St Helens and England captain Emily Rudge is hoping the success of the Lionesses can inspire the Rugby League team to World Cup victory this month.

England women’s football team captured the hearts and minds of the nation by winning the European Championships on home soil in the summer. Now the Rugby League team will have the chance to showcase their talent in-front of the country on the world stage.

“We’ve spoken about it a lot, especially with it being a home tournament for them, it’s something that’s hugely inspirational to us and something we hope to replicate. Obviously, football is a bit more advanced in comparison to Women’s Rugby League, but if we can achieve success we can really elevate the sport like they have done for Woman’s football” said Rudge.

England and St Helens rugby league player Emily Rudge / Credit - Alamy
England and St Helens rugby league player Emily Rudge / Credit – Alamy

The Lionesses’ victory in the summer was a major turning point for Women’s Football, with the players performing on a stage they had never played on before. Competing in her fourth World Cup, the competition this winter is the first in which Rudge and her team-mates will be paid, a huge step forward in terms of professionalism in Women’s Rugby League. This tournament is set to be her biggest yet, and full time Rugby League for women players could be on the cards.

“I think we’re really close (to going professional). Leeds Rhinos have just announced they are planning on paying their players next year, so that’s a huge step in the right direction and I think that shows that professionalism isn’t that far away. It’s really exciting and hopefully with success on the back of this World Cup that should come a lot sooner rather than later”. Rudge said.

England kicked off their campaign off with a resounding 72-4 win over tournament debutants Brazil at Headingly on Tuesday. Even before kick-off, records were already broken with England being cheered on by the biggest crowd for a woman’s rugby league match in the Northern Hemisphere, with 8,621 fans packing the stadium to see an impressive tally of 14 tries. With record crowds expected throughout the tournament, Rudge and her team will be looking to make home advantage count.

“The crowds are going to be the biggest we’ve ever played in front of and the fact that most of them will be supporting England is something really special and something that is going to give us a boost on the field, we just can’t wait to get out there and play.”

Going professional could help success internationally and greatly improve competition domestically, allowing quality in the Women’s Super League reach a level never seen before.

The women’s scene in Australia provides the benchmark. The National women’s Rugby League contract players full-time allowing them to focus solely on the sport, England players can’t do that with day jobs. Rudge who is still a PE teacher at Rainford High Technology College in St Helens, says this approach would hugely benefit England players:

“The set-up in the NRL is amazing, I think they’ve really got it right the fact that their players are full-time professionals which just allows you to lead that life where you can train and recover properly without having to work alongside that which is really challenging.

“All the girls here are aware that you can never truly reach your full potential, working and trying to be an elite athlete so hopefully it does get to that point and we can see a better quality of athlete all across the country”.

The Men’s side have made the perfect start winning their first three games. Both World Cups are taking place at the same time, so the women are at close hand to be inspired.

“It’s great to see the men doing so well, it creates a lot of buzz around the tournament which is great and filters down into our competition and hopefully into the wheelchair competition as well. I think if all three teams are doing really well then that’s going to get more people interested and following us, and hopefully we can follow in their footsteps and do as well as they’ve been doing so far”.

Despite being on the wrong end of a thrashing, Brazil’s clash was still an historic moment as it was just their third ever international:

“It’s always expanding and it really shows the sport is really growing, not just in England but all around the world and I think it’s brilliant”.

“The next World Cup is going to be even bigger, there’s going to be a qualification process for the women, which there wasn’t this time round and there’s plans to have sixteen teams rather than eight”.

With countries from all four corners of the globe taking part, the future has never been brighter for the women’s game. Rudge and England will be looking to make history on November 19th at Old Trafford, with world cup final victory to inspire the next generation.