Features | 15 May 2024

Rugby Towns: Wales’ Meg Webb kicks off new video series

The Rugby Journal and Vodafone have teamed up to create ‘Rugby Towns’. The new series shines a light on the communities that have helped shape the Wales Women’s rugby stars of today.

What makes a rugby town? For Wales Women’s international, Meg Webb, it comes down to history, community and opportunity. Three qualities that seem to cement Bridgend’s status as a rugby hotspot.

With several clubs in the area, family legacies are built on sporting loyalties. Webb herself is from a long line of Bridgend Athletic RFC players, her grandfather having set up the club, while her dad, uncle, brother and cousins have all pulled on the ‘green and gold’ at various points.

But it’s only more recently that the women’s game has come to the fore – both in Bridgend and beyond.

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Hometown heroes

“I never thought I could be a professional rugby player,” says Webb. “The women’s game has just changed completely since I started. Before, you wouldn’t normally come across any rugby teams with girls in. Some people didn’t even know there was a senior Welsh Women’s side.”

Webb was speaking as part of episode one of ‘Rugby Towns’ – a new series created by Vodafone in partnership with the Rugby Journal. Focusing on both emerging and established Welsh players, the series goes beyond name and number, exploring the towns that shaped each player.

As Founding Principal Partner of Wales Women and Girls’ rugby – as well as a Digital Transformation Partner of Principality Stadium, Cardiff – Vodafone is no stranger to the Wales Women’s team.

Recent initiatives, for example, have seen Vodafone trial concussion tracking technology with the Wales Rugby Union (WRU) through the PLAYER.Connect platform. As part of a ground-breaking media partnership, six players also graced a special edition cover of Women’s Health magazine.

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Painting the town red

Many of the towns that are set to feature throughout the video series share similarities with those now receiving fast and reliable Vodafone 4G, as part of a government-funded element of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme.

The SRN is one element of Vodafone’s broader network modernisation programme, which includes an accelerated roll out of 5G Standalone and aims to help close the rural divide. A shift that could save almost £1 billion in UK-wide health and social care costs alone.

Likewise, the financial benefits of growing the women’s game are becoming increasingly clear. A report by World Rugby suggests that closing the gender gap would not only see 2.3 million additional female participants, but would add $2.8 billion to the game’s global value.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is helping to drive this growth through its Impact ’25 programme. Supported by the UK Government, Sport England and UK Sport, Impact ’25 has already seen a commitment of £12.13 million in government funding.

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Towards a more perfect union

The home nations will see further benefits of these efforts in 2025, as the Women’s Rugby World Cup comes to England. This will follow the 2024 Guinness Women’s Six Nations Championship, a tournament that Webb made her debut in for Wales against France, in February 2020.

A Wales team that now contains a record number of professional players, following the first full-time contracts being awarded by the WRU in 2022. Despite this progress, however, Webb believes there is still work to be done in her own home nation.

“There are pathways and hubs now…[but] it would be great to see more girl’s teams in Wales, because the support is there…Hopefully [these contracts] can inspire younger girls to carry on playing.”

Watch the full first episode of ‘Our Rugby Towns’ featuring Meg Webb on The Rugby Journal, and stay tuned for the remaining five instalments between now and the 2025 World Cup.

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