Log In

Reset Password

Everyone has a role ‘I liked the fact that you didn’t have to be particularly athletic to play’

First Prev 1 2 Next Last

My mother says I can’t play rugby because it’s a man’s sport that’s the sort of attitude that Anthi Xipolia often encounters while trying to encourage females to tackle the sport.

“The reality is that rugby is the fastest growing woman’s sport in the world,” she said. “We deal with the stereotype that we are all very masculine, but I think that this is generally the problem that all women have in sport.”

Ms Xipolia started playing rugby while in university and sat on the English Rugby Football Union student committee at University College London.

She sits on the executive board of the Bermuda Rugby Football and represents their women and girls’ rugby programmes.

She also heads up the women’s committee, which encompasses representatives from all four major touch clubs in Bermuda.

In touch rugby you merely touch members of the opposing team to release the ball; in contact rugby you physically tackle them.

Her own mother was a little taken aback after watching Ms Xipolia’s first major rugby game.

“She said ‘well done, you can stop playing rugby now’,” said Ms Xipolia, who is originally from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. “It can be difficult to watch.

“If you don’t understand the game people think the tackling is actually more aggressive than it is.

“I had played all sports to quite a high level before then, and rugby was the only sport I hadn’t played.”

She looked at playing netball or hockey but found the girls in rugby to be more inclusive and welcoming.

“They just wanted girls who wanted to play,” said Ms Xipolia. “When I started I did a couple of test sessions and I was pretty much hooked.

“I liked the fact that you didn’t have to be particularly athletic to play. Everyone had a role on the field.

“You could be big and strong or you could be small and fast and you still played a part.”

She plays forward, and is unusually small for the position, but makes up for it with her strength.

“With contact rugby there is a lot of physical contact, you have to have respect for the people you are tackling and the people you are training with, because you could hurt them.”

Despite that, she said the idea that you get injured a lot in rugby is a misconception.

“I think with contact rugby you train so much to be able to make sure that you tackle properly that I don’t think you get injured any more or less than any other team sports,” she said. “You play 80 minutes. It can be tough.”

After university she moved to Bermuda to work as a risk analyst. She coached the boys’ national squad and then went back to university to further her education.

When she returned to Bermuda for a second time she was asked by the BRFU to set up a woman’s rugby programme. It began just before Christmas.

“It has kicked off really well,” she said. “We have lots of programmes going on. I run the after-school programme which is with the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation.

“We had seven primary schools involved with that. The schools are really happy with us, so we are going to take on all 11 primary schools.

“I reckon there will be about 150 girls in primary school playing touch rugby. Then we have our Sunday rugby programme for girls age four to 15.

“There are probably about 12 or 15 girls between 11 and 15 years old that play contact rugby [as opposed to touch rugby]. They are doing really well.”

The BRFU youth programmes recently received sponsorship from Bermuda Commercial, who are also a sponsor of the Australian Rugby Team World Rugby in Bermuda.

Rugby was included in the Olympics in the early 1900s but was dropped in the 1920s.

The Olympics committee only recently agreed to reinstate men’s and women’s sevens into the 2016 summer Olympics after years of struggle.

Rugby sevens sees a team of seven play on a regular-sized rugby pitch.

There is less tackling and it’s a faster game than rugby tens and 15s, which use more players comprised of forwards and backs.

Said Ms Xipolia: “Because of the Olympics, the IRB are putting a lot of money and emphasis on women’s rugby.

“It is pretty much the fastest growing sport for women in the world. It is really catching on in the United States and Canada. Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Team are in the IRB World Series, and Bermuda will be playing them in September.

“We are working towards developing an Olympic Women’s Team and the current Under 15s look extremely promising.”

Persons interested in playing don’t need any prior rugby experience to join.

For more information e-mail Ms Xipolia at womensrugby@brfu.bm.

Useful website: www.brfu.bm

Anthi Xipolia (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Anthi Xipolia (Photo by Mark Tatem)

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published April 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm)

Everyone has a role ‘I liked the fact that you didn’t have to be particularly athletic to play’

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon