World Cup could be a huge game changer for Women’s Rugby League says Forsell

This week marked the start of the one-year countdown to the opening fixture of the Women’s World Cup at Emerald Headingley in 2021.

Hosts England start their campaign against newcomers Brazil, followed by PNG v Canada as part of a double-header.  Leeds Rhinos Women’s head coach Lois Forsell, who played in the last World Cup in this country in 2013 and works as the Women and Girls Development Officer for Leeds Rhinos Foundation thinks the tournament will have a big impact on the development of the game.

“I am so excited that the Women’s World Cup is coming back to England and Leeds,” said Forsell.  “I think it will raise the profile of the game and help inspire more girls to play.  Working in rugby league development I can see directly how tournaments like this help the game grow.  The success of the Leeds Rhinos Women’s team has attracted more interest and participation in the women’s game is at an all time high in the city.  With international rugby coming to the city next year I am sure this will have another positive impact, with girls able to see players from all different backgrounds representing their country.”

During lockdown, Forsell started her own podcast called ‘Women in Sport’ and as part of that series she spoke to people who have been key to expanding the sport in places such as Papua New Guinea and Brazil.

“There has been some amazing work going on in recent years to grow the women’s game and it will be satisfying to see this all coming together in the World Cup.  I was lucky enough to speak with Joanna Lester this year.  Joanna has worked with the PNG Orchids and directed the film about the team, called Power Meri which shows how their players have broken down barriers for other women in the country.

“I also spoke to Rob Burgin, who is the co-founder of the Brazil Women’s team and their head coach, former Leeds and Widnes player, Matt Gardner about the growth of Rugby League in South America.  Last year I got to see firsthand how the game is growing in popularity when I went to Brazil with the Rugby League World Cup.  I ran development sessions in schools and clubs and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and it’s wonderful to see the love of our game expanding into countries where it has traditionally not been played.”

Forsell will also be hoping the tournament will see some Leeds Rhinos Women’s players involved.  “We have a number of girls involved in the England Performance Squad and they have been able to have some training sessions over the last few months.  This is a massive opportunity for our players to stake their claim for a place in the World Cup and I know they will all be working hard over the next few months.  To have the Rhinos represented in the squad would be amazing and a proud moment for them to play for their country on home soil.”

Eight nations will compete over 18 days at various stadiums, including Anfield and Old Trafford. Ticket prices are excellent value, starting from just £2.21 for concessions and £10 for adults. To enter the ballot visit www.tickets.rlwc2021.com