sports gazette

Two Huge Milestones for Women's Rugby

Published: 9 Nov 2016

Rochelle Clark matched Jason Leonard's England caps record tonight; only a few days after Ruan Sims signed the first ever paid women's rugby league contract.

Rochelle Clark tonight matched Jason Leonard’s all-time England caps record.

The England prop, also known as ‘Rocky’, earned her 114th cap in the Old Mutual Wealth Series game against France this evening.

This comes only days after Ruan Sims signed the first ever paid women’s rugby league contract.

Sims signed a one-year deal with NRL side Cronulla Sharks.

She has previously captained Australia’s national side as well as her state, New South Wales.

Sims, 34, and Clark, 35, have both achieved what few believed would be possible when they began their careers.

Clark began her international career in 2003 as the England men’s team became world champions.

She became part of a nucleus of key players who then, more than ten years later, helped the women’s team to World Cup glory in 2014.

She was awarded an MBE in 2015 and has begun moving into coaching, including Chesham Stags Rugby Club where she coaches the men’s team, despite still representing England and Worcester as a player.

Clark has earned the respect of England’s rugby elite.

Jason Leonard told BBC Sport: “Rocky is special. To play at that level of competition for that length of time, she’s an inspiration for everyone in rugby, not just women and girls coming through but for everyone.”

Parallel this with Sims, one of Australia’s best female rugby players.

She has represented Australia in both rugby union and league competitions, captaining the ‘Jillaroos’ in the 2015 NRL Auckland Nines.

Despite her continued success, Sims has had to balance her rugby career with a career in the New South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and has only this week become a semi-professional athlete.

Signing her new contract is a huge milestone for women’s rugby but it also shows how far the women’s game still must go, especially in domestic leagues.

A proposed women’s NRL competition may begin in 2017 and would signify the impact of leaders such as Sims.

Both women are role models the game deserves and should be seen as trailblazers in the sport.

A sport which still has far to go but this week took a significant leap forward.

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