Macho sport looks to feminine side in women's World Cup

Tue Jul 29, 2014 12:26pm EDT
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By Andrew Callus

PARIS (Reuters) - It is seen as the ultimate macho sport, but for the 12 captains in Paris on Tuesday at the official launch of the women's World Cup there is much more to rugby than a chance to break a few gender stereotypes.

"There's the challenge of course - it's such a man's game - but it's also just a great sport. There are so many aspects to it," said Kelly Russell, captain of Canada.

"There's physicality, speed, endurance, strength. There aren't many sports where you find all that," Russell told Reuters at launch of the fifth World Cup to be sanctioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB) and seventh in total.

Canada is an established rugby union nation and with men's and women's 7-a-side rugby included in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro the women's game there is edging toward professionalism.

Russell and her team mates are full time players, as are the Australian squad, also thanks to funding linked to Brazil 2016, but others still juggle rugby and professional commitments.

"For me it's the values too," said Spanish captain Ana Maria Aigneren, a Colombian-born physiotherapist who got interested in the game watching her brother play.

"There's discipline, honesty. When you're injured it's real, not like in football."

So how do people react to learn of a woman playing a game labeled as a man's preserve?   Continued...

Team captains (L-R) Anna Yakovleva of Kazakhstan, Shannon Parry of Australia, Shaina Turley of the U.S., Katy McLean of England, Fiona Coghlan of Ireland, Gaelle Mignon of France, Kelly Russell of Canada, Fiao'o Faamausili of New Zealand, Ana Maria Aigneren of Spain,  Rachel Taylor of Wales, and Cynthia Ta'ala of Samoa pose after a news conference for the official launch of the Women's Rugby World Cup 2014 at the Hotel de Ville in Paris July 29, 2014.  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier