If you’ve read any of my other posts about women’s rugby you’ll know it’s something I’m really passionate about! However it’s quite daunting getting started as a beginner, so I’ve put together a basic kit guide as well as some general advice on how to get started with women’s rugby.
Women’s rugby in the UK: what’s it really like?
Women’s rugby is showing an incredible surge in popularity. In the last few years especially, the female side of the sport has really taken off, and increasing numbers of women around the country are putting their boots on for the first time. I started playing rugby in May 2017, as a complete beginner. It took me a while to build up the courage to actually go for it, but once I did, I never looked back.
Rugby has given me the challenge I never realised I needed, and a lot more besides. In this guide, I’m going to introduce some of the key things that you’ll find useful as a newcomer to women’s rugby, and hope that you’ll feel encouraged to give it a go.
This is a guide for those who are completely new to women’s rugby, and is intended as a helpful list of things I’ve learned along the way – I am by no means a professional and don’t know the rules inside and out!
In this post, I’m going to put together a list of basic points to consider if you’re interested in playing rugby as a beginner. It’ll also share some ideas for items, equipment and any particular kit that you might find useful when starting out in the world of women’s rugby. There are a few affiliate links as well to bits of kit you might find useful as a beginner.
How to get started with women’s rugby
Firstly, you’ll need to find yourself a club to train at. If you’re not sure what’s available near you, you can head to England Rugby’s Inner Warrior site (if you’re in England). There you can search for your nearest rugby club and see what options they have available for women’s rugby training. The Inner Warrior training camps are a great way to introduce yourself to rugby; they’re how I got started.
These events are a pressure-free introduction to women’s rugby. You usually play a load of different games and have a go at using the tackle bags, which is a lot more fun than it sounds! You don’t need to wear anything special to give it a try, just your trainers, comfortable clothes and some water. I remember my first ever Inner Warrior – I was SO nervous! However, I soon got stuck in and really enjoyed myself, which I wasn’t expecting to happen at all.
What kit do I need for women’s rugby training?
If you’re feeling ready to get started and go to a training session, let’s dive into the basic kit guide. Firstly, you’ll need a few essential items. There are only four key bits of equipment you’ll need for training, to be honest.
- Training kit
- Base Layers (for when it gets cold)
In terms of clothing, you’ll mainly need something comfortable and practical to run about in. These don’t have to be anything expensive or fancy, but they do need to be fairly sensible. Rugby is an outdoor sport, played primarily in the winter months, so you’ll need clothes to train in that will keep you warm and that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy.
You’ll also absolutely, 100% need a good sports bra to play women’s rugby. I don’t think I even need to elaborate on why but trust me, it’s worth spending a little bit more to actually get a good one.
Clothing for training
Everyone’s different in women’s rugby, which is one of the things that makes it special. The same goes for the training kit people choose to wear. Some women like to wear shorts all year round, for example. Personally, I’ll wear shorts in the spring and summer, but I like to train in thermal leggings when it’s colder. I find that loose-fit tracksuit bottoms feel really heavy when they’re wet or muddy, but with good-quality leggings, you don’t really feel anything. That’s just my personal preference though, so go with whatever you like best!
Tops can be of any kind. I’d recommend layering up with a base layer long-sleeved top, t-shirts and non-hooded jumpers. This is because hoods can get in the way when you’re practising certain skills, but again, it’s up to you entirely.
Also, it’s a really good idea to get a waterproof training top for when the weather starts to turn. Another thing to consider is the presence of zips and strings – these can get caught in people’s hair or eyes, so it’s best to avoid tops that have zips on where possible.
You’ll probably find that your club has its own stash of training gear that you can buy. If not, they’re bound to have a box of spare kit stashed away in the changing rooms that you can use! Aside from your club, here are some quick places to start if you’re looking to stock up on a training kit.
Sports bras for women’s rugby
I really can’t stress enough how important it is to have the right sports bra for rugby. It’s an impact sport, and your chest needs protection. Fortunately, sports bras have made huge progress in the variety of styles, shapes and support on offer, so you’re bound to find something that’ll work for your body. You just need to make sure you choose something designed for high-impact activity.
I sometimes wear a high-impact underwired sports bra for maximum protection, just because I feel that everything is locked down much more securely. However, lots of my teammates wear wire-free, baselayer sports bras. The key is compression, protection and a snug fit. The right sports bra will ultimately come down to your own personal preferences, but try some on for size if you’re unsure.
Marks and Spencer also has a surprisingly good range of high-impact sports bras for women with larger chests. These work really well in rugby, so don’t feel as though you need to stick with sports brands for training gear.
Training clothes for women’s rugby
Leggings are a key part of my training kit, and I have at least a couple of pairs of good-quality ones. I know you can go to Primark and stock up on cheaper ones too, but it’s definitely worth buying at least one decent pair that will last you throughout the season. Besides, you definitely don’t want to go with fabrics that’ll go see-through or rip when it gets wet. Some of my favourites aren’t actually that expensive.
Some people find it hard to train in leggings, so if they’re not for you then shorts or tracksuit bottoms also work really well. You’ll find that you spend a lot more time in shorts than you ever expected to, so you might as well get some nice ones!
Here are some ideas for training clothes you could pick up online if you’re planning on getting started with women’s rugby. Additionally, you can pretty much mix and match with items from rugby menswear. As long as you order the right fit, you can sometimes find better deals in the men’s section when it comes to bottoms and tops.
I have a pair of Puma leggings and can genuinely recommend them as a staple for outdoor training, year-round. They’re really supportive and durable – I love mine. Sondico makes kit primarily with football in mind, but they do a great range of baselayers, including leggings, that you could pick up online or in most high-street sports retailers.
One of the most important items of clothing, in my opinion, is a waterproof training top of some sort. Jumpers and t-shirts are fine, but when the weather begins to change and you start training in the mud, you need something tougher.
Having a padded gilet on top of one of these is really useful when it starts to get colder as well. Just be careful with these, as they can have zips, which can be dangerous when training. Sondico and Patrick are two brands that also make waterproof training tops, so be sure to check them out.
Tops and t-shirts are things you can pick up anywhere. In fact, I wouldn’t bother buying new ones, especially for rugby training. Definitely use your old ones instead! If you join a club team you’ll probably have the option of buying tops and shorts in your team’s colours. However, in the short
Women’s rugby boots
One thing you really need to do a bit of research into is your choice of rugby boots. There are different types of boots for different on-field positions, but you don’t need to worry about that too much to begin with. Annoyingly, women’s rugby boots aren’t quite a thing just yet. You’ll have to look in the men’s or kids’ sections to find yourself a pair, especially if your feet are on the smaller size. This isn’t always a bad thing; kids’ boots are always much cheaper!
There are also two kinds of boots for the type of ground you’ll be running around on. Soft ground boots are for the winter months and firm ground boots are for the spring/summer months. It might sound extravagant, but having the right kind of boots for the ground is actually really important for keeping your lower limbs injury-free. Think about the time of year you’re in when you start your training and pick your boots accordingly.
Boots are seasonal and you’ll eventually need two pairs
In the spring and summer months, the ground is much drier and harder, so you really don’t want to be running around on studded boots – you’ll end up with blisters on your feet at best and possibly lower leg injuries at worst. Firm ground boots, or “mouldies”, have moulded, plastic studs which give you a bit of grip without causing too much impact. Astroturf trainers are a good idea for when it gets really hot, or if perhaps you’re playing on a 3G pitch.
In the winter, the ground is much softer and muddier. For that reason, you need more grip under your foot,
You may have to look at football boots as well as rugby boots, just to get a good look at the range of options. Don’t be afraid to browse the junior section either if, like me, you’ve got smaller feet. In fact, you can often pick up some real bargains by getting your boots in the kids’ section. Make sure you go and try on your boots before you buy as well, although that kind of goes without saying.
Soft ground women’s rugby boots
I mainly tend to wear Adidas and Nike boots, but there’s a wide range of brands you can choose from. I’d recommend either of those brands for beginners, but again, be sure to go and try a few on for yourself before buying a pair.
As it’s getting colder, you’ll want a pair of soft ground boots. You’ll need another pair of firm ground ones later on in the season. Another thing to consider is that you’ll probably want to buy half a size up from your normal shoe size. This is because you’ll be wearing thicker rugby socks and possibly support tape as your feet get used to them. Your feet also swell when you’re exercising, so be sure and leave a bit of room for that otherwise you’ll get uncomfortable pretty quickly.
Personally, I really like
Gumshields for women’s rugby: a non-negotiable
Another vital piece of equipment you’ll eventually need if you’re going to play women’s rugby is a good quality gumshield. I wouldn’t dream of playing a game without my gumshield as it’s really not worth the risk otherwise. You probably won’t need one of these for training, but if it helps you to feel more safe and confident then you may as well invest in one now.
Gumshields are non-negotiable if you value your teeth – the nature of contact rugby means you’ll do some falling over, tackling others and other contact-based activities. One piece of plastic can make a huge difference to your safety, so if you only get yourself one thing, make sure it’s a gumshield.
SafeJawz mouthguards are a great solution if you’re looking for a custom-made bit of kit. If you want to upgrade from the beginner gumshields then you can even design your own, or you can also get yourself a discount on a custom-fit mouthguard with my code 10OFFTREAT. They boil and bite and mould to your mouth precisely, so you can be sure that you’re getting precise protection for your teeth.
Another recommendation here is a SISU mouthguard. They’re so thin but incredibly effective, and you don’t gag on them the way that you often can with a gel-based gumshield. They’re a bit more expensive than the standard ones, but 100% worth it in my opinion.
I use one of these SISU mouthguards during matches as I have to do a lot of talking in the position I play. With one of these, you can drink, talk and most importantly for me, play the game without gagging.
Base layers for women’s rugby
These really are what they say on the tin – items of thin, skintight clothing that effectively trap heat within their layers. You’ll mainly need these for the winter months and they can be worn underneath playing shirts and shorts during actual games. Some of them come with thermal linings, which really does make all the difference when you’re training on those colder nights during the winter!
You can really use any kind of leggings, cycling shorts and tops as base layers but it’s worth looking into ones that are designed with outdoor sports in mind for maximum effectiveness. Additionally, don’t worry about looking for base layers that are specifically for women’s rugby. The men’s stuff works just as well, and rightly or wrongly, there’s often a lot more choice amongst the men’s ranges.
Are you going to give women’s rugby a go?
Now that you’ve got some idea of the basic equipment you’ll need, and remember you can get many of these items online or at your local club, what are your thoughts on giving it a try? If you’re still hesitant, I’ve put together a few frequently asked questions about giving the sport a try.
Read this guide, then the best thing to do first is to find your local rugby club and see what their provision is for women. You can go to England Rugby’s Inner Warrior website to search by your postcode for your nearest club.
Absolutely not. In fact, there’s no point splashing out on a mega-expensive training kit because the chances are it’s going to get muddy! The only things you should invest properly in are a good quality pair of boots and a gumshield.
You don’t have to commit to playing league games if you don’t want to! The training sessions are great exercise and the option of playing games with your team will always be there if that’s something you’re interested in.
No! You’ll find that you’re working on your fitness at training without even realising it, so don’t let the thought of your fitness level put you off. There’s a role for everyone on the rugby pitch, so go and give it a try.
I mean, it helps, but no – you’ll pick a lot of it up as you go along, so don’t hold yourself back because you don’t think you understand the rules of rugby.
Not necessarily no. Your coach will teach you the correct ways to tackle, be tackled and make contact with other players in a safe way. You may find the physicality of the game something you need to get used to, but you shouldn’t get hurt if you play safely.
Next time I’m going to look at a beginner’s guide to the actual game itself, and some useful terms you might make use of at training.
I’d love to know your thoughts on women’s rugby and whether or not you think it’s something you’d have a go at. Let me let me know in the comments. You might also enjoy my Fitness boards on Pinterest.