I am pleased to see the RFU have taken action against Richmond RFC, with regards to the women’s championship final. Their decision to play 5 players who had been part of their 1st XV squad, in their 2nd team for that fixture, including players who were even part of the premiership final squad that beat Saracens the week before.
First off I want to say I am not anti-Richmond. I think what Richmond have done for the profile of the women’s game is unquestionable and their victory in the premiership final was nothing but deserved. I watched their last three games starting with wasps and finishing with the premiership final and they got better every game. They are a huge asset to the women’s game and a driving force behind its improvements.
I am however against unfairness and the decision Richmond made to allow this to happen is nothing but unfair. It is also more than that; if it was a wilful decision to subvert the rules, then there are serious questions for the club to answer.
I happened to be at this final as I was supporting a player I had previously coached and whom I think has a natural talent for the game. I noticed straight away players like Laura Kapo who is without question a premiership rugby player and a fine one too. I felt a bit let down to see her play in a game that she really was too good for. Without disrespecting Waterloo I don’t think the squad that played in that final is good enough for premiership rugby. They need an influx of key players but they should be entitled to fairly contest for the title. In doing so and potentially qualifying for the premiership those players would have been attracted into the club. To do that it has to be a level playing field and the rules and regulations have to be abided by.
I have always admired the integrity of the women’s game, it sets about achieving professional standards with very little funding and without very much support. Teams fight hard to survive and this situation is a huge embarrassment, for the women’s game and for Richmond. I hope some valuable lessons will be learnt by it. I also hope it sends out the message that as the game grows and its profile increases. Incidents like this need to be dealt with severely if it is to maintain that integrity.