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 today I’m putting 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!
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In this post, I’m going to put together a list of basic points to consider, as well as some ideas for equipment and kit that you might find useful when starting out in the world of women’s rugby.
Before I jump into all the details, I’d really love it if you’d watch this video that gives a bit of background information and context into the rise of women’s rugby, and what’s driving its growth.
Women’s rugby is incredibly popular in all areas of the UK, but especially here in the North East. This is why:
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 over 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 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?
So you’re ready to get started, which is great, so let’s dive into the basic kit guide. First thing’s first, you’re going to need a few essentials to get yourself ready to play. What do you even wear to train in?
- Training kit
- Base Layers (for when it gets cold)
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 (more on that later), 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.
I like to train in thermal leggings when it’s colder because 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! Aside from your club, here are some quick places to start if you’re looking to stock up on 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. Personally I wear an underwired sports bra for maximum impact, just because I feel that everything is locked down much more securely. However, lots of my teammates wear ones like this Adidas Alphaskin baselayer sports bra. The right sports bra will ultimately come down to your own personal preferences, but here are a couple of ones to look at first.
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. 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 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 of the training clothes you could pick up online if you’re planning on getting started with women’s rugby.
Gilbert Vixen Leggings – Gilbert is one of the top brands in the world of rugby so many of their products are designed with women’s rugby in mind.
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 (although I’m going to need a new pair since I’ve started to build muscle in my legs more!)
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 for when it starts to get colder as well!
Tops and t-shirts are something you can pick up anywhere, in fact, I wouldn’t bother buying new ones especially for rugby training – 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 etc, but 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 types of positions, but you don’t need to worry about that too much just yet. Annoyingly, women’s rugby boots aren’t quite a thing 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 for the winter months and firm ground boots for the spring/summer months. It might sound like an extravagance 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.
In the spring and summer months, the ground is much drier and harder, and so you really don’t want to be running around on studded boots – you’ll end up with blisters on your feet at least and possibly lower leg injuries at worst. Firm ground boots 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.
In the winter, the ground is much softer and muddier. For that reason, you need much 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 is a wide range of brands you can choose from. These are some of the boots I’d recommend for beginners, but again, be sure to go and try a few on for yourself before buying a pair. As it’s getting colder, let’s look at soft ground boots, and I’ll return to firm ground ones later on in the season. Another thing to consider is that you might 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.
Canterbury Stampede Club SG Rugby Boot – Junior sizes of these boots will suit anyone with feet sized 4, 5 or 5 1/2. For larger sizes you’ll need to check out the men’s boots sections.
Adidas Malice SG Jn02 Boots – 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 may not 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 of 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’re 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. With one of these, you can drink, talk and most importantly, 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.
So, 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?
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 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, 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 not you think women’s rugby is something you’d have a go at! Please do let me know in the comments. You might also enjoy my Rugby Fit boards over on Pinterest.