25 September 2019

EXCLUSIVE: why Richmond's Vicki Jackson doesn't want the women's game to be on an equal footing with the men's

As a member of the Richmond rugby team on the wrong end of last weekend's 101-0 thumping at the hands of Harlequins, you might think Vicki Jackson would be keeping her head down. 

Think again.

The 35-year-old centre actually dusted herself down, refused to make excuses and gave NewsChain her exclusive insight into that defeat and the current state of the women's game, revealing...

She does not want women to be on an equal footing to men

She does want them to be paid and be professional

She does want women to have the opportunity to be the best

She did expect to lose against Quins, but by 'only 50 points'

And yes, she's thinking about retirement

So let's address that first claim about the equality with the men's game. In order for the women's game to progress Jackson controversially said she does not want women to be treated the same as men.

"It's wrong to say that I want it to be on an equal footing with the men. I think the men's game has flaws that I wouldn't like to be replicated in the women's game," she said.

And by 'flaws', she was referring to issues such as international player qualification, the size of French club squads and the ongoing Saracens salary cap investigation.

She said: "It's well known that New Zealand and other nations take a lot of the Polynesian players at a young age. They give them scholarships so they are naturalised by the time they are 19. 

"Tonga had 22 players playing in other teams this weekend at the World Cup. And then you've got the French clubs who are just picking the biggest players."

And in a general swipe at the elements of the men's game that she finds unpalatable, she said: "So you know out of sheer competitiveness and desire to win, people are finding ethically questionable routes."

Jackson is however adamant that the women's game should become more professional.

"Rather than dive in at the top end and say I want women to be paid, I want women to be professional. 

"I want women to have the opportunity to be the best that they can be so spectators won't be saying that women's rugby is rubbish without knowing the back story. 

"[The back story being] women have only trained two hours a week and they haven't been able to train under floodlights because the men's teams have had it. They haven't had strength and conditioning because the men have had it."

Vicki Jackson, beaten but not defeated after last weekend's mauling at the hands of Harlequins (PA Images)

Her desire for the women's game to be more professional comes after Richmond's humiliating defeat to Harlequins, a defeat the team were expecting according to Jackson. 

She said: "Yeah, I think everyone was expecting a loss. We were prepared, we've had a really really good pre-season, the coaching has been fantastic and there's been a really good buzz about the place with new players coming in. 

"We are on a journey and we're not established players like Quins and Saracens, we have three girls who are 17. You know you don't make Premiership class players overnight or over one season. 

"Quins are taking in players who are established internationals, senior international players. The gulf is massive, in terms of what we are trying to do and who we've got in our personnel and that's just completely different to where Quins are."

Though the team were expecting a loss, the sheer scale of their destruction was not something that was anticipated.

"I thought it would've been 50 points if I'm honest. We've lost some experienced players and we have two internationals who are away at the World Cup.

"I'm not saying we had a perfect game and everything was just due to their size and experience because it wasn't, there were individual mistakes as well."

And Richmond's next game isn't going to be much easier. Jackson's team face defending champions Saracens. Is she expecting another defeat?

"Yeah completely, but you'll see improvements to our shape which will allow us to retain the ball and everyone knows if you can retain the ball you build pressure and scoring opportunites come, our set pieces will be better.

"No [the scoreline] wont be as big."

And so what next for the seasoned player? Jackson says she has been contemplating retirement for a few years.

"I'm certainly thinking about it, the game has changed from what I remember.  

"I played at Lichfield for nine years and that was my group, we grew up together, we went through all the trial and tribulations together. 

"It's [the women's game] attracting a different type of persona and player because of the coverage you get - if you ask any guy who was playing amateur rugby who moved into the professional era they would say the same."

Richmond travel to Allianz Park to face Saracens on Sunday. Kick off is at 1.30 pm

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