In 2019 World Rugby launched the global Try and Stop Us campaign using the inspirational stories of 15 ‘Unstoppable’ women from around the world.
Now, regional associations and member unions have been empowered to search for their own ‘Unstoppables’, with incredible results.
Asia Rugby received applications from 32 countries, including Philippines, Lao, Nepal, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, India, Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nepal, Iran and Lebanon.
In total, 84 applications were received before a 'final 15' is selected.
India's first Unstoppable was Sweta Shahi, and interest in joining her from across the region has been phenomenal.
Back in May, following a live chat on social media between the country's women’s captain Vahbiz Bharucha and kiwi Unstoppable Stacey Fluhler, the India Rugby Union received 60 applications from women wanting to follow in Shahi's footsteps.
The Philippine Rugby Football Union was one of the first worldwide to reveal its own Unstoppable XV and elsewhere similar things have been happening.
You can find out more at asiarugby.com/unstoppable
Rugby Africa received 64 applications from 19 countries and, on 5 October 2020, selected its 12 Unstoppables.
The 12 women represent all corners of the vast continent:
- South (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe)
- East Africa (Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda)
- West (Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal)
- North A (Tunisia and Egypt).
Oceania Rugby ran 'Women in Rugby month' throughout September with activities happening across eight countries.
These events have included girls-only Get into Rugby festivals, women’s competitions and women’s-only Training & Education sessions, plus online forums, professional development sessions and dedicated communications profiles and posts.
In November Rugby Americas North (RAN) ran its first Unstoppables campaign throughout North America and the Caribbean. The online campaign included three 'Try & Stop Us' online panel discussions and followed off the back of huge recent growth in participation.
Between 2012 and 2019, the number of registered female players in the region rose from 31,000 to 43,000 and in 2019 over 70,000 women and girls took part in Get Into Rugby events put on by the region's member unions.
In 2020, Sudamerica Rugby launched its first Women's Coaching Academy with the aim of developing women in coaching positions through the continent. Meanwhile, member unions continued in their work to champion their women's Unstoppables.
Action is also underway in Europe with social media campaigns launching among the regional association and unions.
"It is an incredibly challenging environment for all rugby players around the world," said Katie Sadleir, World Rugby's General Manager for Women's Rugby. "But having something like this campaign really connects people in terms of the values of rugby, the inspirational ambassadors that we're creating through this campaign, which just spur more young girls and boys to be interested in getting involved."