Female Canadian rugby star to make history at inaugural tournament

Kelly Russell will play on the first ever women’s Barbarian team

Canadian captain Kelly Russell will make rugby history Nov. 10 when she takes part in the inaugural match for the women’s Barbarians.

Barbarian FC, home to the famous invitational world all-star side, was founded in 1890 but it has taken 127 years for women to join the men.

Russell won her 50th cap for Canada during this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Ireland. The 30-year-old back-rower from Bolton, Ont., also helped Canada to a bronze medal in sevens at the 2016 Olympics.

The female Barbarians will make their debut against Munster at Thomond Park in Limerick, Ireland. It’s the first of several matches planned for the 2017-18 season against club, provincial and international sides.

The full schedule will be confirmed later this year.

“We’re delighted to open a new chapter in the Barbarian FC’s history with the creation of our women’s team this season,” Barbarians chairman John Spencer said in a statement. “Its formation is something we’ve been working towards for a number of years and it is a reflection of the excellence of the global women’s game which was showcased so brilliantly at this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.”

Giselle Mather, the Wasps FC director of rugby and a World Cup winner with England in 1994, will coach the team.

“The Barbarians are one of the reasons I fell in love with rugby and to be coaching this side is a massive honour,” said Mather. “I can’t wait to get these players from all different nationalities together with everything they bring from their different environments. It’s going to be a massive opportunity for all these athletes.”

Other players who have already committed to the Barbarians team for the Munster game include Susie Brown (Scotland), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Claire Cripps and Megan Goddard (England), Elen Evans (Wales), Emma Jenson (New Zealand) and Christelle Le Duff (France).

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press