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 29, 2008

No National 10s in 2008/09!

Part of the pack given out at yesterday's conference included the latest draft of the "calendar" for 2008/9. Little has changed from earlier drafts - the indefensible block of regional dates after Christmas remains - but something I now realise that is not listed is the National 10s.

This seems - to put it mildly - extraordinary. Indeed words such as "ludicrous", "ridiculous", and "unbelievable" also apply... and others less printable. It also - if the information Worcester have been given is correct - seems to be true.

We all know that the National 10s was not a happy event for the RFUW, first having to rearrange the U18 event due to a small ground booking oversight, and then having to cancel the adult finals when several leading clubs decided they could not be bothered to attend. But that was no fault of the teams who DID turn up.

For U18 clubs - and smaller adult teams - the 10s has been a major event. More real U18 clubs enter the 10s than enter the National Cup (which you will note is still timetabled for 2008/9). This can be no surprise as (unless you have the resources of Worcester) the latter is only really accessible now to "clusters" (who, in the cup, increasingly seem to have a remarkably similar player make-up to regional teams), while for smaller adult teams it at least gives them a chance to play their "betters" on a numerical par. For RFUW to drop the tournaments because of last season's problems that were mainly of RFUW's own making (and certainly not the participants) is grossly unfair slight on these clubs who did nothing wrong.

One thing that was mentioned by several speakers yesterday was the fragility of the women's and girls' club game - the strong England team is in reality supported on a foundation of egg-shells. Dropping a tournament like this does nothing to improve matters. For most clubs the only chance to take part in an RFUW event is now the National 7s, and that one day in May 2009 is a long way off.

Its not too late for RFUW to change its mind - after all they managed to invent an entire U18 superleague for elite players two-thirds of the way through last season, so it cannot be impossible for them to do something similar for the grass roots. If you agree please drop a line to National HQ - Keeley Fathers (if you have her address) or just rfuw@therfu.com, or maybe your regional co-ordinator, or both.

What you all missed... RFUW club conference 2008

Last weekend saw the London & South East club conference at Hatfield. Quite a few familiar faces present and if I have any significant criticism it would be that the major problem with a regional event like this is that you do tend see all the same faces, which maybe limits the value of the networking opportunities. On the other hand the old national conferences were difficult and expensive for everyone to attend so RFUW obviously can't win. Even so turnout was a little disappointing - about 40-50 people registered, and about two thirds attended - but again no fault of the RFUW, more the apathy of many clubs.

To the organisers great credit almost all of the major documents were available electronically (see below), but significant matters of note to us were:
  • A talk by the Saracens Women's coach - Lee Adamson - revealed that Saracens have woken up to the idea that attempting to recruit junior players as they graduate from their clubs might be a good idea, so they are "researching" where the junior clubs are (not an onerous task!). Lee, however, did invite any clubs to join them at one of their training sessions, so that might be worth our looking into as the U18s would certainly gain from seeing the best women's team "in Europe" in action.
  • Lee also said that Saracens are looking for any new players. The rumour that you have o be invited to join the club are untrue. Anyone (aged over 18, obviously) attending midweek training could be picked to play the following weekend, for the 1st or 2nd team.
  • Universities and colleges running sports coaching courses are desparate for coaching opportunities for their students.
Also of wider interest was the news that...
Overall? It was worth attending, and maybe in future the pre-conferences publicity should maybe make it all appear a bit less exclusive. There was probably something for anyone involved in the game - perhaps there will be a better turnout in 2009.

Major papers and presentations:

RFU and RFUW: Integration, not merger

More anon about this and that from yesterday's RFUW Conference in Hatfield, but I thought I'd begin with what came at the end, the answer from Alun Thomas (an RFUW board member) to the question about what was happening regarding the merger of RFU and RFUW.

The topic had been raised a number of times in other parts of the day, so it is clearly a matter of concern (the main concern being why the heck it is taking so long as, at grassroots, it is clear that the general feeling is that it cannot happen too soon). Alun's response was interesting - and rather surprising.

Basically - at the centre - its all driven by money, in that Sport England want only one rugby governing body to make grants to. Things are muddied by the fact that at present two separate boards are able to make two separate bids for funding which means that there are concerns about whether one board would get as much (how realistic these concerns are is anyone's guess). There is also, I suspect, an unspoken concern about whether any grant element aimed at women's rugby would actually find its way through the RFU's coffers to where it should be - my impression is that the denizens of the Twickenham car park do not trust the inhabitants of site's plush new offices over much. Not that they'd ever say that, of course.

Anyway that is why the buzzword now is integration and not merger. This will - if I understood this right - eventually see RFUW as a Consistuent Body within RFU, rather than being swallowed up by it. "We are not going away" was how Alun put it.

As a result its more gradual than a big bang merger. Alun even claimed that much of the process "was already in place". He gave the example that the RFUW rose will disappear from England women's shirts next season to be replaced with the RFU England rose and the words "Women" or "Women U21" or whatever.

