Three women from Rugby team taking diagnostic swab out of packaging, with BBC videographer filming.CategoriesAnnouncement

BBC Sport cover ‘ground-breaking’ concussion research in Women’s Rugby

BBC Sport cover ‘ground-breaking’ concussion research in Women’s Rugby

Last month, we had a visit from BBC Sport and Marker Diagnostics as part of their ongoing research into concussion testing on female Rugby players. Marker Diagnostics is an emerging biotech company that was founded in 2016 following pioneering concussion research conducted at our university.

The test involves a simple mouth swab to collect saliva samples, which can then detect biomarkers for concussion.

Women's Rugby team huddled on the pitch with camera.
Rugby Women swabbing mouth with diagnostic marker.

After collaborating with the Rugby Football Union in the elite men’s competitions last year, Marker is now collaborating with Premiership Women’s Rugby (PWR) to validate the existing test in women, with evidence suggesting that effects of concussion may be more severe in women.


BBC Sport Correspondent Katie Gornall interviewed members of our Women’s Rugby Union club during their early morning training session on the pitch. Many members of the club had already taken part in the ground-breaking saliva swab test and noted that the test was ‘easy, quick and efficient.’

Watch the behind-the-scenes clips of the club’s morning with the BBC.

Member of women's rugby team sat on bench for interview with Katie Gornall.

 ‘Being a part of the progression it feels really good, especially seeing the difference between when I started and now. There’s so much input going into it now which is really important for the women’s game’  

Jemima Moss, University of Birmingham Rugby and former Worcester Warriors

Kat Merchant smiling holding Hall of Fame certificate.

As part of the research, BBC Sport also interviewed Former Rugby Union wing and University Alumna Kat Merchant, who last September was inducted into our University of Birmingham Sport Hall of Fame for her incredible achievements across her sporting career.

During her time playing rugby, Kat experienced over 30 concussions, stating:


There are some really, really dark times with it, because you don’t know what’s normal any more’.

Watch the BBC Sport Interview.

This highlights the importance of concussion testing within higher-risk sports to help better understand the signs and symptoms. It’s estimated that up to 80% of people experiencing concussions aren’t diagnosed.

Local South African team with University of Birmingham Rugby Union smiling for group photoCategoriesEvents Student News

A Rugby Journey Beyond the Field: Men’s Rugby Union Tour South Africa’s Wonders 

A Rugby Journey Beyond the Field: Men’s Rugby Union Tour South Africa’s Wonders 

Our Men’s Rugby Union embarked on their first performance rugby tour in 2023. It was a fun-filled tour combining rugby, sightseeing, and experiencing the diverse cultures of South Africa.


Head Coach Tom Drewett took 28 players on the tour ranging from first team players all the way to fourth team social players, with aims of broadening the offer of rugby at Birmingham. Despite a delayed departure and luggage issues –  the boys didn’t let it stop them from having an incredible time!

Rugby Union group photo at Motherwell High School
Rugby Union with large seal



The club played two matches and took part in a specialist coaching session with two former Springbok players. The team claimed victory across both matches, beating the oldest Rugby club, the Villagers, (58 – 0) on a wet evening under the beautiful Table Mountain, and Park Rugby u21’s (38 – 12)  showing skill to beat a tough, physical South African team

The club were then hosted by both teams with a good hearty South African Braai.


Players took the opportunity to mingle, with many swapping their touring shirts and kit!

Unveiling South Africa’s Spectacular Sights


The tour was also chance to make some great memories; from eating the local delicacies, to touring the endless sights South Africa has to offer – including a Cape Peninsula tour, wine tasting, a Hout Bay boat ride with seals and penguins, and a Stellenbosch University Rugby Stadium tour. 


The club also had the chance to watch the Junior Springboks train against the Maties 1st XV in preparation for the Junior World Cup. To top it off, in the Club house, they came across Coach Tom’s photo on the wall, celebrating the winning of the South African Club champs in 1997!

Rugby Union in classroom sat down in rows of tables
Rugby Union group photo standing in front of safari cars



A highlight of the tour were the two outreach/community days, which were supported by the University of Birmingham impact fund. Children were provided with boots and kits, kindly donated to the club.


