A 12-year-old girl from Great Easton who has been campaigning for PE equality for girls appeared as a mascot at the Rugby World Cup.

Iris Smith, a pupil at Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, has played rugby since the age of six, but her school does not offer rugby to girls as part of the PE curriculum.

After launching a campaign for change, Iris was chosen as a 'Defender of Tomorrow' at the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.

She was awarded the position after sending a video submission, where she shared her story on campaigning for PE equality.

Dunmow Broadcast: Iris with rugby player Max MalinsIris with rugby player Max Malins (Image: Olivia Smith)

Iris was one of 96 children chosen from around the world by Defender, Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2023, for their dedication to making a difference to local communities.

On Saturday, October 14, Iris led Wales onto the pitch against Argentina in Marseille for the World Cup Quarter Final.

Iris met rugby players Max Malins and Chris Robshaw, and learnt the Welsh national anthem, singing in front of 80,000 fans.

She said: "Even though it all felt like a dream, it's an experience I will never forget.

"I was encouraged by everyone I met in Marseille to keep pushing for girls to learn the same as boys.

"Nowadays, there is no such thing as girls or boys sport, if anyone reading this can help with my campaign I'd be very grateful."

Iris plays rugby as an extra-curricular activity, and is the only girl on her school's team, playing scrum half and captaining a group of 30 boys.

School principal David Woods praised Iris's achievement, but explained that the school "cannot provide every sport that every student would like [us] to offer".

Dunmow Broadcast: Iris playing rugbyIris playing rugby (Image: Olivia Smith)

He added: "It is not that we don't want rugby in the curriculum, however, it is simply that the other main sports for girls - netball, hockey, football - are so popular that we focus on them."

The school hopes that rugby may become part of the PE curriculum for girls in the future - once the extra-curricular group grows and develops more opportunities to compete against other schools and clubs.

Iris's mum Olivia said: "Iris felt very encouraged and supported by high profile players, but it seems their support isn't where we will see any results sadly, it's grass roots where change begins.


"As things stand with HAEC, my husband and I don't find their reasoning for not teaching curriculum rugby to girls satisfactory or logical.

"A large proportion of PE staff play/coach at BSRFC and they have all equipment available as they already teach boys.

"We look forward to having a few dates from them for a meeting with key staff members after half term,  who will be able to chat in greater depth with us."

Although Wales did not win, Olivia said the experience was very encouraging for Iris's campaign.

She said: "The cumulative affect in a little corner of Essex/Hertfordshire has been incredible for a 12-year-old girl."

To support the campaign, get in touch by Olivia's Instagram at @the_farm_edit.