Ladies’ rugby is taking off in Matlock

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It is a big year for women’s rugby union on the national and international stage — but closer to home a new team is going from strength to strength.

Matlock (Baileans) Rugby Club launched its women’s team in March with just a handful of players new to the sport, but already the squad is now 22 strong.

It does not want to stop there, however, and is inviting potential new players to join the initiative.

Coach Mark Packard said: “It is fantastic that we have grown to 22 members already, but more are welcome.

“No prior experience is necessary. All the girls are new to the sport, so anyone thinking of joining would not be out of their depth.”

In the short-term the plan is for the players to improve their fitness and play some touch rugby, but full-contact rugby is the eventual aim.

The women’s team — Matlock (Baileans) (Ladies) RUFC — will play friendlies next season and may join a league the following campaign.

It is open to women aged 17 and over, although Packard said they eventually hoped to start a girls’ side at under-13 level and then maybe an under-18 team.

The coach added: “It’s a game for all sizes and abilities, so it is suited to all sorts of athletic abilities.

“The girls who are in the team have quickly gelled into a friendly bunch. Many new friendships have formed and they love the camaraderie of rugby.

“They are getting fitter all the time and are learning many new skills.”

On the national stage, England’s women completed a Six Nations Grand Slam in the spring and later in the summer Ireland is hosting the women’s World Cup - a competition England won two years ago.

As part of its work to grow rugby union in England, the RFU launched a strategy to take the game to 100,000 women and girls across the country.

That led to the formation of the women’s side at Matlock.

Community rugby coaches had been encouraging clubs in Derbyshire to start a team and Packard decided to take the plunge after gauging interest.

A promotional push in the Mercury and on social media saw 18 women turn up to the first training session.

The coaching has been supported by Derbyshire RFU community coaches Gary Rudkin and Sean Wright.

The squad recently joined an RFU-organised ‘Inner Warrior’ event at Belper Ladies, where they took part in training and then played a friendly.

Matlock women train at the club, based at Cromford Meadows, on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.

Anyone interested in joining the team can contact the club on 07874 282059.