Scotland have risen to ninth in the women’s world rankings, their highest ever position, following the dramatic 20-18 win over Ireland in the Rugby World Cup qualifier in Parma on Saturday.
They will now go into a final qualification tournament in their bid to reach the finals in New Zealand next year.
Scotland haven’t reached the World Cup since 2010 but have a golden opportunity to return to rugby’s top table. The final qualifier is expected to take place in Dubai in January and will pit Bryan Easson’s side against three nations currently ranked below them: Samoa (16th), Colombia (26th) and an Asian qualifier which will be either Japan (12th), Kazakhstan (15th) or Hong Kong (18th).
“It was a stunning performance by Scotland in Parma,” said John Jeffrey, the chairman of the Scottish Rugby Board. “They were written off after losing the first game to Italy and, listening to the commentators, you’d have thought they were just there to make up the numbers.”
Mark Dodson, the SRU chief executive, added: “Bryan Easson has done a wonderful job to build such a committed and talented group.”
The majority of the Scotland squad is amateur and the SRU says it will look to help them financially as they juggle work commitments.
“It is important that we resource as much as we can to the women ahead of that final qualifier in January,” said Jeffrey.
“They are going to have take another three weeks off to go to the tournament and there is going to be the build-up to the tournament as well, so it is not just resourcing them but getting them time off from their jobs. It is a huge, huge ask for these players.”
The SRU is putting the women’s game at the heart of its strategy for the sport and has appealed to clubs to do more to encourage participation by making girls and women feel welcome.
Dodson is also exploring the possibility of Scottish involvement in the English league set-up and having professional teams north of the border aligned to the two men’s pro teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“We’ll be investing significantly in the game across Scotland but we need every club across the country to open its doors to women and girls,” said Dodson.
“We’ll need clubs to be open to the idea of women’s and girls’ teams and that begins with a sincere welcome and is demonstrated by women being treated equally from day one.
“Appropriate facilities need to be developed and places found for women in the governance structure and grassroots level.
“We plan to incentivise clubs that make the most progress and eventually look at professional teams under the umbrella of our pro teams in Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
Dodson, speaking at the Scottish Rugby agm, knows Scotland faces a battle to try to keep pace with the better resourced English set-up.
“We will engage with the RFU to begin talks around any potential involvement in the English professional league,” he said. “They’re keen that the Celtic nations don’t fall too far behind England and France, and we’ll see where this leads.”