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Phaidra Knight predicts positive future for women's rugby in United States

Former USA international Phaidra Knight
Image: Phaidra Knight played at three Rugby World Cups and is now forging a career in MMA

Phaidra Knight says the restructuring of USA Rugby can help significantly raise the profile of the women's game in the United States.

In March, the board of USA Rugby voted to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of "insurmountable financial constraints" in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The governing body is undergoing a restructuring process with input from World Rugby and described the decision as the best way to "deliver a foundation for future stability".

There is no professional league for women in the US but former international Knight believes changes are afoot that will provide a real shot in the arm for the sport.

"This restructuring we've undergone is the best thing that can happen to the organisation since its inception," said Knight, speaking exclusively to Sky Sports Check In.

"What I am seeing is a number of female athlete leaders like Jenny Lui, Jamie Burke, Alev Kelter, Kate Zackary, Alycia Washington, Kristine Sommer, who are all national-team players. They are now taking the reins, not only on the pitch but as leaders on councils and potentially in the boardroom, and as coaches and referees.

"We and the people that came before us have worked so hard to create the opportunity that lies now for women in the sport.

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"For so long we have advocated for equal treatment, resources, media and in the case of playing, an equal calendar to the men's.

"We continue to mount that pressure on USA Rugby to write it into the laws, and we will continue to put that pressure on World Rugby to do the same - to aim, to create the women's game and to put money and real resources behind it in the way that they have with the men's game.

"You have got to get the sport on television and streaming platforms so people can see it."

USA international Kristine Sommer
Image: Kristine Sommer (pictured) and Alycia Washington founded the XV Foundation to support the women's game in the USA

This year the USA XVs found themselves in a position where they had to raise their own money.

Current internationals Alycia Washington and Kristine Sommer took matters into their own hands by creating the XV Foundation, which has become the funding mechanism for the XVs team.

Knight said: "They are taking destiny into their own hands but they have some incredible pioneers that did that in 1991 (when USA won the inaugural Women's Rugby World Cup).

"They are standing on some incredible shoulders to propel them forward and when you have that kind of leadership at national level, where folks are doing it instead of complaining about it, then it's only going to trickle down.

"From a club perspective, when they can see what the national team is doing, it will inspire more grassroots rugby.

"There is greater alignment between our councils. I've a tremendous amount of hope. I feel pretty good about the women's programme in the US and where we are going.

"We certainly need more support and opportunity but I feel good about the people who have invested themselves into pushing it forward."

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