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...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ex-Legend takes to the field in Cambridge ....

News from Cambridge is that former Letchworth U18s captain, Katie, (shown here playing for Letchworth against Wimborne last season) played her first match for Queens' College on Thursday in their 15-7 victory over Jesus College.

Apparently, Queens' ladies train on the green outside the college observed by a considerable number of overseas tourists who, in the tradition of 21st century tourists everywhere, take holiday snaps of this quaint English custom!

Blog ratings - the good news, and the bad

With this - our 1,000th blog posting - I can report an exclusive preview of tomorrow's new blog rating shows us that we are up again -  this time three more places, so we are into the top ten of Wikio's list of the most influential UK sport blogs!

Unfortunately this hasn't proved quite good enough to hang onto the "top rugby blog" title as Total Flanker has done even better as its shot up seven places to sixth. Oh well, it was good while it lasted. Still, together we are leaving several soccer sites behind - in fact we, Letchworth Girls, are ahead of the fan sites of every football club other than Arsenal*.
1Arseblog 8Formula One Blog 15Cycling Info
2SoccerLens 9Letchworth Girls' Rugby16Women's Rugby Review
3F1 Fanatic 10West Ham Till I Die17Footie Blog
4King Cricket11West Ham Fans 18FCB News
5Gunnerblog12The Corridor (a cricket blog)
6Total Flanker13BlogF1 20BBC Sport Editors' Blog
7Line and Length14Suave's Republique Cricket

*Not that I generally give a hoot for the round-ball game**, but it is fascinating to see which football clubs do not feature even in the top 100 despite - allegedly - having the largest fan base. I wonder what it says about the relative literary abilities (or lack thereof) of each club's supporters?

**I had to actually referee some soccer games at a couple of schools last week - first time I'd been actively invoved in anything to do with the sport for about 35 years. Had to restrain myself blowing for offside when the ball was kicked forward... Reminded of the story of when Hayley and Carla played the game for the first time at Highfield when apparently they took several minutes to realise that you could pass the ball forward.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plans for the weekend: games for U15s and U18s!

If you missed training tonight (or even if you were there) a reminder that this weekend we have something of a Chiltern Challenge, or maybe Border Battle, or some such. Anyway - for the first time we will be playing host to both of our neighbours, Stevenage and Ampthill. 

At the moment numbers look sufficient for a triangular U18 "tournament", as well as a U15 match combining players from all clubs. In fact what we will be doing will be having an afternoon very like a South West region matchday (as featured earlier this week). 

Our guests are arriving at around 1pm, so kickoff c1.30 to 2.00.

How to find the nearest girls rugby team... to anywhere

I've just noticed that (without wanting to blow my own trumpet or anything) one result of my mapping of all the girls clubs last week is that if you now go into Google Maps and enter any town (or county) into the search bar along with "girls rugby" and you now get a map showing all the girls rugby teams near to that town, or in that county.

Some search results reveal other related sites, but that is the nature of a search engine. However, you can narrow down a search by age band (eg. adding U18 to the search string) or team size (eg. by adding "Category A").

I'm amazed - really I had no idea that Google Maps was a good as this. 

Sasha selected for England U20s squad!

Many congratulations to Sasha on being named in the 2008/9 England U20 squad announced by the RFUW today (see here). Commiserations to Hayley who got through to the final selection phase but just missed out this season.

The 34 player squad includes 16 new players, with 18 returning from last season. The latter includes both of the Inside Centres - the position Hayley was trialing for - so it was a particularly tough call for Hayley this time round. However next season at least one (and possibly both) of the existing players will be moving out of the age band, so with the additional advantage of another season's experience behind her Hayley's chances should be all the greater. Certainly all the reports back from the trials indicate that she looked very capable of playing at this level.

Sasha's electrifying performance at the last trial makes her selection no great surprise, but it is still a heck of an achievement. Overlooked by the TDGs last season, a different style of selection (based more on team play than drills) allowed her to show the selectors what she can really do. However, its not all over yet because Sasha will now be competing against three other props who already have their U20 caps for a place in the team to face Wales in April and the squad for the Nations Cup in June.

Other familiar names breaking into the squad for the first time include Lizzell Heather (Kettering, selected as a wing), Natalie McClarnon (ex-Basford, now Saracens, hooker), and Megan Williams (Welwyn, full-back).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

National 10s: ...and Scotland too!

In Scotland the SWRU are also holding a nationally organised girls 10s tournament - in fact two - and, as in Wales, both are in the first half of the season. Their first tournament will be in Glasgow on 9th November followed by a second event in Perth the following weekend. They also have a senior 10s in January, another youth tournament in April, and a youth "Festival of Rugby" in May.

Its interesting that smaller unions like Scotland and Wales can support nationally organised club events like this (both also have national cups and, certainly in the case of Scotland, a national 7s). But then both unions also only have one level of representative (ie. regional) rugby which does free up the calendar a bit.

Incidentally, if anyone fancied a real adventure the Scottish Girls Sevens is on 6th-7th June (the week after our nationals) - no venue details yet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

National 10s: Wales show the way

A bit late picking this up, but the Welsh have a good idea when it comes to running a National 10s - they ran theirs at the start of the season. The aim of the day was to get everyone back into a competitive frame of mind before the start of the adult National Leagues and age grade regional competitions.

There are no-where near as many girls teams clubs in Wales, so direct comparisons concerning turnout at these competitions is difficult. Wales, in terms of club numbers, is no bigger than an English region - there are 12 clubs in their National League - so to have four U18 and six U15 clubs represented in the competition was a good turnout (it was also the first competition in Wales played in the new age bands). The U15 winners were Cardiff, with Colwyn Bay runners-up. Neath were the U18 champions.

Several of these teams are expected at April's "NTR" National 10s in Gloucester - which is still definitely "on" at the moment, incidentally. The organisers are working hard to clear a number of (for want of a better word) "unusual" administrative obstacles, but with five months to go (and the active support of several clubs determined to ensure the event goes ahead) they are confident that the event will go ahead.

While on the subject of matters Welsh, another interesting development is that they have effectively but scrapped their junior regional stucture (and they never have the added complication of a county structure, incidentally). The old regions have been replaced by teams run by the four Welsh professional clubs - Scarlets, Ospreys, Blues, Dragons - plus a fifth team (Gogledd Cymru) representing North Wales. The same structure is likely to be adopted at senior level.

Again its an interesting idea. A direct copy in England would be difficult as our professional clubs are just that - clubs - who have to fight against relegation each year (a battle one side always has to lose). The Welsh teams are regional sides who can plan for a long term, stable, future and will see the commercial benefit of establishing a strong identity in a community. In addition, of course, women's rugby in Wales is not a separate sport so there is an obligation on the regional teams to support both men's and women's, boys' and girls', rugby equally.

However, the idea of establishing strong and active links with professional rugby clubs is an idea with some merit. Certainly East Midlands Region have benefited from links with Leicester Tigers in the past, and both Gloucester and Bath have been active in the South West North and South respectively. Talented boys already benefit from being selected to "Academy" teams (including several from Letchworth) - why should not the same happen to girls?

Crossbar challenge

This looks great fun. 

I suspect that we probably won't have anyone who could do this from halfway, but I wonder who in the team could manage to throw the ball over the bar from furtherest out?

Or maybe Wonky might like to show us how its done?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fantastic advert for women's rugby

The North American sevens final ended up being rather earlier than expected, but the USA and Canada put on a brilliant display of women's sevens. It was a really exciting game that went right to the wire and - hopefully - there will be a recording available soon. If/when I can find it I'll put link on here.

In the meanwhile I'll keep quiet about the result so as not to spoil it, but there is plenty to watch for - not least the creative use of quick throws which leads directly to one of the tries. The new laws seem to have made this much easier as you do not have to throw a quick throw in straight - you can throw it back to your own team. Its not a tactic I have ever seen used in our girls' rugby - maybe we should look at it? One for Wonky maybe.

Overall most of the other games I saw were a bit one-sided and, in the case of the lower ranking teams, I did wonder how they'd have coped even in our national club sevens (even the U18 sevens). That said USA and Canada were a level apart, and based on this the Sevens World Cup promises to be a real must see... that is always assuming we get a chance to see it, of course (if ITV have the rights again then, based on their past appalling efforts, we'll probably see next to nothing of the men's event leave alone the women's).

Leagues and clusters - South West try a Third Way

The potentially negative effect of clusters and leagues have been covered on here before. 

Clusters can be a two edged sword. They can provide girls with a level of rugby which their club cannot offer, but the risk is that - in the chase for silverware - the cluster becomes the club, and as a result loses connection with the localities that it used to draw many of its players from. Clusters can work - as we have seen in Eastern Counties - but it needs a careful hand to ensure that the desire for success does not mean that coaches, girls and parents lose sight of their roots and the next generation of players.

This can be a particular problem if leagues are involved. Leagues can be effective in producing a high level of consistently competitive rugby but, in their traditional form, adhoc combining of teams is impossible - indeed often illegal. Once a player starts with one team they have to stick with it for the whole season. 

This can result in the concentration players into larger clubs as smaller teams (perhaps Category B or C sides) may be unable to field a large enough squad consistently enough to take part. New clubs in a league area will also tend face even greater problems as not only can they not compete on the field with more established sides (which would be expected in a first season) but - due to league fixtures - they may find to hard to get onto the field at all as there will be no-one for them to play. In addition clubs on the edge of league areas - even well established clubs - can suddenly find that they also have no-one to play, or that at least their fixture options are drastically reduced. Its a problem that we have faced this season.

But this seemed to be the only way the game could go. Leagues spreading across the country, and clubs combining to create squads large enough to take part - because otherwise they get no games at all.

However, South West (South) region are attempting to break this mold with a league system that is specifically designed to allow for the adhoc weekly "clustering" or combining of smaller teams.

Regional officials have organised a structured round of triangular fixtures for the nine clubs from the three counties (Newquay, Liskeard, Plymouth, Kingsbridge, Tavistock, Exeter, Cullompton, Barnstaple and Taunton).  Three teams each match day host two visiting teams at both U18 and U15 level thus ensuring that there are sufficient girls at each venue to organise games. This should give all girls in the region at least 15 matches this season, in addition to regional training/match days, when they are also holding festivals for all non selected girls.

They seem to achieve this by rewarding teams as much for their off-field behaviour and sportsmanship and as their on-field success. Teams can gain (or lose) league points in a number of ways, for instance...
  • Willingness to travel (its a long way from Newquay to Taunton!)
  • Willingness to lend players
  • Not cancelling games (point deductions to hosting team if cancelled)
  • Fairplay (team to be nominated by hosting club)
  • Welcome received by hosting club
  • Encouraging supporters (point deductions for abusive/negative support)
  • Respect of officials (opinion sought from referee at each match)
Quite where the result of any game fits in with this I am not sure, but from what is being said it sounds like its quite a success - and, so long as the girls are getting games (and they are), in the end the actual result of any fixture is probably irrelevant anyway. The intention is that the season will be rounded off with a region-wide "Cup Final" or "Festival", so for those who see silverware as important trophies and medals can still be handed around.

It sounds an experiment to watch - and wouldn't it be rather wonderful to have teams competing to be the most welcoming to visitors? A world where a league title could be won or lost based on the best after-match meals, the most comfortable changing rooms, or the warmest showers would be a league well worth experiencing!

Want to watch some rugby this afternoon?

Weather report: drizzly, bit cold - temperature only in the 70s...

Its the second day of the World Cup Sevens North American qualifiers today in Nassau (in the Bahamas) so ever so slightly different weather to that which we have here. Incidentally, if you've not been following the preparations for this event then take a look at the US team's blogsite and in particular the writing of Ines Rodriguez - really funny stuff.

