Portia Woodman: Black Ferns star breaks new ground in rugby rankings

    (CNN)New Zealand rugby star Portia Woodman is the first woman to be ranked inside the top 10 in a list of the sport's 50 most influential figures compiled by Rugby World magazine.

    Woodman, who was part of the Black Ferns side that won gold at the Commonwealth Games and lifted the Rugby World Cup Sevens trophy earlier this season, is ninth in the biennial rankings, two spots below All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and higher than any other Kiwi player -- male or female.
    The winger has twice picked up World Rugby Player of the Year awards and in the fifteen-a-side format helped New Zealand lift the World Cup in 2017. She top-scored on the sevens circuit this season with 43 tries.
      "Ours is an ever-changing game and with the men's Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 looming large and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo hot on its heels, now is the perfect time to discuss how rugby is shaped," says Alan Dymock, a Rugby World editor and CNN contributor.
      "Portia Woodman's place in the top 10 is owed not only to her sustained excellence on the field ... but also due to her willingness to speak out publicly for the women's game, challenging authorities on behalf of her fellow players."

      Changing game

      On and off the field, it's been a year of change for women's rugby, spearheaded by the first sevens competition taking place at the Commonwealth Games.
      In March, it was announced that Black Ferns players would be receiving their first ever professional contracts, with at least 30 women earning up to $32,000 in what was termed a "significant milestone" for the game.
      Meanwhile, Raelene Castle -- 26th on Rugby World's list -- became the first ever woman to head up a national governing body when she was appointed boss of Rugby Australia last year.
      The list is compiled after consultation with players, coaches, administrators and members of the media from around the globe.