IRB Hall of Fame – Induction No.83 – Carol Isherwood OBE (Great Britain, England, Wasps, Richmond, University of Leeds) 1961-

Personal details

– Born: 27 July, 1961 in Leigh, Lancashire, England
– Family: The eldest daughter of Ken and Nellie Isherwood, she has four younger sisters Linda, Gillian, Gaynor and Sharon.
– Education: University of Leeds (History MA & Post Graduate Certificate in Education)

Early years

A chance meeting with a female rugby player while hop picking in 1981 inspired Isherwood to set up a team at the University in Leeds, where she was studying history. With few other women’s teams in the country the newly-formed Leeds University team either played friendlies or 10-minute matches at tournaments. Unsatisfied, the early teams agreed to establish leagues and a governing body. From 1984 Carol ran a pizza takeaway and then a University refectory while she supported the development of women’s rugby across Britain.

Rugby career

– 1983-1987: Chair WRFU (Voluntary)

– 1987–1992: National Coaching and Development Officer (Voluntary)

– 1986: Captained Great Britain in their first game against France

– 1987: Captained the first England women’s side against Wales.

– 1986–1991: Gained eight Great Britain and seven England caps before her career was cut short after a serious knee injury in early 1992.

– 1993-1998: RFUW Technical Director (Voluntary)

– 1991-2013: Held numerous coaching positions in club, regional, divisional and international rugby. At club level she was head coach of Richmond and Henley. With England, she was assistant coach at Women’s Rugby World Cup 1994 and head coach of Emerging England and England U19s.

2008 onwards: Isherwood has remained involved in rugby as a volunteer, as a member of Lancashire CB committee, as a club coach in the Women’s Premiership club and currently sits on the RFU’s Integration Board and chairs its Women’s Competitions Group. She chaired the recent IRB Women's Strategy group and was a member of the IRB's Sevens Strategy group.

Achievements and awards 

– Isherwood played, coached and administrated at every level of the game and was the first captain of Great Britain and England and the first woman to achieve the RFU’s Level 3 Coaching Award. 

– 2003: Appointed as an OBE by the Queen.

– 2008: Named the IRB International Women’s Personality of the Year 

– 2009–2012: Appointed as the first woman on the IRB’s Rugby Committee.


– 1987–1998: Manager of the Sports Development Team for Westminster City Council 

– 1998–2008: She became the full-time Performance Director and then Director of Rugby for the Rugby Football Union for Women (RFUW).

– 2008–2009: Sports Development Consultant, working with the Scottish Rugby Union and the Black Country County Sports Partnership.

– 2009-Present: Regional Manager for the National Game (London), the Football Association

What she said: 

– Speaking after her appointment on the IRB Rugby Committee: "For anyone involved in our great game, it is an honour to be selected to join the IRB Rugby Committee, but I am particularly proud to be the first woman. I am really looking forward to contributing to the essential service the Committee provides for the whole game and hope I can bring new ideas and a fresh perspective with me."

– On her love of the game: "I love what sport can do for people. I love rugby. The friends I met when I first started playing are mates for life. We still meet up once a year for reunions, which we all consider unmissable."

What they said: 

– IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset: "We are privileged that Carol has joined the IRB Rugby Committee and brings with her a wealth of experience including playing for England, serving England Rugby as an administrator and coached women's rugby at the highest level."

– RFUW managing director Rosie Williams said: "Carol has made an enormous contribution to the women's game. She has been a stalwart for the game for many years, working for over 10 years as an employee of the RFUW and before that 15 years of voluntary service."