There is still a lot to be decided, though. A meeting between top people at RFUW and RFU is planned for Tuesday (1st July), though it is not an insignificant fact that the meeting has been planned before and postponed seven times. Now, something unexpected coming up may happen once or twice, but sevens times sounds odd. I mean, even The Old Farts (© Carling W), out of touch with modern life as they may be (allegedly), will have come across a concept called a Diary. So draw what conclusions you may from that, such as:
a) RFU treat this as a vanishingly unimportant matter and can't be bothered to turn up,
b) One side or the other (you choose) is a disorganised shambles, or
c) There is a degree of jockeying for position going on
Based upon rumour, reading between lines, and off-the-cuff remarks from officials (which is all we have to go on) personally I suspect the latter. The fact that money is the big factor in this (even though the sums are small) is significant - after all if it were for the Good Of The Game and Increasing Player Numbers then you'd think that a staggeringly wealthy and highly principled body like the RFU would welcome the women's game with open arms even if did cost them a penny or two (the cost of the entire women's game would barely make a footnote in the RFU accounts), but from what one hears they want to ensure that any merger/integration does not cost them so much as a brass farthing - while (as we have seen) RFUW want to ensure that money for women's rugby does not get syphoned off elsewhere (as happens with many county CBs at the moment). As a result, with both sides starting from a point in which they do not want to give up anything to each other, it would be small wonder if things didn't get a bit protracted.

And so we get the Integration Compromise - that RFUW become part of RFU by affiliating to it, much as the armed forces rugby unions do.

The big question is whether this will work, given that by the RFUW being only a CB presumably it allows RFU and county CBs to continue to not have any official role in developing the women's game. Granted that many counties have joined the 21st century and do readily support the women's and girls' game, but many do not (or do so as little as possible) and with the Compromise in place its difficult to see this changing.

Indeed one searches around the world to come up with another country which has a similar set-up - and it was interesting to hear Alun mention one that he seemed to see as a model to follow. That country is Scotland. Say no more...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Equality in sport: the Scottish Rugby Mystery

Equality of opportunity. Nice idea. Apparently there are all sorts of laws and stuff that should ensure that everyone gets treated equally regardless of... well, the usual list. There is even new legislation proposed this very week to tackle the subject.

Shame it never seems to apply in sport.

The latest example of this is not an English issue but its pretty close (ie. Scotland) and it seems to be such a blatant example of discrimination in sport that anyone should get annoyed. That for some reason this isn't the case - and the authorities seem to be able to get away (or, perhaps more accurately, see nothing wrong).

What am I on about? Well, the current tale goes back to the mysterious, sudden, and still largely unexplained withdrawl of the Scottish team from the recent FIRA European Sevens competition. A supporter of Scottish women's rugby started asking a few legitimate questions about it (no-one else was). Initially these dealt with things like "why", but given the rather... unsatisfying (?)... response he did a bit of research and then asked a few more. Things like...

  • If Scotland withdrew to save money, why was it left so late?
  • It it true that an the offer of the players to pay for their own travel and accommodation was turned down?
  • How much has been spent on the men's trip to Argentina (relevant as the SRU sent a full management team and big squad)? It really can't cost that much to send a sevens squad and a few extras to France for a weekend.
That was over two weeks ago and for some strange reason its all gone very silent. You can follow the continuing story on the FIRA discussion database - just look for the contributions of "andorrafanclub" from around 10th June onwards - because for some odd reason the press don't seem to have picked up on it. Maybe SRU or SWRU will reply at some point. Maybe its all a misunderstanding. Maybe.

What gets me - what really gets me - is the simple fact that in any other walk of life an organisation that even appeared to be spending large sums of money to support an activity for men while at the same time withdrawing smaller sums from a comparable (even a more important) women's activity would be taken to the cleaners - hounded in the press, and quite possibly the courts. But because this is sport its different. Why?

And to make it worse this is all accepted, most readily by those most affected. There is no reason for that. No-one should ever accept second class status in sport (or anything else) - not because they are "professionals" and you are a amatuers, not because they play in front of thousends and you play in front of dozens, not because they are in the papers and you are not, and certainly not because they are male and you are female.

But all of these excuses are used all the time. In Scotland, in England (as seen with the responses to "In Touch" survey), in the USA with their long battles over "Title IX", in South Africa where the excuse for the lack of support is that women are not professionals, in the media where any or all of the above reasons are given for ignoring the women's game. And because of that no-one asks questions.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Being squeezed

First the "Surrey League" swept up pretty much all the clubs in Surrey, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent (and, for a while, Mid Herts). Then the Thames Valley league took care of rugby in Berks, Bucks, Oxfordshire and (last season) Middesex.

And now we hear that the league rugby is coming at us from the north as well. A "Notts, Lincs and Derbyshire" cluster league is starting next season. As with the Thames Valley league it is being set up with the aim of bringing together players from clubs unable to field full sides and offering them a regular programme of matches.

Which is all well and good and wonderful (and a good idea for clubs in the North Midlands), but what has this to do with us? Well, quite simply our world is getting smaller. Not only do there seem to be fewer teams to play each season (often, I would contend, due to clustering) but also those teams that remain are increasingly joining leagues, which means that they are unavailable (to us) for matches for most of the (shrinking) club season.

It will, for example, be interesting to see what applications NLD get from outside their boundaries. Clubs in Leicestershire will be tempted, and I suspect the same may apply to Northants teams as well (Kettering, for example). Which will leave us with a list of clubs to play that will be, well, a bit short.

Perhaps there will be an East or East Midlands League (there does seem a degree of inevitability about it), but (even supposing we'd want to join) in many ways that will entrench our problem - ie. that we appear to be heading towards a world in which we end up playing an ever reducing number of teams. A solution would be more clubs and more teams, but in the meanwhile in the real world... well, it can't be making Heather's job any easier.

For more information on the NLD Cluster League see below:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Herts Service to Sport Awards: Act now!

The closing date for the Herts Service to Sport Awards is this Friday - is there anyone you think deserves recognition?

Anyone can nominate - you do not have to go through the club - so if you think a certain coach deserves recognition for his efforts; or that the efforts of one or two people involved with coaching youngsters (at school or at county) should be recognised; or maybe the work of some people "behind the scenes" deserve a reward, then put them forward now. You can nominate as many as you like, and it costs you nothing!

