World Rugby has announced that the pioneers who organised the first women’s Rugby World Cup and recent stars of the game will be celebrated at a special World Rugby Hall of Fame presented by TUDOR induction in New Zealand in November.
Six legends in Deborah Griffin (England), Sue Dorrington (England), Alice D. Cooper (England), Mary Forsyth (England), Kathy Flores (USA) and Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand) will be honoured at the Rugby World Cup 2021 semi-finals at Eden Park on 5 November.
The World Rugby Hall of Fame presented by TUDOR recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to the game of rugby throughout their careers, while also demonstrating rugby’s character-building values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
While Kathy Flores will be inducted posthumously, Griffin, Dorrington, Cooper, Forsyth and Fa’amausili will attend the private capping ceremony before they are presented to the Eden Park crowd between the two semi-finals.
In a Rugby World Cup year, the theme selected for Hall of Fame inductees in 2022 is women in rugby with Griffin, Dorrington, Cooper and Forsyth the four pioneers who were the driving force behind the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup in Wales in 1991.
Flores, who passed away last October, was another pioneer, both as a player and coach having been part of the USA team that won the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1991 and later coached the team to two tournaments.
Fa’amausili, the youngest of the six inductees, played in five Rugby World Cups for New Zealand, winning four of them – the last as captain at the 2017 edition in Ireland. The former hooker was the most-capped Black Ferns player until passed by former team-mate Kendra Cocksedge this year.
The six inductees bring the total in the Hall of Fame to 160 since it began in 2006.
World Rugby Chairman and Hall of Fame inductee Sir Bill Beaumont said: “It will be particularly special this year to honour those who have made an enormous contribution to the growth of the women’s game as pioneers and inspirers.
“From those who challenged the establishment to launch the first women’s Rugby World Cup, to Kathy Flores, a pioneering driving force behind the growth of the women’s game in the USA, and a five-time Rugby World Cup participant, world champion and game legend Fiao’o Fa’amausili. All have made a significant contribution to the history of our sport and, it is with their pioneering spirit that we will accelerate the profile, growth and impact of women in rugby worldwide.”
Fellow World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee and Chairman of the Hall of Fame panel John Eales said: “It is so important to recognise the contribution of those who have elevated women’s rugby to where it is today. Today, the World Rugby Hall of Fame celebrates the contribution of some true rugby pioneers and some of the greatest players in the history of the women’s Rugby World Cup. Congratulations and thank you to these special women.”
For more information on the World Rugby Hall of Fame, visit www.world.rugby/halloffame.
World Rugby Hall of Fame 2022 inductees
No.155 – Deborah Griffin (England)
No.156 – Sue Dorrington (England)
No.157 – Alice D. Cooper (England)
No.158 – Mary Forsyth (England)
No.159 – Kathy Flores (USA)
No.160 – Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand)
Deborah Griffin (England)
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.155
Deborah Griffin first picked up a rugby ball in 1978, along with a group of friends at University College London, who had challenged their rivals at King’s to a match.
Five years later, she became a founding member of the Women’s Rugby Football Union (WRFU) and it was through her involvement with the amateur organisation that she became the chair of the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup organising committee.
In January 1990, Griffin laid out her plans for the tournament that would become the women’s Rugby World Cup and her peers were so impressed that they asked her to chair its organising committee.
She was joined by three Richmond team-mates, Alice D. Cooper, Sue Dorrington and Mary Forsyth, who helped in the search for a host city, match venues, accommodation and funding.
The four women encountered challenges at almost every step of the way – while Griffin and Forsyth both became mothers for the first time – but on 5 April, 1991 12 national teams gathered in Cardiff to attend the opening ceremony. The following day the opening matches were held at grounds across South Wales.
Culminating with a final, in which the USA beat England, at Cardiff Arms Park on 14 April, the inaugural tournament was considered a success by players, supporters and media but Griffin spent the following months trying to balance the accounts.
Griffin stepped away from rugby administration in the aftermath of the tournament but returned in 2002 and became the RFUW chair in 2005, fulfilling the role for the next seven years. In 2010, the same year she helped organise RWC 2010 in England, Griffin earned a seat on the RFU Council and was an RFU Board Member from 2014-20.