Anyway, they are through to the knockout stages over there - and its all being broadcast live on the web. Play begins at around 3pm our time with the quarter-finals of the women's tournament due on soon after the start.

In practice USA and Canada should make it through to the final (due on c8.00 GMT) without many problems - neither has conceded a point yet - but that final will be well worth watching, and most of the other games should be entertaining. Certainly the quarter-finals  between Jamaica and Guyana, followed by Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago, promise to be well-matched games with a lot of inter-island rivalry at stake.

Oh - and apparently there is a men's tournament on as well... 

... and the weather should have improved by the time they start!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Girls Rugby coaches - what do they do on their day off?

Well ... play for Letchworth, of course! At least, that's what Wonky and Henry were doing today - playing for Letchworth 1st XV in their league win against Ruislip by 28-15. I think that the photos show that they approached the game in their usual committed fashion ...

... and it should put Wonky in a good mood for tomorrows training.

Well, let's hope so, anyway!

This weekend and beyond

Just a reminder that we have a training session tomorrow, usual time (10.00 to 11.30). 

Hopefully next week we should be back in action again as Heather is working to try to bring together our neighbouring clubs, Ampthill and Stevenage, which should benefit all three clubs and both age bands.

After that its county again. Some disappointing news from that quarter is that it would appear that the Essex Tournament has also been cancelled as they could not find a suitable venue - but fortunately the county management teams still have several weeks to put something else in its place.

... and remember, the clocks go BACK tonight. So if you turn up tomorrow morning and find there is no-one around that will probably be the explanation!

The benefits of being No. 1

Without wishing to push this too much, I have noticed an interesting change in the responses I get when I take time out to write to this or that rugby-related organisation about something or other that may have annoyed or puzzeled.

Suddenly I am getting replies. And not just pro-forma automated acknowledgements either - I mean proper replies, and from quite senior people, by the looks of it. Okay, there are exceptions but generally its all rather good. As a result some mildly interesting stuff has come to hand which, with it being half term now, I should be able to find some time to write up (local teachers are falling ill in proper numbers of late, so I've had less spare time on my hands).

Incidentally on a related subject, while teaching PE yesterday I came across an AS/A2 PE textbook. If anyone is doing PE post-16 (or even, for all I know, GCSE) and is working on anything about women's/girls' sport, or sexual discrimination in sport, or similar, I do have a fair bit of stuff that would seem to support a sizable chunk of the curriculum on that subject. Let me know if I can help.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The changing face of English girls' rugby

The RFUW recently circulated the latest list of girls' rugby teams - and it is a good opportunity to look at how strong the game is in England. It lists 113 different clubs running 204 teams - 104 U15 teams, and 100 U18. This is  (at first glance) little changed from a list I have found from two seasons ago, when there were 118 clubs - so clearly girls rugby is a pretty stable game. 

Or is it? Because when you look into it this does not mean that five clubs that were members of RFUW from the first list are no longer around. In actual fact nearly half - 49 - of the clubs from the older list do not appear in 2008/9, being replaced by 44 "new" clubs. Only 69 clubs from 2006/7 are (apparently) still around.

Admittedly this may be partly due to some clubs not being very fast off the mark when it comes to completing their registration. For example Swaffham and Mitcham (to name but two) do not appear on either list, I'm pretty sure that Dorking isn't a new club (!), and likes of Darlington and Market Harborough are still with us. In addition a few clubs may have changed names. However, even allowing for all this, its an amazing rate of turnover.

The following are the clubs from 2006/7 who do not appear in the latest list (clubs we have played against are highlighted)...
Aylesbury; Barton Hill; Belper; Bexley; Bideford; Blackpool; Bloxwich; Bridlington; Burnham on Sea; Camberley; Clevedon; Cranleigh; Crawley; Darlington Mowden Park; Dartfordians; Esher; Essington; Fullerians; Greyhound; Guildfordians; Hitchin; Hucclecote; Ivel Barbarians; Kent; Leos; Liskeard; Market Harborough; Mid Warwickshire; Milton Keynes; North Kesteven; Old Coventrians; Orpington; Oswestry; Oxford; Paignton; Percy Park; Portsmouth; Sandal; Stafford; Tamworth; Thomas Becket; Thornbury; Uttlesford; Westoe; Weston super Mare; Witney; Woodrush; Yardley; Yatton
... while the "new" clubs are...
Alnwick; Barnsley; Bolton; Burgess Hill; Burton; Caldy; Castleford; Chesham; Chinnor Chicks; Croydon; Cullompton Vixens; Derby Vipers; Dorking; Drybrook; Ealing Emeralds; East Retford; Eccles; Evesham; Flyers (Warwickshire); Folkestone Fillies; Glossop; H3; Hinckley Vixens; Holt; Ilkley; London Irish; Macclesfield; Maldon; Minety; North Dorset; North Hykeham; North Ribblesdale; Oakmeadians; Old Alleynian; Ormskirk; Ponteland; Sleaford; St Mary's Old Boys; Stevenage Swifts; Stow on the Wold & District; Stratford Upon Avon; Tavistock; Wasps; West Park Leeds
... and the "ever presents" are...
Aldwinians; Ampthill; Aylesford Bulls Junior; Aylestone St James; Basildon; Basingstoke; Beckenham; Bridgnorth; Burnham on Sea; Buxton Bobcats; Camp Hill; Canterbury; Carlisle; Chobham; Cirencester; Cockermouth; Melksham; Deeping; Diss; Dorchester; Ellingham & Ringwood; Exeter Saracens ; Goole ; Gravesend; Grove; Guildford; Harlequins; Havant; Hertford ; Kenilworth ; Keswick; Kettering; Kingsbridge; Letchworth Garden City ; Lewes; Lichfield; Manchester; Melbourne; Morpeth; Newbury ; Newquay; Northwich; Paviors; Peterborough; Petersfield; Plymouth Albion ; Pocklington ; Reading; Rochford (Basford); Romford & Gidea Park; Sandbach Storm ; Saracens ; Shoreham; Slough; Spalding; Stourbridge; Sudbury ; Sutton & Epsom; Taunton; Thanet Wanderers; Tonbridge Juddian; Trowbridge; Tyldesley; Tynedale; Waterloo; Welwyn; Wimborne; Worcester; Worthing.
In addition there are now three different categories of membership dependent on the number of players each team claims to have at the start of the season. 
  • Category A teams could field a full-sized team on their own, assuming (in some cases) that every player was available. There are just 82 of these teams - 42 U15s and 40 U18s. 
  • Category B teams have at least five or six girls, so teams that could just about play 7s or 10s. There are 75 such teams - 40 of which are U15s and 35 U18s. 
  • Category C teams have fewer than five players in an age group, so might not be expected to play as an independent team. 47 teams are in this category. 
This means that (based on self-declared player numbers) there are probably around 70 or 80 teams in each age band capable of playing at least 7-a-side fixtures on their own.

But how many of these are within reasonable reach of us? Well one other neat thing you can do with the list - thanks to the wonders of Google Maps - is map all the teams to show where they are, and where the nearest team is to any given place in England. So that is what I have done. Click below for each map (if you have a Google account you can add each to "My Maps", which means that you can combine the maps).
These also work in Google Earth which means that you can now see who all the registered U18 teams within about 50 miles of Letchworth are (click on the map below)...
The main thing I get from this is that there are more clubs within around 50 miles or so of us than I had previously thought. Admittedly that is 50 miles in a straight line...

One other thing I did find is the name of a team even stranger than Joe's new compass-bending charges at South West North. I give you St Mary's Old Boys Girls (from Gloucestershire - also from Joe's patch, curiously). There could be various explanations, are they the daughters of men who used to go to a particular school, maybe?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Our next opponents...

A sneek preview of our next opponents, playing Basford the weekend before last. You may recognise the scorer.


(Thanks to Swaffham for the video...)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

News from the trials

I've had some feedback from spectators who were at both St Albans and Birmingham yesterday.

First the bad news is that for some reason Randy didn't make the Army game at Old Albanians - at this stage I have no idea why. If anyone hears anything perhaps they could let us all know?

Meanwhile at Birmingham about half a dozen East Region girls were involved in the final England U20 trial, and of these my informant said that he thought that Sasha was (in his opinion) the stand-out player, certainly of the East contingent if not of the forwards as whole. Apparently she scored a try while playing as prop and impressed those watching wth him (who were not selectors) with her speed and mobility. Others, including Hayley, did not (he said) stand out, but did nothing wrong - and selectors will be as interested in support, positioning, and running off the ball as they will in those who actually make the scoresheet (and will also take into account performance in previous trials).

Around 40 players were at Birmingham, and a squad of about 20-30 will now be picked. However, this will include players from last year's squad many of whom were not a Birmingham as they were playing in the Super Fours, so in practice maybe only around a dozen of yesterday's trialists will make it. The final squad will be announced at the end of the month.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

County starts at 2pm tomorrow...

NOT 1pm, as previously stated.

I'm not sure where the mix-up came from, but county have been onto me and have also said that you should please not arrive before 1pm - indeed ideally not before 1.30 - due to parking problems.

How to turn round a big defeat

A few days ago the Australian women's rugby team suffered their biggest lost for 10 years, a 37-3 pounding by their nearest neighbours, New Zealand. The fact that their opponents are world champions probably did not help much as the Wallaroos had gone into the game pretty confident. They also finished the game knowing that they would have to play the Black Ferns again only four days later.

That could be a reason for letting your head drop a bit, but instead the Australians rallied superbly to the extent that what was effectively the same team found themselves, a few minutes into the second half, 10-8 ahead - probably the first time the Australians have ever taken the lead in this 13 year-old 10-match series.

They did not quite manage to hold on, but nonetheless this team of relatively inexperienced newcomers finished only 8 points adrift of their rivals, going down 22-16 - the closest result ever in the series. It all shows what passion and determination can do (match report here).

This two game series also shows what a bit of publicity can do. The second test, early this morning our time, drew a passionate and loud crowd of over 1200 to the small Viking Park stadium in Canberra, almost filling its main (well, only) stand. The coverage the series has had in the Australian (and to a lesser extent New Zealand) press has been very good indeed - such as this article here that contrasts the life of an Australian women's international with her male equivalents. They may not have won the series against the Kiwis, but the Australians do seem to have won the battle to be taken seriously by Australian sports journalists - and that should give them a great base to develop their game. All they need now is some funding and Australia could well be a surprise packet at England 2010 - they already think they can win the sevens world cup next year!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The best rugby photos of the year

The IRB have selected a shortlist of six pictures in their quest to find the best rugby photo of 2007/8. 

They range from the artistic, to the staged, to the "lucky" action shot. 
Some are from amatuer games, some from professional games, some are by professional photographers, some amatuers - though none are from women's or girls' rugby this year. 

But most of important question is... do you think any of Phil or Mike's pictures could have made the shortlist?

And the nominations are...

Last week's Herts Sports Awards was great for the team, the club, and the game in general - but for all the effort those winning the awards put in they would never have won anything without one thing... someone to nominate them for the award.

This year its easier than ever to put forward a nomination for our "local" awards The Comet Sports Awards 2008. Go to this page - - and you can nominate anyone online. The categories are:
  • Sports Personality of the Year 
  • Team of the Year 
  • Service to Sport 
  • Coach of the Year 
  • Club of the Year 
  • Youth Achievement (Boys) 
  • Youth Achievement (Girls)
  • Veteran Achievement 
  • The Paul Pearce Disability Award 
  • Youth Team of the Year 
  • School of the Year 
  • School Unsung Hero 
All you need to do is say why they should win the award, in 300 words.

If you think a friend or someone associated with the team (or the team as a whole!) deserves an award then it'll only take five minutes to make sure that they are considered. Don't assume that someone else will do it, apart from anything else it won't do any harm if they are nominated several times.

