England captain Emily Rudge believes World Cup success could change the future of women’s rugby league in the country.
The St Helens forward will lead England at this year’s World Cup on home soil, and believes the title could start a new era for the women’s game.
England players have had to balance preparations for the tournament alongside full-time jobs. Meanwhile, heavy favourites Australia compete in the fully-professional NRL women’s competition.
Rudge, a PE teacher who has captained the national side since 2018, believes a World Cup triumph should pave the way for a bright new professional era for the women’s game.
Emily Rudge: ‘We’ve got a massive part to play’
“It’s really difficult – it’s like having two full-time jobs and there’s not enough hours in the day to do everything to the best of your ability,” said Rudge.
“It’s a massive challenge but hopefully it won’t be forever, and this will be the last World Cup where women are working full-time and still trying to be top international athletes.
“If we can win the World Cup, I think asking the women to go back to their full-time jobs would be difficult.
“We’ve got a massive part to play, and having success in this tournament will push things to change sooner than it’s possibly planned.”
A crowd of over 16,000 is anticipated for England’s opener against Brazil at Leeds on November 1, a mark that would set a new record for an England women’s rugby match in either code in this country.
England Women will also face Canada and Papua New Guinea in the group stages.
England boss confident in World Cup success
Head coach Craig Richards believes his side can go all the way at this year’s tournament. England are currently third favourites to lift the trophy behind Australia and New Zealand.
“We are 100 per cent sure we can win it,” Richards insisted. “There are a couple of nations where we will need to be at our best and we need some things to go our way, but we are really confident.
“We are limited in how hard we can push them as what we can’t do is suddenly start training part-time athletes who are still working like full-time athletes.
“But we will do everything we possibly can to get them ready. I wouldn’t have done five years here, and the girls wouldn’t have worked as hard as they have, if we thought otherwise.”