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Women's rugby will be the big winner as England win the World Cup

By lauracfell  |  Posted: August 18, 2014

ALL-CONQUERING England are on top of the world after defeating Canada 21-9 to lift the World Cup.

But it is the women’s game that has emerged from the tournament as the big winner.

There was unprecedented media coverage and interest throughout the World Cup, a level of support that was previously unimaginable.

The England squad’s media wall in Paris, where cuttings from the press were stuck to motivate the women, soon expanded to a second wall and eventually the ceiling.

There were record viewing figures throughout the tournament, with almost three million watching the women’s semi-final between France and Canada.

Stade Jean Bouin was sold-out for the final, despite the fact the host nation were not in it and instead won the third-place play-off game against Ireland.

Giants of the game, from Jonny Wilkinson and Lawrence Dallaglio to Will Carling and Brian Moore tweeted their support, their congratulations and their informed opinions on the quality of the game throughout the tournament.

When Danielle Waterman scored a sublime try in the final after textbook handling from Tamara Taylor and Maggie Alphonsi, men and women alike expressed their admiration, their awe and their delight.

And these were not token gestures or PR stunts.

This was a genuine appreciation of the high quality rugby that was on display in Paris.

It was a sincere outpouring of affection for a squad who have finally achieved World Cup glory at the fourth time of asking.

There was joy for a squad who have endured the agony of defeat to New Zealand for three consecutive World Cup finals.

And there was unparalleled support for the squad, for whom a dream 20 years in the making became a reality in Paris on Sunday night.

No longer was the tournament defined by the tags “women’s rugby” or “women’s sport”.

It was simply sport at its most visceral, its most enthralling and its most emotional.

It was superb rugby, rather than superb women’s rugby.

Look at the front pages of national newspapers today.

The image of England's women celebrating adorns most of them.

And it is a beautiful image, not just for what England have achieved but also for what this level of coverage means for the women's game.

No doubt these women, who made us both laugh and cry in their joyful, unbounded celebrations, will be an inspiration to the men who bid for World Cup glory on home soil next year, 12 years after the glorious scenes in Australia in 2003.

But it is the high-speed growth of the women’s game throughout this tournament, facilitated by England’s massive achievement, that will live long in the memory.

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