And while you are about it, why not put someone forward for the BBC "Unsung Hero" award? If you reckon that Dave Sharp or Mike or Heather or someone deserves a bit of recognition for the work they do then here is your chance. The competition will be tough, but the only way to ensure that no-one in the club wins is if no-one nominates anyone.

(BTW - note that for the Comet award the nominee must live in North Herts, Stevenage or Mid Beds and also that the BBC awards are based on TV regions, so if you wanted to nominate anyone living south of roughly Stevenage you'd have to nominate them for the London award, not East).

This promises to be interesting...

Its a shame that is not being done by England, but nevertheless this blog could grow to be fascinating. The US Sevens team have started their own blog, the idea being that readers will be able to follow the team through the qualifiers later this month, and finals in Dubai next year. 

It should be more than just dull news and officially-cleared press releases. The idea is that all of the players on the World Cup squad of 20 will be regularly contributing to the blog, telling readers about themselves, providing tales from on the pitch and off, and generally giving an insight into what it is like to be a member of one of the world's leading women's national rugby teams. It'll be as near to international rugby as most people will get.

There's only a couple of posts so far, but it should be worth following. Wouldn't it be great if England were encouraged (or allowed) to be as open as this?

Arrangements for Sunday, 19th October

This Sunday there is Herts county training at Welwyn RFC for all age bands (U12, U15, U18) starting at 1pm. All players are welcome to attend. Any players who need a lift to Welwyn, please meet at the club by 12.30pm (and make sure Mike or Wonky know that you'll be there!)

Please note that a regular club training session at 10am will also take place this Sunday for those players not wishing to go to Welwyn.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hertfordshire colleges rugby?

Interesting article today about an inter-colleges tournament in Eastern Counties. 

Interesting not only because its tens rugby and by the sounds as if it has been quite a success (always good to hear for this "unpopular" format...) but most of all because there is supposedly a Hertfordshire tournament as well (see the last paragraph but one) and - who knows - a Bedfordshire one as well.

Has any of you attending a college heard anything? Apart from anything else I suspect that a Shuttleworth College team would be pretty impressive... And if your college cannot get a team together on their own you will note that the Eastern Counties tournament did allow for a combined "Barbarians" team.

So if you are at college ask your FESCO (or Enrichment Officer, or whatever they may be called) ...

Now we get national press recognition

Seen the Daily Telegraph rugby page recently?

Its coverage of the women's and girls' game remains as near as invisible as makes no odds... but the "rugby links" section does now have links to two women's and girls' blogs.

Guess which blog is one of them?

Actually, nice though this is I'd be even happier if they gave the game itself a tiny bit of coverage - apart from anything else I suspect that most of the more controversial matters highlighted on here in recent months would never happen if the game received a higher public profile.

Still - of the 11 "private" blogs listed, to have two relate to women's/girls' game isn't bad (actually its rather good). It'll also be interesting to see if  the Telegraph's columnists log in occasionally...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A message from Wimborne

We've had a rather nice note from Wimborne about last Sunday's game, which I think should be passed on to everyone:
"Thank you on behalf of Ellingham and Wimborne Rugby for the game yesterday and the hospitality shown to the girls and our supporters. The girls always enjoy playing a side that does not give up and the pictures of your girls after the game is tribute to what you achieve at Letchworth.  I hope the Stevenage project succeeds for you as it will give more girls rugby and that is what we all have in common.

"I am sure we will meet again in some competition later in the season but in the meantime I wish you all the best for the rest of the season


Ellingham and Wimborne Rugby"

The ultimate "in at the deep end" story?

I think last year we thought it was a tough start on Georgie when her second match turned out to be against Worcester. However, it could be worse. An Australian student barely four years older played only her third 15-a-side rugby match today... and her opponents were New Zealand.

