Portia Woodman is the future of women's rugby. She, in the world of international rugby, is one of the best players in the world right now regardless of gender. In rugby sevens, the new faster version of rugby that has gained popularity, Portia Woodman was absolutely dominant. In 157 matches in her career, Woodman has scored 195 tries and 975 total points. At only twenty eight years old, Woodman has more of her career ahead of her as well, continuing her dominant nature. In 2015 Woodman's efforts in the world of rugby sevens were recognized by the international rugby community as she won the World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award. This high honor was appropriately bestowed to Woodman for her excellent play as a left wing and forward in rugby sevens. Woodman's dominance has spanned many years, she was the leading scorer for rugby sevens over the 2012 and 2013 season, the 2014-2015 season and the following season, '15 to '16 as well. This all led up to the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup where the New Zealand left wing had an absolutely massive tournament. Playing in five games Woodman scored thirteen tries and beat forty one defenders, impressive statistics. Her performance throughout the 2017 season earned Woodman the female player of the year honors, the highest award for a rugby player to earn. This was not only for her experience in rugby sevens but also her time in rugby fifteens, the most traditional form of rugby.
Emily Scarratt's only downside as a rugby player is that she happens to be playing at the same time as Portia Woodman. If they were playing in different eras there is a good chance that Scarratt would be the best player in the world, not her New Zealand counterpart. The English player, Scarratt, plays a different position than Woodman, she is a center and fullback while Woodman plays left wing and, more recently, forward. Both are versatile though, in that they have changed positions throughout their career and both play a style that lends itself to different positions on the field, dominating no matter where they happen to stand. Scarratt, 30 years old, has played in eighty six international matches representing her home country of England, with more sure to come in the next few years. Scarratt reached her position of fame and notoriety during the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup. There, Scarratt and team England beat out the entire rest of the field, winning the tournament. It was only appropriate that their leader and best player, Scarrett, solidified England's victory in the last six minutes of the match. In that final match Scarret scored seventeen total points, to make seventy in total, the most of anyone at the tournament. A talented kicker, she plays versatile rugby scoring points with her foot and with her ability to plow through and go around defenders. In 2017 Scarratt showed she was no fluke scoring fifty six points and leading her team back to the final. In 2019 Scarratt was named women's rugby player of the year, for her efforts being the star of a very talented England team.
Emily Valentine is not on this list because of her talent with the Rugby ball in her hands. It is hard to tell if Valentine would be competitive or be able to sustain the level of talent of other players on this list, in the current climate of competitive women's rugby. Valentine is on this list, however, for her place in rugby history. Emily Valentine is credited as the first woman to officially play Rugby. Though it is entirely probable that women had played rugby before Valentine, picking up the ball in community games here or there, Valentine was listed as a player in the "ruffians game played by gentlemen" and therefore was the first official woman to play the game. In 1884 at Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, Ireland a team was formed including Valentine on their official roster. Her father, who was the assistant headmaster of the school, was an ally of Valentine, supporting her desire to play Rugby with the boys and when they happened to be down a person, Valentine happily jumped into the game. Her desire to play the game is apparent by the many mentions of it in her journal where Valentine discusses her passion for kicking, running and scoring tries despite the uncomfortable women's garments of the time in which she still played. As she wrote in her journal, Valentine actually scored the game winning try in her rugby match, something that brought her great elation. To this day, Valentine's contributions to Rugby are hardly recognized and, though there are six women in the rugby Hall of Fame, there is a strong movement to include Valentine in said Hall.
Charlotte Caslick is one of those players who only comes around once in a lifetime. At only twenty four years of age, Caslick is one of the most dominant and standout rugby players in the world. Caslick is in contention for, and just might be, the best rugby sevens player in the world. In a limited amount of international matches, Caslick can be seen everywhere on the sevens pitch, diving for difficult tackles, making incredible runs to score tries for Australia or ditching out cross field passes to her teammates. With incredible vision for the game, Caslick just seems to be quicker, stronger, smarter, and more talented than all thirteen other players standing on the rugby sevens pitch. In 2016, Caslick came out of her shell and into the international spotlight at the Rio Olympics. There, where Rugby Sevens debuted as the only rugby played at the Olympic Games, Caslick and her Australian counterparts took down the rest of the field before defeating their New Zealand neighbors in the final. In that match, Caslick both saved a try with a diving tackle and scored one with a diving attempt, cementing herself further as a star and giving the world majestic images. That Gold Medal all but put Caslick's name into the household of every Australian family and put her in the conversation for best rugby sevens player in the world. Two years later, in 2018, Caslick and Australia dominated New Zealand and the rest of the field in the Sydney Sevens tournament, beating New Zealand 36-0 and not allowing a single try for the entire tournament. For all of her efforts, Caslick won the Shawn Mackay Women's Sevens Player of the Year award.
Emily Valentine is credited as the first woman to officially play rugby and there are plenty of women who played in the half of a century after Valentine's record making induction into the sport. However, if there is one person who has been the most influential to women's rugby as a whole and has pushed the sport forward in the international spotlight it is Carol Isherwood. Like many other women around her age, Isherwood did not have the opportunity to play rugby, that was something never afforded to her. However, inspired by another female rugby player, Isherwood was attending the University at Leeds when she created a rugby team for her fellow women. From then on, Isherwood led a life of pioneering when it comes to rugby. Where Isherwood went, women, and the game of women's rugby, followed. Unhappy with the disorganized nature of University Rugby, shorter matches, no official records etc. Isherwood and her compatriots decided to form a league for their rugby matches, making them official. Isherwood became a founding member of the Rugby Football Union for Women. The Rugby Football Union for Women made the game more available for everyone in England and the United Kingdom, something for which Isherwood took no credit, despite her being more than deserving. Isherwood became the captain of the first women's English and British rugby teams before ending her career less than ten years before it started due to injury. From there Isherwood became a coach, assisting England at the 1994 World Cup before becoming the first woman to be appointed to the IRB Rugby Committee. In 2013 Isherwood was honored, inducted into the Rugby Hall of Fame.
On this list of rugby talent, last is most certainly not least. Anna Richards began her illustrious career in an age of women's rugby where the sport still had room to grow and flourish and ended it in an era where said sport was still growing, but had gained immense amounts of support, respect, and international attention. Richards got into rugby while she attended Canterbury University in New Zealand. From there she went on to play with the Auckland Storm, a regional team that still managed to be a powerhouse in the game of women's rugby. From 1994 to 2005, an amazing eleven years, the Auckland Storm went undefeated, capturing title after title and dominating the world of women's rugby like no team has dominated any sport at the professional level before. Even big time dynasties like the New Zealand All Blacks or the New York Yankees or the New England patriots still had defeats even in a single season. To go for that long without losing is impressive to say the least. In her international career, Richards was just as dominant and played for teams that were just as good. Much like their male counterparts, the New Zealand All Blacks, the female New Zealand Black Ferns were a dominant team for much of the 1990's and for the biggest portion of Richard's career. The steller fly-half won 49 matches with the team, a record, and played in every minute of the finals of the 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals. Her longevity is unmatched by professional athletes in many sports. In 2014 Richards was honored with an inclusion in the Rugby Hall of Fame and continues coaching to this day.