Women’s sport is booming according to former Richmond prop and Scotland captain Karen Findlay, who is now relishing the prospect of leading Harlequins Ladies into the all-new Women’s Super Rugby league.
Harlequins will be one of ten teams to join England’s new women’s domestic rugby union competition, starting in September.
Last season, Aylesford Bulls and Harlequins formed a partnership with the aim of making the side one of the best women’s teams in Europe, and with the creation of the new women’s league, now was the perfect time to bring Aylesford firmly under the Harlequins banner.
Six Premiership Rugby clubs in total will have affiliated teams in the new competition when it kicks off, and Findlay admits that creates opportunities her players have never had before.
“It’s been a really successful partnership, with Harlequins and Aylesford working together,” said Findlay, who is co-head coach of the team alongside Gary Street.
“It’s brought us to a club with a really sound infrastructure that really wants to promote inclusivity, and it came at the right time for us.
“It will be a new set-up for every women’s team but for us, it’s fantastic to have the support that comes with being part of a big professional club. We’re part of the same brand.
“I have to say the welcome from everyone at the club has been phenomenal, right the way from ground staff at the Twickenham Stoop to coaches that are based out at Surrey Sports Park.
“We have use of some fantastic facilities, great medical treatment, and access to some of the best coaching in the game to develop our own skills. It’s exactly what you would want around a top-flight women’s club.”
Harlequins also boasts Switch, a successful community programme aimed at inspiring and helping girls to play rugby that have never tried the sport before.
After rolling out fully in January, around 300 girls are now coming through the scheme, with Harlequins coaches also looking to identify talent and create a pathway to the top of the game.
And with Women’s Sport Week running at the moment, Findlay believes there has never been a better time to be a female rugby beginner.
She added: “A lot of existing players at the club have been historic supporters of Harlequins, and some of them are involved already with the Switch programme that is bringing around 300 girls through. That’s a massive success.
“There’s a phenomenal growth within women’s rugby. The community is getting bigger and adding to the game.
“The success of the England’s women’s national team is driving that, and the girls have really fantastic role models there to look up to – the same as there is in women’s football, netball and cricket at the moment.
“Women’s sport is really up there now, and we have a fantastic opportunity to get more girls playing sport – and if that happens to be rugby, then fantastic.”
Preparations are already well underway for Findlay, Street and the rest of the Harlequins squad for the start of the new campaign, with two friendlies already set up to get them in the best possible shape for September.
“We’re in discussions with the RFU at the moment, who are keen to help all the clubs in any way they can, and then our open day will be on July 1, swiftly followed by the start of preseason,” Findlay said.
“We’re playing two friendlies against Lille, who won the French league last year, and that should set us up nicely for the start of the season in September.”