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...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Biggest ever international summer

You wouldn't know it going by the press or even the RFUW website, but this summer is going to feature an awful lot of international women's rugby, including the largest and most prestigious tournament ever held in England. In fact so much rugby is to be played that the leading English players will have a summer "break" lasting barely two weeks (if that).

One reason for this was the decision to include a women's competition at the 2009 Rugby Sevens World Cup. Sevens is bit of a sideshow in the men's game, but for women's international rugby it isn't just big, its huge!

In many countries the only version of rugby that women play is sevens. Take, for instance, the recent FIRA European (XVs) championship - that featured 15 counties, out of maybe 18 who could have realistically entered. The equivalent Sevens tournament, due to be played in Limoges, France on 14th/15th June, has had so many entrants - 34 in fact - that FIRA have had to organise two qualifying events, the second of which will take place this weekend in Belgium.

The first qualifier was held in Bosnia a couple of weeks ago and saw Romania, Finland and Israel win through to join three teams from this weekend's event, plus France, England, Spain, Wales, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Russia, Portugal, and Scotland. The top six from that will then go to Dubai next year.

And across the world it is the same. While around 80 different nations have competed in major women's sevens tournaments in the past four or five years, only just over half that number have played even one XV-a-side test.

So how are England doing at sevens? The answer seems to be pretty well so far. England have never failed to reach the final of any European championship that they have entered (ie. the last three), though they have only won it once (in 2005), losing to Wales in 2006 and France last year. But in recent weeks England have begun to step up a gear and have beaten New Zealand "Aotearoa Maori" (effectively the full New Zealand team) twice in a fortnight, a significant performance considering that the New Zealanders had only previously lost one sevens match... ever!

This weekend, as a warm-up for Limoges, England will be taking part in a Home Nations sevens in Edinburgh where they will take on Wales and Scotland (Ireland do not seem to do Sevens).

After the Limoges event, on 7th August England are due in South Africa for a massive sevens tournament featuring South Africa, Canada, France, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Samoa, Wales, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Tunisia and Zambia - a mini World Cup, in effect.

Then a week or so later - on 16th August - begins perhaps the highlight of the summer, especially for those of us in England, as we are due to host a XVs competition (the Nation's Cup) that most sources say will feature England, USA, Canada, Wales and France - five of the top six (XV-a-side) nations in the world. No details about the event have been published so who will play who where and when is anyone's guess - but this (apparently annual) event will be well worth trying to see as it does make the Six Nations look like a bit of a sideshow.

And the following week... well, the 2008/9 season begins. Rugby for elite women is now a full-time occupation!

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