In 2018, she created history when she became one of the first female representatives on World Rugby’s Council.
Sue Dorrington (England)
Born: 10 June, 1958 in Waconia, Minnesota, USA
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.156
Growing up in Minnesota, USA, Sue Dorrington was an avid sportswoman, enjoying running, horse riding and water skiing.
It was when she started playing rugby in the early 1980s, however, that she says she found a community of like-minded people.
Her passion for the oval-ball game was such that in 1983 she moved to London in search of more competitive rugby. Her quest eventually took her to Finchley, where she would meet Deborah Griffin and Mary Forsyth, and onto Richmond, where they were joined by Alice D. Cooper.
Dorrington worked as a charity fundraiser and was experienced in dealing with sponsorship and commercial contracts, so when Griffin started to plan the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup, she was a natural choice as commercial manager.
By this time, and following a switch from centre to hooker, Dorrington had represented both Great Britain and England in tests.
She therefore juggled her role on the organising committee with a quest to become England’s starting hooker at RWC 1991. The dual role came in handy as she organised complimentary accommodation for the England squad in Cardiff.
Dorrington missed the official opening ceremony as she looked after Griffin’s daughter, Victoria, but the following day lined up at hooker for England against Spain in Swansea.
It was a position she did not relinquish for the rest of the tournament, starting the 19-6 final defeat to her native USA at Cardiff Arms Park on 14 April, 1991.
Three years later, Dorrington captained England against Scotland at RWC 1994 but didn’t play in the final when England beat the defending champions USA 38-23. After playing her final test in 1997, she continued to run out for Richmond with distinction, being the only player in the club’s history to represent Richmond over three decades, holding her first team place and missing one game only. Dorrington was recently named in Richmond’s all-time dream team.
Dorrington was also Richmond’s first-ever female vice-president.
Alice D. Cooper (England)
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.157
It was by chance that Alice D. Cooper started playing rugby. During a night out in Richmond in October 1986 she met two members of the town’s recently acquired women’s team who told her they could do with tall players like her.
Cooper had long held an interest in the game. Her uncle Philip captained Middlesex and represented Rosslyn Park, while she had stood on numerous touchlines watching various boyfriends play.
So, 10 days later she dug out an old pair of lacrosse boots and headed down to her first training session at Richmond, where she would meet Deborah Griffin, Sue Dorrington and Mary Forsyth.
Her height helped her to excel as a forward, and Cooper would go on to represent the South East of England. She was considered for England and later had trials for Scotland, but test recognition eluded her.
By the time that Griffin began to plan the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup, Cooper was also a regular contributor to Rugby World & Post, writing her own column on the women’s game. This made her an obvious choice as press officer, and on the road to South Wales she devoted countless hours to generating media coverage for the tournament.
During the women’s Rugby World Cup itself, Cooper could often be found in a windowless room at the National Sports Centre for Wales, which she dubbed the ‘bunker’. Here she typed up team sheets and match reports, organised the printing of the programmes and handled calls from journalists. She also played in a unique match where a scratch team of the tournament organisers and volunteers played and lost to the Russians.
Following the tournament, Cooper served as press officer at the WRFU, but a broken leg suffered whilst captaining the Richmond sevens team brought her playing career to an end in 1993.
Mary Forsyth (England)
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.158
Born into a large, sporty family in Pittsburgh, USA, Mary Forsyth enjoyed an active childhood and became a high school athletics prospect.
However, becoming a varsity athlete was not an option for Forsyth when she enrolled at Penn State University in 1977 as she needed to get a job to pay for her studies.
Fortunately, she discovered that a women’s rugby team had just been set up and so she swapped her running spikes for a pair of boots.
Forsyth represented Penn State for the next four years and continued to play rugby when she returned home to Pittsburgh. In 1985, she transferred to London for work and found herself living yards from England’s first women’s rugby club in Finchley, where she would meet Deborah Griffin and Sue Dorrington.
