World Rugby plans to channel England’s energy at Euro 2022 by delivering a safe and successful women’s World Cup later this year.
Sarah Hunter’s Red Roses will head to New Zealand in October confident of matching the success of football’s Lionesses as they top the world rankings and are unbeaten in 23 Tests.
World Rugby has stressed that the tournament will promote good brain health for players through leading protocols and programmes.
“The success of the Lionesses and the Euros as a whole captivated a nation and it has challenged us all to embrace the enormous opportunity and power of women in sport, which we are doing,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin told the PA news agency.
“We are the next big cab off the rank in this transformational year of women’s sport with a groundbreaking Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, which will be big in many ways.
“For the world’s best women to realise their potential on the world’s biggest stages, we need to walk the talk and deliver a world-class experience at our major events.
“We must walk the talk. And that is what we are doing in New Zealand.”
Player welfare has dominated talk in the elite men’s game amid claims that playing the sport has caused brain damage.
World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union are being sued for allegedly failing to “protect players from permanent injury”.
Claimants include former Wales captain Ryan Jones and England’s 2003 World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson, with many ex-players diagnosed with early-onset dementia and other irreversible neurological impairments.
All teams at the women’s World Cup are being offered the opportunity to participate in a smart mouthguard research programme that will help address the nature of head impacts and accelerations within the female game.
A 12-day return-to-play process for a confirmed concussion for players with a history of such injuries will be used.
Video technology will also help spot potential concussions, with World Rugby providing mental wellbeing support to assist with any issues in relation to anxiety.
Gilpin said: “We are proud to be showcasing the latest advancements in the support and care of female athletes on and off the field of play.
“This is hugely important to us, not just because we are all working hard to advance welfare in rugby, but because we recognise that we must adopt a different approach for our female athletes, not simply replicate what we do for the men.
“Rugby World Cup 2021 will feature the most advanced and comprehensive player welfare standards ever seen at a rugby event.
“We will be carrying the momentum from New Zealand 2021 through to the start of our annual WXV competition and through to an expanded Rugby World Cup in England in 2025 and beyond. Welfare will be at the heart of our planning.”