• World Rugby women’s leadership scholarships increase from 10 to 14 in 2019
  • More than 100 scholarship applications received globally
  • Scholarship to offer women in rugby more opportunity for leadership development

On the eve of International Women’s Day, World Rugby has renewed its commitment to driving inspirational leadership and fast-tracking the development of women in rugby on and off the pitch through its successful Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarship programme.

Receiving more than 100 applications globally, this year the highly sought-after World Rugby Executive Leadership Scholarships have been awarded to 14 women from different unions, an increase on the 10 who were awarded in 2018.

Working in conjunction with the regional associations, who oversee the application process, the scholarship programme will offer more opportunities for leadership development for its member unions and regional associations.   

A key strand of the Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25 strategy, the scholarship programme objectives aim to support talented women worldwide to further develop their rugby leadership potential and ensure that rugby is a global leader in sport.

2019 World Rugby Executive Leadership Scholarship recipients

  • Cate Sexton (New Zealand): Head of Women’s Rugby Development at New Zealand Rugby
  • Vela Naucukidi (Fiji): Women’s Development Manager for Fiji Rugby Union, former President of the Fiji Women’s Rugby Union (2007-12) and current Secretary since 2013
  • Jane Schmitt (Australia): Director and board member of Queensland Rugby Union
  • Cybele Druma (Papua New Guinea): Former CEO of Papua New Guinea Rugby Football Union and President of the National Capital District Rugby Union
  • Gemma Fay (Scotland): Head of Girl’s and Women's Rugby with Scottish Rugby
  • Katharina Kueß (Austria): Vice-President and head of women’s rugby in Austria, a player and coach
  • Annelies Acda (Nederland): Rugby Nederland Board member and Rugby Europe Women’s Rugby Committee member
  • Irina Arkhytska (Ukraine): Secretary General for Ukraine Rugby Union
  • Regina Lunyolo (Uganda): Chairperson of the Uganda Women’s Rugby Advisory Committee and committee member for the Gender Equality and Diversity commission of the Uganda Olympic Committee
  • Edvige Manga (Senegal): Deputy Secretary General of Senegal Rugby Union
  • María Fernanda Vázquez Villatoro (Mexico): Manager and Board member at Wallabies Rugby Football Club Mexico
  • Lauren Rothwell (Bermuda): Board Member and Public Relations Officer for Bermuda Rugby Union and national team player 
  • Lettizia Alcaraz (Argentina): Women's Rugby Development Manager of the Northeast Rugby Union and former international player
  • Soledad Galleguillos (Chile): Development Manager of Women's Rugby and former international player for Chile, coach and educator

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont: “We would like to congratulate the 14 successful recipients of this year’s World Rugby Women’s Executive Leadership Scholarships. Significant strides have been made across the women’s game since the inception of the ambitious women’s development plan and the scholarship programme has been at the heart of the success story. With an unprecedented number of applications and an increase in recipients this year, positive steps are being made forward in our commitment to fast track the development of women in rugby.”

Serge Simon, Chair of the World Rugby Women’s Advisory Committee, said: “Congratulations to all who have been awarded a scholarship this year. The scholarships programme is a fantastic way of empowering the current and next generation of global female leaders in rugby.”

World Rugby General Manager of Women's Rugby Katie Sadleir said: “Ahead of International Women’s Day we are delighted to confirm the 14 recipients of the World Rugby Executive Leadership Scholarships. By supporting women in rugby to access more learning opportunities that will advance their leadership development, we are promoting greater parity within our sport.”   

Year one of the Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25 strategy has seen important advances both on and off the field including a 28 per cent increase in registered female playing numbers and the implementation of the transformational governance reform which saw the introduction of an additional 17 seats for women on the World Rugby Council with the aim of increasing its diversity.