Why bother? Well, the awards night is well worth going to and you - as nominator - you will get invites, as well as the nominated person and guests. Free food, and as much drink as you can carry away (ask Hayley and Carla!).

Plus:
  • The winner get a small reward.
  • We as a club get good publicity.
  • If we don't nominate anyone then we risk all the awards going to other rugby teams (even heaven forbid - boy's teams!)
  • We certainly don't want all the other sports sweeping up the rewards, and rugby getting nothing!
Don't delay - nominate today! Click 2008 here for nomination for in PDF, or here for a Word version.

ELVs: the lighter side

This should raise a smile. Total Flanker uses his fertile imagination to consider how the ELVs might look if another sport followed similar logic...

On the other hand, and to be rather more serious, if anyone doubts how potentially dangerous the proposed maul changes are you should have a look at one of TF's earlier posts.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RFUW publish first responses to "In Touch" survey

Some of you may remember that back in November RFUW launched a survey of the views of everyone involved in the game (see previous article). Today the first results of the survey have appeared.

At this stage RFUW seem to be concentrating on the "easy wins" - the things that they can do something about pretty quickly, or indeed already have something available. To a great extent therefore the replies are basically a list of web and email addresses, although some beg a few questions. For example more than a third of respondents wanted more information about grass roots rugby, and the reply refers such requests to the RFUW website.

One is tempted to suggest that it is probable that the vast majority of respondents already know about the website and that the nature of their replies indicated that maybe the website isn't that effective. Indeed the oft repeated comments about this blog (that we often publish information on here before it appears in the RFUW website, even assuming it appears there at all - something that is both flattering and (amazingly) true!) is, I think, a strong indicator that this might be the case.

In addition the finding that 97% of replies thought that facilities that girls and women have to use are poor gets the following unhelpful response:
Visit http://www.community-rugby.com and look under Club Management, Facilities for information and guidance on improving facilities at your club. Also, for information on funding that might be available contact the RFUW office or check out the funding section of the Community Rugby website.
Oh that it were that easy! No possible questioning here, for example, about how fair it is that across the country major club and even representative games often seem to have to play second fiddle to the requirements of mini rugby or boys U13 games, or why girls and women's rugby only ever seems to take place when no-one else wants to use a ground. I think that maybe the word we are looking for here is "discrimination"?

And so on.

Overall, so far so uncontroversial. Presumably the real meat (ie. the criticisms of current structure and policies, rather than simple information signposting) will come out in future reponses - or maybe the replies that I know of from one club (ah hem!) were grossly unrepresentative of the whole? We shall see.

England's biggest women's international tournament - ever

The biggest and most prestigious women's international tournament ever held in England is coming this August.

Admittedly this has been known for some time - at least to the rugby community in Canada and the USA who have been making much of the preparations for some time. The hosts, on the other hand, have been keeping things very quiet and it is only with the publication of today's RFUW Newsletter that we at last have any official notification of the tournament from Twickenham.

The details remain a bit thin, however - indeed at times one has been given to wonder about whether RFUW wanted anyone to know about the event at all. North American sources had indicated that as many as five teams might be taking part - England, USA, Canada, Wales and France. However the Newsletter confirms only three - but then gives a match schedule that at the very least implies four. Whether France or Wales (or both) have dropped out is unclear, but if it is only a three team event its hard to see why two games on each of the first three days are scheduled.

The details that the Newsletter does reveal are that the entire event will take place at Esher RFC in Surrey between 20th and 30th August. There will be two matches each day on each of the first three days - Wednesday 20th (5.30 and 7.30), Saturday 23rd (1pm and 3pm), and Tuesday 26th (5.30 and 7.30) followed by one (the final?) on Saturday 30th (at 2pm). Exactly who will be playing who is presumably not yet decided - its certainly not revealed here. More information on the event is promised in July - one only hopes that the information is forthcoming before the event itself.

It promises to be an excellent event, and well worth attending any day as all the the games should be really competitive (far more so than most Six Nations fixtures). We can expect England to win but it will be no cake-walk. I hope Wales will be in it because after their performances in the Six Nations and at FIRA European Championship they promise to push England close, and we can expect Canada to do like wise. All in all well worth a day out - and if the RFUW aren't going to bang the gong for it maybe its up to the rest of us.

So - don't miss it.

And maybe we could organise a day out to one of the rounds of games? What do people think?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Have Worcester gone teetotal?

Over the weekend Worcester seem to have had some sort of get-together and took the opportunity to display their embarrassingly impressive range of silverware. And good luck to them - they deserve it, managing to be a successful team while remaining fair and friendly opponents (a combination that many clubs find hard to achieve).

However, in the midst of shiny metal there is one item that begs a few questions... an unopened bottle of champagne (see right).

How long would that situation persist here - even supposing we were awarded one? Even if placed in the charge of the coaching staff and parents I really can't see it lasting nearly two months or more. Placed as near as it is in this picture to one or two of our elder players I can't even see it lasting two minutes...

Which makes me wonder. Have the parents, coaching and playing staff of the Manchester United of girls rugby (or is that comparison is a bit unfair... on Worcester!) given up the demon drink? Are they all on the wagon? Have they decided to forgo the evil liqueur?

If so a) is this the secret of their success? And b) if as a result they have no use for the devil's brew I am sure we could organise its disposal for them.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rugby-based circuit training

This is an interesting item - well, it may be. Those of you into training in any serious way, and especially anyone doing GCSE PE (being as designing a sport-based circuit training programme is a key part of your curriculum) may be able to understand it. I can't!

