Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Scouting in sunny Sandy

To Sandy, for Bedfordshire Youth Games. Our mission - to seek out new players and new contacts - to boldly go where no girls club has gone before!

And indeed Bedfordshire does seem a different universe sometimes. It is considered by many a "rugby heartland" - Bedford, two rugby clubs in the National Leagues, was (and maybe still is) the biggest town in the UK without a professional football team - so its almost total lack of any girls rugby beyond the one lonely outpost at Ampthill remains one of the great mysteries of local sport.

What is more getting information about what is happening in the county is quite maddeningly hard work. I suspect that smuggling state secrets out of Moscow during the cold war was probably easier than finding out what is happening in the world of junior Bedfordshire sport! And so a mission in person to this unknown land seemed a good idea.

The "away" team that beamed down onto Planet Sandy was me, Mike and Heather Alcock. What we discovered was that Beds Youth Games is a more low key affair compared with the two-day festival we have in Hertfordshire, but then Bedfordshire is a rather smaller world with only four districts (including Luton) compared to Herts ten.

Sandy School has some rather tasty sports facilities though - I suspect that anyone from any North Herts school would go several shades of green with deep jealousy if they had seen it (and quite what colour someone from Highfield would go I hardly dare think about!).

We spoke to coaches and players at the three U14 girls tag teams (Luton did not send a side) and the four U11 mixed teams. The lack of a Luton side in the older age group, plus the fact that the Mid Beds U14s was being run by Ampthill and included no-one from the east side of the district at all (a slight oversight we felt - and I dare say Samantha would agree!!) meant that it was not quite as fruitful on the player front as we might have hoped.

However the girls from the Bedford U14 team were very enthusiastic (maybe they are reading this? If so - hi, girls!) not least because they did not know that rugby was available for girls. Some seriously talented players in that team - and quite... "physical"... too (always encouraging to see a tag player being pulled up for such things - they are clearly ready for the next level!).

In the U11s most of the girls in the Mid Beds side were from Biggleswade (but no Phil??? How was the team selected?). They looked good, if at times a little raw - one girl called Hannah was seriously impressive though. Shame we couldn't get our North Herts Girls together to play them - it would have been interesting.

Obviously we are not going to get players directly from a U11 squad though due to the age group changes - so the main aim with this age group was to pick up some useful contacts for the possible U12 girls team and tournament Heather is planning. In the process we learnt that both Biggleswade and Leighton Buzzard are attempting to set up girls teams (indeed every coach we spoke to said that their club was doing this - which is obviously remarkable news. RFUW Development Officer Claire Sanderson should get down to Bedfordshire immediately!).

We told them about the Rochford festival, asked if there was anything we could do to help, and have now also written to both clubs reinforcing the fact that we would be delighted to offer any girls they may have the chance to play - especially at U15 level - and as a "joint team" in some fixtures if need be.

Ampthill also seem to have a new coach - he was running the Mid Beds U14s so there may be some hope of the game being revived there. And Biggleswade also have a female coach who wants to coach girls!

All very encouraging for the game in Bedfordshire. If the coaches and clubs involved follow up on their words then by 2008 there will be as many teams in Beds are there are in Herts - because the talent and enthusiasm is there in spades!

But personally I returned to base just a bit worried that in practice one of the most enthusiastic teams there didn't know that rugby for girls (beyond tag) existed. So will the words turn into action?

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