NEW Girls Age Bands from 2022/23 approved by RFU Council
The women’s and girls’ game is moving into an exciting new phase having enjoyed an average year-on-year increase of 12% over the past 10 years. Thanks to the growth in profile and popularity, there are now enough girls playing rugby in England to be able to introduce the additional age band at Under 12 and to reduce the U18 triple age band to a dual band.
Feedback from the game highlighted the need to review the triple age band due to player welfare concerns as well as player development, enjoyment and social factors. There were increasing reports of concerns around expecting 15-year-olds to play with and against 17-year-olds who would turn 18 (adult) during the season, and vice versa.
This was the same at U13 where expecting current Under 11s or new Year 7/Under 12 players to step into a two-year age band, at this major entry point to rugby for girls, presented safety and retention concerns.
What is the purpose?
To create smaller age bands where girls are training and competing against more similar ages and physiques to support player welfare and skill development.
To retain teenage players and support their transition – especially 16-18-year-olds - by no longer having a three-year age band at U18.
To support the future growth and sustainability of girls’ rugby.
To align playing rules to the boys’ game for clarity, consistency and equity as we work towards an equal approach in everything we do.
To support the increasing number of girls currently playing KidsFirst Rugby to transition into girls’ rugby if they wish. Moving from U11 mixed rugby to U13 girls’ rugby has been seen by many as too big a jump. It is important to note there will be more flexibility around the type of rugby U11s can play (see below), so teams don’t need to worry about breaking any chain they have previously built.
What are the changes?
From season 2022/23, girls’ age bands will move from the current U13, U15, U18 bands to:
U11/Year 6 regulations will be changed so girls can:
Continue to play U11 mixed rugby; and/or
Play girls only U11 rugby; or
‘Play up’ into U12s, following appropriate playing up sign-off by parent and coaches, following the approval requirements outlined in Reg 15.3.
We are keen to enable U11 girls to play with U12 girls IF they are ready. However, regulations will remain tight to prioritise player safety and continue to follow a building blocks approach to learning and development to ensure players are physically ready/equipped to ‘play up.’ We recognise there can be a knock-on benefit to the U12 single age group too.
U14s – two year age band
U16s – two year age band
U18s – two year age band
The new age bands and rules of play within each band are summarised alongisde FAQs on the AGE GRADE page here
The RFU recognises clubs, schools/colleges, parents and players will have questions around implications on competitions, pathway, regulations and data systems, and support will be required for volunteers, coaches and match officials.
Please CLICK HERE for initial FAQs which will continue to be updated and will provide further detail around the changes and rules of play.
A detailed implementation plan is ready with full guidance and support planned. This will be communicated during the remainder of this season. We will include targeted engagement in the New Year with key groups such as CB Women & Girls' representatives (already underway), club volunteers/leads, girls’ rugby coaches and referees, schools/colleges, competition organisers and player pathway personnel. The aim is to help everyone plan well ahead of the new age bands coming into effect for the 2022/23 season.