• Nicky Ponsford to join World Rugby on a two-year secondment from the RFU starting in July 2021
  • World Rugby Executive Committee approves an increase of £600,000 to the initial £2 million RWC High Performance Preparation Fund
  • RWC 2021 High Performance Investment Fund will benefit qualified teams and those still within the qualification process

World Rugby has announced the appointment of Nicky Ponsford as Women’s High-Performance Manager on a two-year secondment from the RFU starting in July 2021.

The appointment comes as World Rugby’s Executive Committee reaffirmed its commitment to supporting RWC 2021 qualified teams and those still within the qualification process, by approving an additional £600,000 to the initial £2 million Rugby World Cup High Performance Preparation Fund, announced following the postponement of the tournament earlier this year.

Ponsford is one of the most successful and widely respected high-performance managers in the women’s game and she will bring a wealth of experience and energy to a role that aims to raise standards across World Rugby’s support of teams, beginning with the 19 unions who will benefit from the additional RWC 2021 support.

Ponsford will support unions as they deliver their women’s high-performance programmes and assist in development of international standard training environments, structures and practices as they prepare to compete in qualifiers and at the pinnacle event in New Zealand in October 2022.

The RWC 2021 High Performance Investment Fund has been established to ensure that teams competing in New Zealand and those still within the qualification can prepare to be at their best, with the additional funding to support:

  • Extension of Rugby World Cup preparation camps, enabling teams to assemble in high-performance training environments with coaching and management teams
  • Facilitate an increased competition programme across 2021 and 2022, including additional Rugby World Cup preparation fixtures
  • Provide enhanced performance support in tournament, with the establishment of a pool of locally-based sport science and sport medicine practitioners to support specific needs of each team while in New Zealand

Joe Schmidt, World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance, today said: “We are delighted to welcome Nicky to the World Rugby High Performance team. She brings vital experience and knowledge, having led women’s high-performance programmes in England since 2002.

“With RWC 2021, the new annual WXV competition starting in 2023, and a newly expanded RWC 2025, women’s international rugby is entering into an exciting new era. We are committed to assisting unions who are implementing world-class HP programmes and supporting the development of player pathways and development structures.”

Nicky Ponsford said: “I’m really looking forward to starting this secondment with World Rugby.

“To have the opportunity to work with World Rugby to help develop and grow the international women’s game is a really exciting prospect and I can’t wait to get started.

“Having worked at the RFU for almost 20 years, I have developed strong relationships across the global game and am looking forward to strengthening those further.

“With the World Cup taking place in October 2022 and WXV calendar set to start in 2023 this is an exciting time for the game.

“Naturally, I am sad to be leaving England Rugby for this period, especially as the Red Roses embark on their World Cup journey and the Allianz Premier 15s heads into its fifth season, but I think the game in England is in a really good place and am confident that it will continue to move from strength to strength with the drive from within the RFU.

“There are fantastic people involved across the women’s game in England both at international and domestic level and I will miss working with the players and staff involved.”