engagement, will be our focus as we move forward.”

Lancaster said the growth in the number of women and girls playing club rugby was a key success for the sport.

“From 2020 there is an increased focus on getting more women and girls involved in club rugby where they will play for a full season rather than one-off festivals and competitions. That means more games and, more importantly, more meaningful rugby. experience enjoying everything that is great about community rugby.”

NZR has also confirmed that the reduced height tackle in community rugby will be extended until the end of the 2025 season, in line with World Rugby’s global recommendations.

Lancaster said the trial, which involves the first tackle tackling below the sternum and targeting the abdominal area, improved safety and the quality of games and was strongly supported by the rugby community.

NZR match analysis found that 90 per cent of first tackles in 1st XV school rugby, 78 per cent in senior men’s rugby and 72 per cent in senior women’s rugby this season were below the sternum.

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