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In France, the Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) announced an ambitious ten-year plan to expand the sport. Since 2007, when France hosted a successful World Cup, attendance to major rugby events has risen dramatically; the Top 14 (T14) professional clubs witnessed a gain of 40%, while D2 (second tier) league increased 68% in these past nine-years.
The term “rugby man” has become the standard for sporting masculinity with former French stars like the bearded Sebastian Chabal, replacing well known French soccer football players to define the apogee of the nation’s maleness. Chabal has become the icon for the French manufactured Ruckfield clothing brand, his number 8 sewed prominently on the back of the clothing line’s shirts and jerseys.
Potentially, one of the most important LNR initiatives is to have each of the Top 14 clubs form women’s sides. This would create a new, professional women’s league of size and substance. Importantly, it would open the door for women ruggers worldwide to play for pay. France hosting the 2014 Women’s RWC generated renewed rugby awareness. Interest has also been aided by the French XV Women’s success in the annual Six Nations Tournament.
With no short-term prospect of a women’s league forthcoming in the United States, Women’s Eagles and would be Eagles could sign contracts to play abroad in France. This would create pathways for Americans to improve skills through weekly play.
An additional LNR plan is to create a series of Men’s sevens tournaments in different cities around the country with each T14 side sponsoring a team.