Catherine Spencer: Ex-England Women's captain says World Rugby's gender neutral change is the wrong decision

GMSW Catherine Spencer

Former England Women's rugby captain, Catherine Spencer, has spoken out against World Rugby's gender-neutral rebranding of future World Cups.

World Rugby announced earlier this week it will drop the gender titles from future World Cups. In doing so, it will become the first sports federation to make the change and adopt gender-neutral titles.

Spencer, who captained the Roses during the 2010 World Cup, played for England in two World Cups and eight Six Nations competitions, believes the change could have negative implications on the visibility of the women's game. 

“We have been fighting for years to promote women’s rugby and to tell the world it is OK to be a woman and play rugby. By renaming the Women’s World Cup, I think we have lost that identity of celebrating women’s rugby.

“There has been so much growth over the past year or two but I feel that a lot of that is being undone by taking away the word 'Women’s'. I think adding 'Men’s' to their World Cup would be better," she explained.

The first competition to be affected by the governing body's name change will be the women's competition in New Zealand in 2021. The competition will now simply be known as the Rugby World Cup 2021. It will be marketed with equal billing as all other World Cup tournaments.

This change follows a push from World Rugby to amplify and elevate the women's game on the world stage. Earlier this year, their Women in Rugby brand launched the Try and Stop Us campaign to promote growth and investment in the women's game.

Sir Bill Beaumont, the World Rugby Chairman, said on the change: "This announcement demonstrates our ongoing and unwavering commitment to advancing women in rugby both on and off the field in line with our ambitious strategic plan. 

"Unintentional gender bias in sport is an ongoing issue. As a global sporting federation, we need to be leading from the front on the issue of equality. By adopting gender balance in the naming of men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup competitions, we are setting new standards for equality in rugby." 

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