15 Things Every Female Rugby Player Is Tired of Hearing
Yes, it’s exactly the same as men’s rugby.
1. “Isn’t rugby a man’s sport?”
Straight off, when they hear that you play rugby, a lot of people question the very fact that this is even allowed, because rugby is a sport reserved for men and only men, right?
Of course the answer is no, of course it’s not. Since women’s rugby has been more widely televised, for example during the Rio 2016 Olympics, the sport has grown rapidly and increasing numbers of girls have been inspired by the likes of England’s captain Emily Scarratt to give rugby a go.
2. “Are you a lesbian?”
The next inevitable question is whether being a female rugby player makes you a lesbian, because obviously your hobbies and interests can define your sexuality, and obviously playing women’s rugby means you MUST be gay.
Say it with me now: playing women’s rugby does not automatically make you a lesbian. In fact, my university team was predominantly heterosexual. But if you are a woman and you want to play women’s rugby and you’re also a lesbian, that’s also fine.
3. “Do you all shower together naked?”
Honest answer? It depends on how long we’ve got after the game, what the changing facilities are like and how muddy the pitch was.
As far as the steamy changing room fantasy is concerned, sometimes there are cubicles, but sometimes, yes, we do all shower together in varying states of undress. But the amount of mud, K tape and bruises probably makes this a lot less appealing than you might think.
4. “Is girl’s rugby like tag rugby?”
Once someone has managed to accept the idea of girls playing rugby they often seem to assume that you mean a female version that doesn’t involve any violence. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to convince someone that I actually mean full contact rugby rather than tag or touch.
5. “But you don’t actually tackle each other, right?”
Again, some people find it hard to believe that women’s rugby actually involves physical contact. My own grandmother is the worst offender for this; she asks me every time she sees me and pulls a concerned face whenever I tell her that yes, we do indeed tackle each other. It’s kind of the point!
6. “It’s not the same as men’s rugby though, is it?”
YES IT IS.
Some people really have a hard time imagining a female playing the game they see huge muscled men playing on TV, lineouts and all. They refuse to believe that women’s rugby is identical to the men’s game in every way. Depending on the age group there are different rules for rugby players under 18, but women’s rugby union is exactly the same as men’s rugby union: the same rules, same sized pitch, same length game and same equipment.
7. “Aren’t you scared of getting hurt?”
Obviously the rugby you see the England team play involves some massive hits and it’s quite common to see the players get injured. Lots of people ask me this, but my answer is always that I would be in any sport. My worst scars are actually from netball because people scratch with long nails (which are not allowed in rugby), and hockey where the sandy all-weather pitch has taken my skin off.
8. “Are there a lot of cat fights?”
I’m sorry to disappoint anyone imagining erotic scenes with girls scrapping and rolling around in the mud, but a core value of rugby is respect for the ref and his or her decisions, so fights aren’t that common. Besides, when they do break out the players usually throw punches rather than catty fighting.
9. “Won’t you get cauliflower ears?”
When someone learns that you play rugby they often ask about the things that put them off from playing. For a lot of people this seems to be the idea of cauliflower ears. A lot of my female friends are quick to fret about my ears getting all deformed but it’s not too much of a worry if you wear a scrum cap and haven’t been playing for years and years.
10. “Do you know the offside rule?”
I’m not sure why some people need this kind of proof, but they do. I’ve also been asked questions about different rugby positions and once even had to demonstrate a switch pass with my friend and her clutch on a night out at a bar! As far as the offside rule is concerned, let’s just say that there is more than one, and, yes, we know them.
11. “Aren’t you worried about your face getting messed up?”
This question also comes up a lot because people always want to know how you can be okay with the possibility of a boot, elbow or whatever to the face. I can’t say it’s ever concerned me much and while you do get the occasional shiner or bloody nose, most of the girl’s I’ve played with wear their black eyes like a badge of honour and most of us just play on.
12. “Do you play actual matches?”
Some people ask this because they can’t imagine a real women’s game, but some ask because they still see women’s rugby as a minority sport. It’s true that there weren’t always that many clubs who could field a whole team but these days it’s different and we do indeed play actual, full length, 15 a side matches with refs, linesmen and everything.
13. “Why don’t you play netball or something?”
Ah, another of my grandma’s favourite questions. “Why can’t you play a more ladylike sport?” My answer is different every time because there are simply so many things I love about rugby. I’ve played most sports you can think of but rugby still has to be my favourite.
14. “Do you have scrums?”
Again, some people can’t quite take in the fact that women’s rugby is entirely the same as the men’s game but with female players instead of men. So the answer to this one is that, yes, women’s rugby does involve full 8 man scrums with the same rules as when the men play.
15. “Is that so you can get with the lads?”
Ah, of course. Because a girl couldn’t possibly take interest in rugby without an ulterior motive of hanging out with rugby lads. Contrary to this belief some of us do actually just want to play some rugby!