The following year, Forsyth and her team-mates moved south from Finchley to Richmond, and she would later use her accounting qualifications to help get her new club’s finances in shape. She would also win a solitary cap for England – against Sweden in 1988.
It was perhaps unsurprising that Griffin would tap into those skills as she asked Forsyth to serve as the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup’s financial controller.
Many of the organising committee meetings on the road to South Wales were held in a boardroom at the central London office where Forsyth worked at the time.
Seven days before the tournament was due to kick off, Forsyth gave birth to her first child, Kathryn. Although, she would understandably not make it to Cardiff until the weekend of the final, she retained an organisational role, relaying message from her home in Ealing to Griffin and Alice D. Cooper out in the field. Forsyth continued to support her club at Richmond as Club Treasurer and Chair of the Women’s Section.
Kathy Flores (USA)
Born: 7 February, 1955 in Philadelphia, USA
Died: 21 October, 2021 in Rhode Island, USA
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.159
Kathy Flores was a gifted player and pioneering coach who gave so much to the game of rugby in the United States.
Flores started playing rugby as a 23-year-old at Florida State University in 1978 and soon became a staunch advocate for women in an otherwise male-dominated sport as well as excelling on the pitch in her own right as a number eight.
Flores captained USA in their first-ever test against Canada in November 1987, scoring a try in the 22-3 win, and remained synonymous with rugby throughout the next four decades until her passing at the age of 66.
The Philadelphian was a member of the Women’s Eagles team that defeated England 19-6 in the final of the inaugural women’s Rugby World Cup in Cardiff in 1991 and featured in the second Rugby World Cup three years later, appearing at flanker and hooker.
Despite retiring as a player in 1998, Flores’ relationship with Rugby World Cup did not end there, as she also coached the Women’s Eagles to fifth-place finishes at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. She was the first woman and first woman of colour to lead a national team.
Flores made the same transition from player to coach with Californian club, Berkeley All-Blues, with whom she won 11 national championships from 1994-2010. In 2014 she assumed the head coaching position at Brown University, one of the first varsity programmes in the USA.
She passed away in Providence, Rhode Island, after a year-long battle with cancer in October 2021. Flores is best known as a beloved teammate, coach, mentor and friend, as well as a fierce advocate for women’s equity and access to rugby.
Fiao’o Fa’amausili (New Zealand)
Born: 30 September, 1980 in Apia, Samoa
World Rugby Hall of Fame – Inductee No.160
Regarded as the one of the most formidable hookers in world rugby, Fiao’o Fa’amausili played in five Rugby World Cups for New Zealand, matching the Black Ferns’ record of former teammate Anna Richards.
First capped in a 36-3 win against Australia at RWC 2002 in Barcelona, Fa’amausili went on to become the first Black Fern to play 50 tests during RWC 2017 and held the mantle of most-capped player with 57 tests until surpassed by Kendra Cocksedge in June 2022.
Fa’amausili was appointed captain in 2012 and led the Black Ferns on 34 occasions, including to victory at Rugby World Cup 2017. She had also played in the 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 editions, helping New Zealand to victory in the first three of those tournaments.
Always leading by example, Fa’amausili was a massive driver of the level of professionalism and dedication that enabled the Black Ferns to dominate for much of her time in the black jersey, which came to an end in November 2018 when she made a try-scoring farewell against France.
In the year of her retirement from test rugby, Fa’amausili was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit and also nominated for the World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of Year accolade for the second time in three years.
Throughout her 16-year test career, Fa’amausili served as a police Detective in the Auckland district of Counties Manukau, while also representing the province on the rugby field no less than 106 times. During her time with Auckland, she won an incredible 15 domestic titles.
Fa’amausili was selected as hooker in the World Rugby Women’s 15s Team of the Decade in December 2020 and a year later was elected president of Auckland Rugby, the first woman to hold the position in the union’s history.
World Rugby Hall of Fame panel:
John Eales (Australia, Chair), David Hands (England), Henri Garcia (France), Pablo Mamone (Argentina), Rob Cole (Wales), Anna Richards (New Zealand), Wayne Smith (Australia)