Admittedly that may be partly because, although the "Canterbury Rugby Circuit" is a general fitness programme based entirely around rugby drills, its mainly in German*... well, until now (see below for some translations).

Click on the picture to find out more:

*Basically the German bits translate as...
Upper Body Strength
Complex exercises for strengthening the torso musculature. Goals are the training of one functional muscle balance, increase in efficiency and injury prophylaxis.

Lower Body Strength
Complex exercises for strengthening the hip- and leg musculature. Goals are the training a functional muscle balance, increase in efficiency and an injury prophylaxis.

Core Strength
Complex exercises for strengthening the trunk-stabilizing musculature. Goals are those Training of a functional muscle balance, Increase in efficiency and injury prophylaxis. FORCE VELOCITY TRANSLATOR

Agility
High frequency exercises for the development of a sport near movement speed. A goal is the training and improvement of a sport near action and reaction speed.

Plyometrics/Power
Dynamic-ballistic exercises for the development of a sportnear capable of actionness. A goal is the conversion of the acquired force ability in sport near efficiency.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer rugby course

Swaffham RFC are hosting a very popular and well-regarded Leicester Tigers coaching course in August, and are offering other clubs the opportunity to take part. The event will be held at Swaffham RFC in Norfolk from 4th-8th August, and the club have said that they will try to help any girls from other clubs interested in taking part assistance with travel, etc.

So if you were thinking of spending money (or your parent's money!) on any of the commercial rugby camps this summer, why not save a pound or two and find out more about the Swaffham event. Speak to Spike at Swaffham on 07917 327389 or iandmilligan@btinternet.com.

Promotional video: how others do it

Remembering our promotional video last season, here's one from across the pond which is rather good - its clearly a land with a slightly different view of musical copyright, for example (and you might maybe question the song choice!).

However by the looks of it Fort Collins is a rather pretty successful team - and a team that benefits from its own TV channel, plus someone who is pretty good at linking sound to video. Its let down a bit by rather a poor quality rendition on YouTube - but its still worth a look.



They also seem to have a women's team, who have done a their own video. It includes an interesting answer (about 30 seconds in) from the coach to the question "what is the toughest part of putting a women's team together"...

Monday, June 16, 2008

England complete a European double

Last weekend England completed an impressive double, following their 15s win a few weeks ago with a comfortable triumph in the Women's European Sevens, conceeding only one try (in their quarter final with France) over the whole weekend. Only the semi-final with Spain was even slightly close (10-0), while the final was a 51-0 cake-walk over Netherlands.

Elsewhere it was less clear-cut. Surprise followed surprise with "recognised" rugby nations coming off badly. France barely scraped into next year's World Cup, following a group defeat to Russia, when they beat Wales in a winner-takes-all Plate semi-final. For Wales defeat first to Italy and then Spain was too much for a nation that has played superbly at 15s recently, and who were winners of this event only two years ago. England and France will be joined by Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Russia in Dubai - not a half-dozen that anyone would have predicted.

For FIRA - who run the tournament - the rise of the minor nations was great news. Unlike the at times rather predictable 15s events, (England aside) sevens internationals in Europe are now incredibly competitive and very unpreditcable - something that FIRA and the IRB hope will help with their bid to get Sevens included in the Olympics.

How well do you know the laws?

Think you know the rules of the game? Learn Rugby Laws is an excellent little website that will see what you really know. Included in the site are the usual discussions, links etc. - but the heart of it all is a quiz that will test anyone. The test keeps a running tally of how you've done, and you're given an overall score at the end.

There are two types of questions:

Law Questions which test knowledge of specific, individual Laws, for example:
There are [BLANK] off-side lines at a maul.
A. one
B. two
C. three
D. four
Scenario Questions which test comprehension and application of the entire spectrum of Laws.
For example:
In general play, a Gold player on the half-way line kicks the ball into Blue's in-goal area where it stops one meter from the touch-in-goal line. A defending Blue player, standing with one foot in touch-in-goal, picks up the ball. What do you do?

A. Award a drop-out to Blue; a drop kick taken anywhere on or behind the 22-meter line.
B. Award a scrum, with Blue throwing-in, where the ball was kicked from.
C. Award a scrum, with Blue throwing-in, five meters from the goal-line and five meters from the touch-line.
D. Offer Blue an option of either A or B.
The database currently has over 500 questions - enough for any quiz night! - with full explanations for each answer. Give it a go...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

European Women's Sevens kicks off

The FIRA European Women's Sevens kicks off today in Limoges (France), with sixteen nations - including England - competing for six places in next year's Sevens World Cup.

England have been drawn in Group B along with Germany, Sweden and surprise qualifier Andorra. The only other home nation - Wales (Scotland and Ireland are not taking part) - are in Group D with Finland, Italy and Moldova. Elsewhere Group A features France, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Portugal; while Group C has Spain, Isreal, the Netherlands and Romania.

The top two in each group go through to quarter-finals. Favourites will obviously be England, Wales and France (and a repeat of the recent XVs England v Wales championship final is very possible) - but Sevens is far more open than XVs. Most of these countries play almost nothing else and "surprises" (like Portugal beating Australia in the recent men's IRB London Sevens) are very possible. But overall I can't see England not winning it - the interesting thing will be who comes 2nd to 6th. The quarter-final draw will have a big influence, but overall my "tips" for the six qualifiers would be (in order!):
  • England
  • Wales
  • France
  • Spain
  • Italy
  • Russia
Scores will appear on the FIRA website over the weekend.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Women's World Cup 2010 - potential hosts break cover.

At last someone appears to have bid to host the next Women's World Cup.

