top of page

Fun Fact 07: Breaking Barriers - The Rise of Women's Rugby in the United States

In recent years, women's rugby has experienced a significant surge in popularity and participation in the United States. Once a niche sport with limited visibility, women's rugby has transformed into a force to be reckoned with, empowering female athletes and breaking down barriers.

A Brief History of Women's Rugby in the USA

Women's rugby in the United States has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the late 1970s. The first recorded women's rugby match in the US took place in 1972 between the University of Colorado and Colorado State University. Over the following decades, women's rugby clubs were established at colleges and universities across the nation, providing opportunities for female athletes to participate in the sport.

In 1991, the first Women's Rugby World Cup took place in Wales, with the USA finishing as runners-up to England. This early success helped to propel women's rugby onto the national stage and raise awareness of the sport among the American public.

Factors Contributing to the Rise of Women's Rugby

Several factors have contributed to the growing popularity and participation in women's rugby in the United States, including:

  1. Increased Visibility: The growth of the internet and social media has enabled women's rugby to reach a wider audience, showcasing the skill and athleticism of female rugby players.

  2. Rugby Sevens: The introduction of rugby sevens, a faster-paced and more accessible version of the sport, has attracted new players and fans to the game. The inclusion of rugby sevens in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games further boosted the sport's profile, particularly for women's rugby.

  3. Grassroots Development: The expansion of youth and high school rugby programs has provided girls with more opportunities to play rugby from an early age, creating a strong foundation for the sport's growth.

  4. Collegiate Rugby: The establishment of women's rugby programs at colleges and universities has allowed female athletes to continue playing the sport at a high level, fostering the development of talented players and future national team members.

  5. National Governing Bodies: Organizations like USA Rugby have invested in the growth and development of women's rugby, providing support for clubs, players, and coaches, and ensuring a competitive structure for the sport.

Trailblazing Players and Teams

Several players and teams have played crucial roles in the rise of women's rugby in the United States, breaking barriers and inspiring future generations of female rugby players:

  1. Phaidra Knight: A standout player for the USA Women's National Team, Knight was a key figure in the early 2000s, earning multiple World Cup appearances and a spot in the World Rugby Hall of Fame. Her success on the field and advocacy for women's rugby has been instrumental in the growth of the sport in the United States.

  2. USA Women's Sevens Team: The USA Women's Sevens Team has experienced tremendous success in recent years, consistently ranking among the top teams on the HSBC World Rugby Women's Sevens Series and earning a place in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Their achievements have helped to raise the profile of women's rugby in the United States and inspire the next generation of female rugby players.

  3. Women's Premier League (WPL): Established in 2009, the WPL is the highest level of women's club rugby in the United States. The league has provided a platform for the nation's top female rugby players to showcase their talents and compete at an elite level.


In conclusion, the ascent of women's rugby in the United States exemplifies the power of resilience, determination, and the dismantling of barriers. The sport's growing popularity highlights the potential for female athletes to excel in a traditionally male-dominated arena. As women's rugby continues to expand and make strides, it will inspire and empower a new generation of players to embrace the sport and contribute to its ongoing success in the United States. The future of women's rugby is bright, and the passion and commitment of its players, coaches, and supporters will ensure its continued growth and impact on the American sports landscape.


bottom of page