WHEN England Rugby launched their latest initiative last month to encourage more women and girls to take up contact rugby, it hardly came as a surprise, writes Fiona Tomas.

Determined to keep reaping the benefits from England’s 2013 World Cup triumph, the unveiling of the ‘Meet Your Inner Warrior Campaign’ by the Rugby Football Union reflected the constant battle the women’s game faces to keep the sport appealing – even fashionable – to prospective players.

The nationwide initiative saw 100 rugby clubs around the country spearhead their own 'Warrior Camps' – fun taster sessions for women who wanted to try their hand at the egg-shaped ball game, in the hope they would get hooked and sign up to their local club.

The promotional ‘Inner Warrior’ campaign video achieves just that.

The short film portrays women from different walks of life who swap office heels for rugby boots and lipstick for gum shields before stepping out together to train on a rugby pitch.

These women appear determined, strong, united and are characterised as true ‘warriors’, magnificently defying the archetypal passive female and the perception that women who sweat, lift and tackle are unfeminine.

The healthy growth of women’s rugby in Berkshire is a testament to the phenomenal rise of the game nationally.

Home to six ladies teams, Redingensians Rams RFC have recently followed in the footsteps of Reading Abbey, Reading RFC, Newbury, Crowthorne, Windsor and Bracknell with the launch of their own women’s team, The Sirens.

It is hard to imagine that Reading were, 25 years ago, the only women’s rugby team in the county.

These were the first trailblazers of the women’s game as we know it today.

They were Berkshire’s ‘Inner Warriors’ just as much as the new girls coming through now are, and the addition of a new local team in the year that England Women will try and defend their World Cup crown in Dublin couldn’t be more poignant to the growth of the game.