Despite the success of the 2006 event in Canada, public bids for the 2010 event have not been exactly thick on the ground and there had been some concern about whether anyone would step forward. Now at last the first bidder for 2010 has decided to break cover and it is (roll of drums...) Germany!

Our Teutonic cousins over the channel have had a long standing enthusiasm for women's rugby, not regretably reflected by playing success (though they had a good European Championship this year), and successfully hosted the FIRA European Championship in 2005. However that was a rather smaller event than what is likely to be required for 2010.

This is, though, a very serious bid. According to the IRB the DRV (Germany's RFU) is hoping that the IRB will see that a brand new host nation would be good for the top women’s event in world rugby and also boost the sport in Germany itself.

At press conference in Hamburg today the DRV proposed that the competition would again be a twelve-team tournament and will take place in August and September 2010. Three potential cities - Hamburg, Hannover and Heidelberg - are being proposed as potential bases for the tournament (though this will probably reduced to two) which will initially comprise four pools, each of three nations.

The IRB have also announced today that they have received expressions of interest from England, South Africa and Kazakhstan, so Germany may not have a complete free run. The summer could be interesting as we what to see what - if anything - the other three countries will propose to compete with Germany's bid. A final decision on which country will host the event is expected in early September.

Despite being up against two "big guns" neither Germany nor Kazakhstan's bid should be dismissed. Only last week the latter hosted a successful Asian championship - particularly for the Kazakhs who won the title for the second year running (in fact they have never lost a game in this tournament) and awarding the tournment to a "small nation" would fit in with a perception of IRB policy, which seems to balance the "closed shop" that applies to the men's world cup (only the Chosen Few need bother applying, as Japan found out) with a tendency to award everything else to any smaller nation that will take it on (I can't say that I think this attempted slight of hand works, but anyway...).

Work for your supper...

A reminder about our chairman's free food 'n' drink at his barbeque tomorrow... for those who turn up to help out with work on the car park! Hard labour begins at 9am, and I'm sure late comers will not be turned away.

It would be good to have one or two representatives from the girls side (parents or players) - that way it'll be easier to call in favours should we need them next season.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Matt Damon to star in new rugby movie

Top Hollywood actor Matt Damon (as in the guy from the Bourne Trilogy, but I suspect that most of the girls will know that!) is to star in a Clint Eastwood directed film in the role of former South African rugby captain Fran├žois Pienaar.

This will be the second Tinseltown feature to centre on the game, but (assuming it goes ahead) it will be rather more high profile than the film reported on earlier this month.

SArugby.com and Rugby Heaven (and many other sources) report that the film will also star Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and that the film will be based on a book about the 1995 South African World Cup win, which is held by many to be a key event in uniting the new nation after the end of aparthied. The likely title will be "The Human Factor" as it will mainly be based on a book of the same name, but it will also include elements from "Long Walk to Freedom" - Mandela's autobiography.

Its all more than just rumour. Contracts have been signed and filming is due go begin in South Africa early next year. The only unanswered question is quite how Damon will put on at least five inches and around about four stones in order to fill the legendary back row's shirt - Pienaar is 6ft 3in tall and at his playing peak weighed 17 stone, while Damon doesn't quite make 5ft 10in nor is much over 13st. Some inventive camera angles required here, methinks!

However, what is without doubt is that a film featuring Eastwood, Freeman and Damon and based around the life of Mandela would potentially hit so many bells that a surefire hit would be almost inevitable - certainly a lot of publicity which will do the game in the US, and come to that around the world, no harm at all.

Memory Lane (part 2)

Today we remember another game in that opening season - and one that was just a shade closer than the first match (and no pictures from this one, you'll be delighted to hear!)...

LETCHWORTH GIRLS SNEAK HOME IN FIRST EVER LOCAL “DERBY”

Stevenage Girls 20, Letchworth 21 (HT: 5-7)

Letchworth met Stevenage on Sunday in the first ever local “derby” between the newly two formed girls teams. It proved to be a fiercely contested thriller between two well-matched sides.

This was Letchworth girls’ seventh game in what has been a hectic first three months of rugby. Stevenage, on the other hand, have been taking things more carefully and building towards what was their first ever full fixture.

Which tactic had been most wise was difficult to judge. The home side certainly proved to be a well-drilled team and throughout the game took full advantage of their weight advantage over their more match hardened - but smaller - visitors. Strong tackling by both sides kept the game scoreless for most of the first half until Letchworth's Carla Kelly finally found a gap and stormed towards the line. It took two Stevenage forwards to stop her, but she still managed to get the ball away to Mel Hobbs on wing who went over for her first try of the season. Carla, despite being winded by the tackle, recovered quickly and added the conversion.

Stevenage fought back immediately, using the weight of their forwards to even the try count a few minutes later, though the conversion was missed. This spurred the home team on and the final few minutes saw them camped on the Letchworth line, held up time and again by determined defence with Steph Crome finally clearing to touch as the half time whistle went.

The second half began much as the first had with a battle royal in the centre of the field, and this time it was Stevenage who scored first (though the conversion was missed) to go 10-7 ahead. Letchworth then appeared to have extended their lead when captain Hayley Guilder found a gap and broke away, only to misread the temporary pitch markings and ran the ball dead. She recovered quickly, however, and with Letchworth running the drop out back at Stevenage and completed another one of her barn-storming runs, handing off several defenders, before putting the ball down ... in the right place this time! Naomi Parnell slotted over the kick and Letchworth were back in front 14-10.

Within minutes Naomi herself who broke away a few minutes later so score a splendid individual try on the left, which she then converted, to give Letchworth a clear lead of 11 points with only four minutes left.