The first outreach day involved a visit to Langa township, the oldest in South Africa, eating in a local ‘bar’ and soaking up the atmosphere. In the evening, the club coached 40 children from Langa who are involved with the Ubombo project run by former Langa residents and now successful businessmen. This was an incredible experience for everyone, and after the coaching session the club learnt and sang songs with the young children.


Day two of outreach was in Motherwell township just outside Port Elizabeth. The club visited a primary school and high school, meeting the students and teachers as an opportunity for the players to experience the life of a young person in Motherwell and providing them with kit to support their rugby journeys.

Group of elephants on safari
Picture of a giraffe on safari

Into the Wild

The tour ended with a three-game safari competition, with the club splitting into smaller groups with aims to see the most spectacular sightings on each game drive. The sightings were incredible with Rhinos (Black and White), elephants, cheetahs and lions!


The tour was an astounding success, and the club hope to build on the links made with Ubombo project and the Motherwell Rugby Club.

Men’s Rugby Union tour to South Africa was an unforgettable experience that combined the passion for rugby with the exploration of a vibrant and diverse country.


Interested in playing Rugby at our University?  Whether you’re an experienced player or new to the sport, there are opportunities for everyone to participate in Rugby at the University – check them out below!

The women's rugby team pose for a celebratory team photo between the rugby posts at University of BirminghamCategoriesStudent News

Double Victory for Birmingham Lions at Engage

After dominating performances, UoB’s men’s and women’s rugby clubs triumphed over Nottingham Trent and Loughborough at Engage.

Opening the second Super Series event of the year with the women’s match, the event looked fated to be a spectacular one. The pre-match build-up heard a lot of talk about the talent in Loughborough’s squad, especially with their impressive undefeated league record heading into the game. For other teams, they may have felt defeated before the match had even begun. But for Birmingham, they seemed to thrive under the pressure. Within the first six minutes, Amber Swinglehurst had broken through the Loughborough defensive line and scored the first try of the match, which was swiftly converted by Sophie Jones to make the score 7-0 Birmingham.

A stunned Loughborough team then made several mistakes in quick succession, allowing for Charlotte Daley to make a fantastic run down the left wing to score the second try of the match. Once again, Sophie Jones was cool under pressure and made a difficult conversion with ease. Loughborough managed to sneak in a lucky try off a loose ball but, heading into half time, Birmingham looked to be in control.

The second half was where the real fireworks began. Charlotte Daley once again stormed down the left wing, dodging three opposing players before she dove over the try line. Another collected conversion by Sophie Jones, followed by tries for Vice Captain Sophie Jarett and Molly Chidzey, brought the score up to 31-12. With the end of the match in sight, Charlotte Daley made an incredible interception to score her hat-trick in the 81st minute of the game.

The final score: 36-12, with Charlotte Daley winning a well-deserved Player of the Match.

It was a tough act to follow, but the men certainly lived up to expectations. Like the women, they made their mark quickly, with Matt Harrison scoring within the first five minutes and leaving Nottingham Trent scrambling to keep up. Despite an equaliser soon after, the Lions took this in their stride with Harrison scoring his second of the night which was coolly converted by Nick Blain. Birmingham barely played a minute in their own half, scoring two more tries in quick succession before Trent finally managed to score again, making it 24-14.

With half time looming, Will Pearce made an excellent run through the Trent defence, diving over the try line much to the crowd’s excitement. A successful conversion by Blain saw Birmingham heading back to their dugout firmly in control with the score at 31-14.

After half time, the tries just kept coming. Some fantastic play from Traynor and Bugg ended with tries for each of them, the Lion’s score creeping higher as the minutes went on. As players began to tire, Nottingham Trent started to make a small comeback, scoring two tries quickly to bring the score up to 50-37. But the Lions had the last say, finishing the game with a bang by scoring and converting their last try in the dying seconds of the match.

Final score: 57-42, with Will Pearce winning Player of the Match for his excellent contribution.

With Engage over for another year, both teams can reflect on their success as they start to think about recruitment once again for next season. There’s never been a more exciting time to play rugby and it’s safe to say that this year’s event will go down as one of the most successful Super Series events ever. It was certainly a night to remember.