Rugby, the at times brutal sport that requires players to ruck, tackle and scrum for a goal, may soon see more female players take to the field.
With news that Canada’s women’s rugby team is advancing to the World Cup finals in France, fans and friends of former players are celebrating the future of the sport for women.
The team includes one New Brunswicker, Woodstock's Olivia DeMerchant and several women who used to play for St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish.
They beat France to qualify for Sunday’s World Cup final.
Former St. FX player Magali Harvey scored the game-winning try and Canada escaped with a tense 18-16 win on Wednesday.
Sport moves forward in N.S.
Captain of the Halifax Tars women’s rugby team Mary Giles says she played with four of the players when they played at St. FX. She also played with DeMerchant on Team Atlantic.
Giles watched the game Wednesday along with her Tars teammates.
“We were up off our feet screaming and cheering it was fantastic,” she said.
“Growing up I’ve watched, hockey and football, all the men playing on TSN but to be able to sit down and see a women’s sport on TSN is fabulous,” she said.
'To be able to sit down and see a women’s sport on TSN is fabulous' - Mary Giles
Giles also coaches a young women’s rugby team. She said the women she coaches are already setting goals now to be part of the World Cup team after watching the national women’s team advance so far.
Jack Hanratty, the provincial coach with a Rugby Nova Scotia women’s team, says he hopes the success of Canada’s rugby women will bring more to the sport.
“I have a feeling there will be a lot more rugby Nova Scotia athletes on the Canada side real soon,” he said.
Not only are the women in the World Cup finals, two weeks ago four Nova Scotia teams returned from the Eastern Canadian Championships, all with golds.
“Now female athletes and female rugby players have people to look up to,” he said. “Women’s rugby now being at the height of success and on national TV means women’s rugby players now have people to look up to and to aspire to and that's going to create a huge explosion in this country.”
'Players now have people to look up to and to aspire to and that's going to create a huge explosion in this country' - Jack Hanratty, provincial women's coach
He said the semi-final match against home team France was a nail-biter, although he wasn’t surprised by the win.
The Canadian women’s rugby team will play England in Sunday’s final.
New Brunswick fans erupt
In New Brunswick, fans cheered just as loud.
“You know, there are some rivalries that go on but we are really proud of Olivia for making it this far,” said Alison Aiton, a former teammate of DeMerchant.
“We love seeing girls that we know, girls we've looked up to, playing at such a high level,” said Stephanie Pratt, a player on the New Brunswick senior women's team.
She and others erupted as DeMerchant was subbed in during the 54th minute.
She said she’ll be watching the finals.
“We'll be here,” she said. “This is very exciting for women's rugby.”