But Stevenage were not finished. Another forward drive brought the score to 21-15. Although the conversion was again missed (all be it only narrowly) with a minute left Stevenage were again on the Letchworth line, forcing the ball over the line only for it to be held up on the line by Ruby Sharp. From the resulting scrum and the last play of the game Stevenage’s scrum-half - supported by most of the rest of her team - drove for the line. In the pile of bodies Stevenage claimed a try, while Letchworth insisted the Stevenage player had dropped the ball and they had touched it down. With only the touch judge having a clear view, after a brief consultation, the try was awarded to Stevenage.

The final kick of the game was therefore the decider. Stevenage’s stepped forward to take the kick... but it was not to be. The whistle went and Letchworth had won by the narrowest possible margin.

But Stevenage won’t have long to wait for their “revenge” – the teams meet for “Part Two” on 9th January at Letchworth.

For Letchworth, now at the half-way point of their first season, this was their fourth win. Though they are developing well, and remain unbeaten against other “new” sides – such as Stevenage and Hemel – they remain some way behind the more experienced clubs, such as Welwyn. Nonetheless it has been an encouraging start and several of their players must be strong contenders for places in the East of England regional squad, which will be selected at the end of January.

The team has helped to put the female version of the game firmly on the sporting map of North Herts. Letchworth and Stevenage on Sunday demonstrated that girls’ rugby is a fast and exciting sport that any girl can take up, enjoy, and be successful at even if they have never played any game like it before (or know the rules!). For spectators, it was incredible to realise that three-quarters of the players on the field had never played “full-contact” rugby before the beginning of the season. And with new girls sections being formed across the county this is a fantastic time to be part of something new – any girls aged 10-17 should come down to their local club and give it a “try”.
The return game a few weeks later was a rather more one sided affair!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Down Memory Lane (part 1)

While searching for something on the RFU website I have found that they still have some of our very earliest match reports buried away. So, especially as they have never previously appeared on here, let's go down memory lane and relive those long lost days when anything seemed possible...

And let's begin at the very beginning...

GIRLS RUGBY TAKES TO THE FIELD IN NORTH HERTFORDSHIRE
by RFUW Press

Letchworth U14 Girls 51, Milton Keynes 12

The sterling efforts of rugby development officers in Hertfordshire bore fruit on Sunday when the first of the county’s new girls teams took the field. After a mere six weeks’ training Letchworth’s Under 14 girls played their first match - and ran out impressive victors over Milton Keynes.

"You have to run that way", shouts Ruby

In front of a sizable crowd of parents, friends, and members of the club’s 1st XV, Letchworth built their victory on the back of a rock solid defence, superb support play, and excellent handling.

Ruby Sharp made “history” after less than five minutes when she went over for the first try following a long jinking run. Three more unanswered tries – including two from team captain Hayley Guilder - were to follow in the first half, which, with a conversion from hooker Carla Kelly, left Letchworth 22-0 up at the break.

A fearsome front row...
All this despite Milton Keynes having as much, if not more, of the ball. Milton Keynes have several talented players, but for a team that had only been introduced to contact rugby last month, Letchworth astonished onlookers with their awareness, their uncompromising tackling, their intelligent use of rucks and mauls, and impressive teamwork all round. Even when players were off the field being treated for injuries, Letchworth’s defence remained impeccable. Whenever a Milton Keynes player had the ball they always found themselves facing a wall of black shirts.

Milton Keynes’ pressure finally paid off in the middle of the second half with two tries, one of which was converted, but by now Letchworth were over 30 points ahead. As their opponents began to tire Letchworth took advantage with three tries in less than five minutes as the clock ran down. But Milton Keynes never gave up, and play ended with Milton Keynes on the attack – but being foiled again by the untiring Letchworth defence.


A line-out that needs some work...
When the final whistle went Letchworth had triumphed by 51 points to 12, nine tries (three converted) to two (one converted).

Girls’ coach John Birch was delighted. “A year ago we had only two girls. Then we got involved in Hertfordshire Active Sports’ tag rugby scheme last spring, started this season with about 10 players, and now we have something like twenty.

“Everyone at the club has been determined to make this work. The girls have been made to feel a central – and essential - part of the club, with the best junior coaches taking it in turns to join me at training twice a week. Word of mouth has pulled the girls in – and the respect shown to them has kept them.

“It was great to hear that the scores were being telephoned throughout the morning to our junior teams playing away at Luton, resulting in outbreaks of cheering there that may have confused many!”

At the end of the day one spectator summed up things up perfectly “they looked like they’d been playing together for years, not weeks!”

Brilliant in (borrowed) black
More tomorrow....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The blog in summer

As you may have seen, there mere fact that there is no actual rugby is not stopping the 'blog from publishing new articles. The aim is - as last season - to try to keep things ticking over by publishing something new every two or three days... and at the minute we are exceeding that by a fair bit!

There is actually more being written about the women's and girls' game now - or at perhaps its just easier to find thanks to the growth in blogs. Either way, the more interesting and relevent news and links will appear here - so remember to drop by regularly.

In fact that is the point. There will be club news and information directly relevent to next season appearing over the summer - remember that county trials are on the second weekend in September - and the continung soap opera that is the ELVs will also be worthing keeping track of. By keeping a constant flow of interesting (hopefully!) articles the aim is that you will get at least some reward if you stop by - even if it will not always be club news - which will encourage you to keep coming back.

So remember to check out the blog regularly - it'll always be worthwhile!

Monday, June 09, 2008

The ultimate rugby video collection

Another interesting way to pass a few spare minutes can be found at http://rugbydump.blogspot.com/.

