By Jacob Leeks

BURY rugby player Megan Kirby has backed her team to go from strength to strength after they won their first ever game.

Megan Kirby is part of Sale 1861 who were set up last September as a collaboration between Premiership side Sale Sharks and National One side Sale FC.

The team play their games at Heywood Road, the home of Sale FC, and train at Carrington, the weekday base of Sharks, utilising the men’s facilities of both clubs.

Now, having claimed their first win after beating England Women’s Deaf Rugby team 30-0 last month, the squad are eyeing up a future in a competitive league.

Kirby has been there from the very start, and she is confident Sale 1861 are more than a match for anyone.

“We’re called Sale 1861 and we were only created in September so we’re not actually in a league yet, we’ll get put into a league next year,” she said.

“The local teams we played we’ve been beaten, but we played the Scottish Premiership teams and we’ve only been losing by one try or a couple of points.

“When we started, we only had a selective few who were asked to join – and now we get new girls turning up week in, week out.

“I got into rugby when I was seven years old and my dad took me to a rugby club. I did that for a year until the team had to fold.

“And then when I went to university, and I joined the uni team and then recently I’ve started playing for Sale Sharks ladies.”

Women’s rugby has grown massively in recent years, with the national team now handing out full-time contracts and a professional league, called Premier 15s, created two years ago.

Kirby mixes her time as a back for Sale with studying for a PGCE and she is adamant the way to increase girl’s participation in the sport is at schools.

“You never hear about it at younger ages, like in primary school,” she added.

"It’s usually just lads playing it, why aren’t girls playing it?

“In high schools we’re not allowed contact. Why not? Why can’t we introduce it to girls at an early age?

"I never really touched a rugby ball at primary or high school.

“I coach the under-15s which got set up a few weeks ago. We have Sale coaches so that’s helped but the degree I’m doing is a PCGE so that’s also helped massively.

“It’s more the media at the moment – anything that goes in the media that encourages girls to join.

"It’s annoying because girl’s rugby is literally nothing, but it’s increasing massively.

“Since I started three years ago, it’s increased massively, more people know about it.”

One of Kirby’s team-mates, Hannah Birch, is also hopeful about the future and both players are grateful for the support Sale Sharks offer, from coaching to the use of their facilities.

“It’s good that they let us use their ground to play on. It’s quite a good ground to play on for a non-established team,” Birch said.

“And we get to use all the training stuff at Carrington.

"We don’t tend to see a lot of the guys. Some of the Sharks boys do come and coach us so you get their experience.

“We had a backs player and forwards player from Sharks so it was nice to see how they play the game because we can build on how they play.”

“I think without the support of the men not many of the women would want to play so I think the men’s team are a massive part of it,” Kirby added.

Although most of the women’s teams linked with a Premiership side are fully professional, Sale 1861 are most likely to stay part-time, but this is not something that worries the team.

“I would like to excel and be full-time if I could but at the moment, I’m on trials for Lancashire so I’d like to play there this year,” Kirby said.

“But it’s more I just enjoy playing and the fun of it.”