The continuing development of the Women’s Super League will play a key part in England’s bid for 2021 World Cup success.
Since its inception in 2017, the women’s game has gone from strength to strength, incorporating double-header games with the men’s Super League and Challenge Cup, as well as having games broadcast live on Sky Sports, BBC online and now Twitch.
Bradford, Wigan and Leeds are the three champions so far, while the competition has expanded to 10 teams for 2021 with the addition of Warrington and Huddersfield, as it looks to spread quality throughout.
England international and Wigan captain Rachel Thompson says that the increased competition for places with the national team as a result will help push the standard even further.
She said: “If you look at the set up before the last World Cup, we had maybe two or three teams at the top and that’s where all the best players played.
“There wasn’t much competition for places there. You knew who was going to be involved in the England squad.
“Whereas now there are players throughout the Women’s Super League and the girls are fully aware that there will be a lot of people pushing for places and push people out.
“It’s very competitive, and that’s how it should be. You’ve got to step up or step out.”
Thompson was part of the 2017 England squad that took part in the six-team World Cup Down Under where only four clubs were represented.
She was one of seven Thatto Heath (St Helens) players, with 10 from Bradford, five from Featherstone and one from Castleford.
The England performance squad now draws from six different clubs, with a further two represented in the England Knights performance squad.
Those squads have been training together in the past year, despite there being no domestic action possible.
“Everyone wants to play in the World Cup. I’ve represented my country a few times and there isn’t really a better feeling.
“To play in a home World Cup will be a dream come true.
“We’ve still been training as an England squad so that’s been really good. Although there’s been no other rugby, that’s been a bit of normality, and with the coaches programme, we should be in good shape.”
There will be eight teams in the 2021 Women’s World Cup, with England in a group alongside Papua New Guinea, Canada and Brazil.
They will play group games at Headingley and Anfield, with the top two joining the top two from Group B, which consists of holders Australia, New Zealand, France and Cook Islands.
The final, on November 27, will be a double-header with the men’s final at Old Trafford.
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