Dozens - maybe even hundreds - of short video clips (well, not that short - ten minutes in some cases), with new videos being added almost daily. And all categorised - "Big Hits", "Great Tries, "See it and believe it", "Highlights and winning tries", "Try savers", "Great skill", etc. from around the world.

If you've missed an international chances are there may be some highlights on here. If someone talks about a famous try from the past, then it could be here too. If you are looking for a video that demonstrates some coaching point then this could be a good place to start.

Well worth a look.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

How do you rate this blog?

You may have noticed a new addition to the bar on the right. This is from a service which rates blogs. Currently we are ranked at no. 22 in their list of rugby blogs, based on a ranking that their editors have come up with, and I reckon we can do better than that.

The ranking can be changed if more than ten readers follow the link and give their own score - the ranking will then be based on that instead on the editors view. So, if you have a minute or two, please follow the link and give the blog a rating.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

ELVs - the video guide

The IRB have now issued a some videos showing four of the ELV changes in action.
video
In addition there are more detailed notes. The videos available include the controversial maul rules (which will not apply to us, at least not next season), as well as changes affecting lineouts. The video on quick throws is particularly interesting, while the above example, illustrating the effect of the new rule which will mean that teams do not have to have equal numbers in the line-out, will open up a whole new range of tactical options (have more in the line than the opposition when defending, or less?)

All the videos - plus other significant discussion on the subject - are also now gathered together in a new section in the left-hand column.

Finally, Put Me In Coach has just produced the first in what is intended to be a detailed look at each ELV. The first looks at the uncontroversial rule on "Assistant Referees", but even here it raises a few questions.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Would this happen in men's rugby?

Imagine a national rugby team - moreover a UK national team. Imagine that it has just performed very creditably in an international tournament, only losing to probably the top rated team in the world - and then only narrowly. Imagine that it has already entered in the qualifying round for the World Cup - and is one of the favourites, not only to qualify, but probably to finish high in the rankings at the World Cup as well.

Can you imagine such a team being then withdrawn from these tournaments at less than a fortnight's notice because the Union suddenly wanted to (allegedly) "concentrate on increasing participation"? In men's rugby - dammit in male youth rugby - it would be inconceivable. All that training, all that planning, all that cost presumably already expended, all that positive exposure, all thrown away. Wouldn't happen.

So why should it happen (and be accepeted) in women's rugby?

In this case its not England or the RFUW I am talking about, but Scotland and the SWRU. However the attitudes and structures behind this are - I would suggest - the same in many, probably most, rugby playing nations.

To give a bit more background, Scotland were seeded in the top six for the FIRA European Sevens (and world cup qualifier) next weekend - and did extremely well at last weekend's Home Nations, only losing narrowly to England (who must be ranked no. 1 at the moment after recent wins over New Zealand). Then on Monday they suddenly withdrew.

The explanation was only issued today and it is - frankly - pathetic. Before you read it (and you can find it here) bear in mind that countries who will be taking part in this tournament including leading lights of international rugby like Brazil and Andorra and Israel - all of whom can apparently afford something that a supposedly "leading" rugby nation cannot.

Far be it for me to say that this is blatant discrimination - but I cannot see how else you describe it. Will the Scottish men's team also be withdrawing from their World Cup as well (note that both the men's and women's world sevens cups will be played at the same place and the same time)? I wouldn't hold your breath...

How is this relevant to girls' and women's rugby in England? Well, as in Scotland, our game also is run by a small Union separate from the men's union, running the game on a shoestring. We get by mainly because England is simply a larger country than Scotland so there are some economies of scale - the RFUW can more afford to do this kind of thing because it can better absorb the costs. But the disparity of funding that the Scottish decision highlights between the men's and women's game is no different in England.

But all is not quite lost. With a bit of luck players and supporters of women's rugby in Scotland will see this as a great opportunity to highlight this unfairness - maybe embarrass the rugby hierarchy in the country a little. I can only wish them the best of luck.

More on that rugby film


Hmmmm..... I have to say that I do begin to wonder about this one - the plot does look increasingly like the familiar "formula movie". You know, rising star comes back from set back showing courage etc. and winning through in the end.

Still, its a formula that must work or else they wouldn't carry on doing films like this.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

New "Touchline" published

The latest edition of Touchline is out, for those wanting a bit of summer reading (given the current weather what else is there to do - other than revise for exams, maybe?). Its actually quite striking how much girls' and women's rugby is in the current edition - there seems a mention on practically ever page, though the on closer examination the picture in the HQ News section on page three did turn out to be a bloke...

Much of the news is a bit dated as it takes a while for the magazine to appear, but there are some interesting bits - like Randy's (current or former?) corps team losing out in the final of the women's corps trophy, and Joe's college winning the British university championship. And for those looking for universities who play a good standard of women's rugby (which does seem to be a consideration in a fair few cases!) University of Wales, Cardiff (UWIC) and Northumbria University may be worth looking at after a very close final in the women's championship.

Copies of the magazine are available from the RFU, and probably the club is someone is opening the post, as well as online at http://www.rfutouchline.com/.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Free copy of Rugby World, anyone?

You will have to be quick about this one, but in theory you should be able to download a FREE copy of this month's Rugby World (or - if you prefer - one of a hundred or so other magazines) from a new online magazine service launched today by WH Smith.

All you need to do is register and claim the free trial copy - there is no commitment to do anything else. The only teeny snag is that it is limited to the first 10,000 downloads (so you have to be quick)... and there can be a delay of an hour or so before you are fully registered.

