Women's club rugby is 15 years behind the men's game, says England legend Tamara Taylor

Tamara Taylor played 115 times for England (PA Images)
16:51pm, Thu 24 Oct 2019
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Women's club rugby is 15 years behind the men's game and a long way off being professional - that's the view of Tamara Taylor, an England legend with more than 100 caps to her name.

And while she is delighted to see players finally being paid to represent their country, she is concerned that other parts of the jigsaw are not yet in place.

"I think we haven't quite worked out what the model is for us in the women's game. You can chuck a load of money into something but [you need to] know how you're going to get those returns on the money you're putting in," she told NewsChain.

"I think we are still trying to find how we are going to make our money at clubs. Is it going to be bums on seats? Is it going to be streaming and people paying to watch games? 

"I think it's a slightly dangerous place to be paying players and turning the game professional until we know where that revenue comes from."

Taylor was speaking at an awards evening for HITZ, Premiership Rugby's award-winning education and employability programme.

Taylor has played for England 115 times and is the second most capped player of all time. The 38-year-old won the World Cup in 2014 and captained the side that won the Six Nations in 2015, but despite all of her successes she never saw any financial reward, something that is now changing.

Tamara Taylor at the Hitz awards last night (Hitz rugby)

It was only in January that women playing for England were given full-time contracts for the first time.

Taylor said: "Having played rugby for England for 13 years it is awesome that those girls can finally get money for something people have been doing for a long time.

"I think that's a fantastic step forwards although it potentially may create an even bigger gulf between some of the nations."

But, as she pointed out, there is also a gulf between the international and club set-ups.

"Club-wise I think we are a long way off it being professional. We are probably 10-15 years behind the men's game."

The Red Roses' success on the pitch has seen an increase in interest and support at matches, with an attendance record being set at the Six Nations match this year against Italy at Sandy Park in Exeter where 10,545 witnessed a 55-0 victory.

However, there is a long way to go before catching up with their football counterparts.

Phil Neville's Lionesses have sold out Wembley for their forthcoming friendly clash against Germany in November. 

So what lessons does Taylor believe rugby can learn from this?

"I think with football it started with the clubs as they are professional and that must filter through the fan base and then England is the pinnacle.

"We haven't got that right with rugby. Ideally you have your club fan base and then people would get excited about the next level up, which is international. But it's only been these last few years where there has been a real investment in club rugby.

"It's brilliant what the RFU have done and Tyrells putting in the sponsorship for the Premier 15s, it's fantastic for those 10 clubs. But maybe they have to be a bit more [focused on] marketing and selling."

Taylor won the Six Nations in 2015 when she captained England (PA Images)

Taylor now plays and coaches at Darlington Mowden Park Sharks who are one of the 10 clubs to have benefited from Tyrells sponsorship. They finished 8th in the first two seasons of the top division. 

She said: "[The start of the season] has been pretty good, we have put a lot of things in place over the summer to try and build on what the first two seasons were like. We're trying to get the potential out of the girls because we had a really great bunch of girls but we never seemed to click.

"So we have had a little more attention to detail around those individuals. We have won a couple of games and scored more tries already in the last four games than we did all of last season.

"We're definitely still building and making mistakes but the feeling in the group is really positive."

Tamara Taylor supports HITZ; a national programme by Premiership Rugby that uses the power of rugby to inspire and motivate young adults. Visit www.premiershiprugby.com/community/hitz.