Full details about how to do this available from here (see under "What's the deal?") - and we (well, Alcock, K) have a mention on p135!

Sometimes the game can be pants...

Taking the idea of playing on bravely to a whole new level...



Pity they didn't get as far as trying to lift him in the lineout!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Some sanity breaks out in ELV debate

Thanks to Spike (from Swaffham) and Simon Shutler for pointing out the good news that sanity has prevailed in the RFU and that - in England at least - the ELVs concerning the maul will NOT be adopted in U19 rugby, a decision which includes girls' rugby.

Note that all other ELVs will - at the moment anyway - still apply from next season.

It is easy to be critical of large organisations like the RFU, who can seem out of touch with the grassroots, but on this occasion that have been listening very carefully and are actually going out on a limb a bit by refusing to do what many other unions are going along with. As they point out, it could have some repercusions when it comes to youth internationals as we in England will be playing to different laws to everyone else, but it is good to see one organisation willing to put the grassroots ahead of the elite.

The RFU press release on the subject appears in full below.
The RFU Management Board has carefully considered a recommendation of the RFU Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) Implementation Task Group regarding introduction of some of the ELVs into the youth game in England.

The Management Board has approved the recommendation of the ELV Task Group that ELV 2 (shoulders must not be lower than the hips at the maul) and ELV 3 (pulling down the maul) should not be trialled in England at Under 19 level and below until:

It has been demonstrated to be safe in the adult game;

The results of trials currently taking place in South Africa have been properly analysed by the iRB with specific reference to the safety of pulling down the maul at all rugby played at U19 and below;

Agreement has been reached on the safest method to pull down the maul and appropriate coaching techniques have been developed.

Sufficient time is allowed for the safest method and the appropriate coaching techniques to be communicated to all those involved in rugby at U19 level and below.

The RFU will now discuss the issues that may arise with age grade cross-border competitions where other Unions are trialling ELV 2 & 3 with the IRB and affected Unions. However, the interests of young players and the safety concerns expressed by the game will take precedence.

RFU Chief Executive Francis Baron OBE said: "We have received a large number of letters from the youth game expressing serious concerns over the introduction of some of the ELVs in the youth game.

"It is established practice that Unions can apply variations to the Laws at youth level and many Unions exercise their rights in this respect. The RFU intends to exercise its rights in respect of the ELVs of concern to us and the game in England following discussion with the IRB and other affected Unions."

The ELVs explained

Remember the ELVs? The stack of "experimental" law changes that come in next season? Well the IRB have produced what is comfortably the most accessible and understandable guide to what everyone is likely to have to cope with from September.

The IRB Guide to the Experimental Law Variations is a well designed full colour guide which goes through all the changes in a logical order, with plenty of illustrations. The guide (which is dated August 2008!) will eventually be supported by a series of videos - though these are not yet available.

This really is essential reading for everyone - including those who stand on the touchline (so that you know what is going on!).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Are you Rugby Ready?

The IRB have launched a new online resource which "aims to support individual coaches, referees, players and Unions in preparing to play the game and with good practice models for physical conditioning, technique, injury prevention and injury management."

Rugby Ready is an impressive and comprehensive package. Its not a detailed coaching resource - but it does cover the basics of things like tackling, rucks, mauls etc. by means of photos, video, and quizzes. In addition - and perhaps more importantly, as this is the main aim of the resource - it looks at physical conditioning, injury management, getting ready to play, equipment (highlighting the need for things like mouthguards - though I imagine that after last week no-one at Letchworth will ever forget one again!), warming up and warming down, lifestyle, and so on.

Its all free, attractive, well laid out, and well worth a visit - whether you are a player, a coach, an adminstrator, or a parent. Take a look.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Help with the symptoms of rugby withdrawl

The IRB produce a weekly online "radio" show on world rugby, and the latest edition (29th May) includes a short interview with the coach of the England women's sevens team as well as stuff about the men's game.

Each programme lasts about 30 minutes - and a link to the latest broadcast is now in the column on the left. Women's rugby isn't exactly a major or regular feature, but it does seem to get significantly more coverage here than it receives on the BBC!

So this summer whenever you feel that your weekends (and Thursday evenings) are lacking a certain something, click on the link and tune in!

Now the dust has settled...

Best season ever? Could be... Mike Alcock is doing some detailed research for a full statistical breakdown of things, including I think details of all the games going back to Year Zero - wins and losses, tries and so on (when I last heard there was a bit of a gap covering the second season) but using the National 7s - the only tournament we have entered every year...
  • 2005: 16th (U17s and U14s lost to, well, everyone!)
  • 2006: Plate semi-final (we won a game - but then lost to someone called Wimborne...)
  • 2007: Plate winners
  • 2008: Cup quarter-finals
To that we can throw in the National 10s (5th in 2007, 4th in 2008) and even Herts 7s (first appearence in the final of the senior event, though the U14s did reach the final in 2005). And - as a bonus - we got further in the 7s than any other Hertfordshire team, and further in the 10s than anyone else in East Region - or East Midlands come to that.

Admittedly the first half of the season was less than triumphant. Big changes like a new coach can result in a few steps backwards to begin with and so Rochford (for example) was a bit uninspired and in retrospect, moan as we did, we can only be thankful that RFUW put the 10s back!

For now... well, the first weekend without rugby for eight months was a little strange - and think I did see a small group of familar faces trying to deal with the withdrawl symptoms on the top pitch on Saturday. The rugby season "officially" begins on 7th September (though registration, will be the weekend before - 31st August) but in practice - with county trials only a week later - it is likely that something will be arranged before that.

In the meanwhile watch this space... and the new countdown clock!

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