Four months ago Nicole Beck was playing touch rugby at the National Touch Finals when she was spotted by scouts and drafted straight into the Australian Sevens team for the Oceanian world cup qualifers. Playing out on the wing she scored a dramatic last second try to defeat New Zealand in the final - the first time Australia had beaten their trans-Tasman cousins at any form of women's rugby.

When the two-test series today started today, the Australian selectors called up the heros from the Sevens in the hope that their positive experience would turn the tide at the full 15-a-side game - and that meant Nicole out on the wing against the world champions.

Nicole, from New South Wales, managed to get a couple of XVs games under her belt, but still faced a few problems. "I think the hardest thing was learning the rules," she said before the game, "I'm still really learning them now. Getting tackled is not so bad, but trying to make tackles is difficult."

In fact Nicole seems to be part of an innovative Aussie selection policy. She was joined on the field by another touch player - Saline Thornton - as well as rugby league international Kylie Pennell and cricket all-rounder Tricia Brown, who has also played a bit of Gaelic football and turned out at full-back. 

Unfortunately these adventurous selections proved to be insufficient to trouble the Black Ferns too much. Though Nicole and her teammates dominated the first quarter of the game, New Zealand absorbed the pressure before running in five tries in a 37-3 victory (match report here).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Beckenham Festival cancelled

I'm sorry to have to report that the Beckenham 10s, which was due to take place this Sunday (19th October), has been cancelled. This is doubly disappointing as it comes hard on the heels of the cancellation of another very popular autumn tournament, the Rochford 10s.

However, the county training for both U15s and U18s at Welwyn RFC on Sunday is still very much on! All players are welcome to attend whether they have been to county sessions before or not.

Welcome to the UK's top rugby blog!!

Its amazing, but its true. The long awaited Wikio ratings for October are out and this blog has leapt up an incredible 10 places to no. 12 in the sport rankings... and number 1 rugby blog!!

That's not the number one women's blog. Or girls blog. Or club blog. No - we're the number one blog of any sort dealing with rugby.

Amazingly this means we have slipped ahead of not only Total Flanker, but also the BBC's Sports Editor's blog. We have also risen to 447 overall (out of around 10,000 blogs).

One reason for this sudden leap is that we seem to have benefited from a revision to the way the ratings are calculated. Several blogs which had "gone to sleep" were still hanging around - now a greater weighting seems to go to blogs that publish regularly, as well as being referenced by other blogs.

Swaffham (1904th overall) have jumped up the tables and have entered the top 100 sports blogs... or at least would have done if that were categorised as "sport" (for some reason they are listed as "other" - something for Spike at Swaffham to have a word with Wikio about?) - but checking the total rankings they must be somewhere between 44th and 76th. Other blogs have done less well - Basford have dropped down - but Worcester have appeared for the first time.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What is Randy thinking?

Among Phil's 27 pictures from today's games (also available as a slideshow) is this unusual study in concentration. 

Or criticism? 

Or desparation to get onto the field?

Or horror?


Well, what was Randy thinking (or saying)?

A Touch of Class .....

Well, more than just a touch, actually ... !

Letchworth U18s teamed with Stevenage for the first time today to play Wimbourne & Ellingham on their first visit to the Legends Lane ground. With the home team barely yet on first name terms with each other, the visitors quickly got into their stride and put on a sparkling performance which saw them pull out a 39 point lead by half-time. To their great credit, Letchworth & Stevenage vigourously contested every ball right to the end but it was an excellent all-round performance by Wimbourne & Ellingham who ran out deserved winners 0-59.

As you can see the girls were still smiling at the end, even if Hayley does look rather surprised .....

Support Randy at OAs

If any of you can get to OAs next Saturday, then go along and support Randy who will be playing for a place in the British Army women's rugby squad in a trial game against Old Albanian Saints.

To get to this level at only 18 is pretty impressive. Close to an international standard, the British Army regularly plays against national selections. This year's fixture list includes games against an RFUW XV, Ulster, and a Scotland XV before an inter-service tournament at the end of April.

Play begins at 2pm.

See also the article on the RFUW website.

Better news for NTR National 10s

Although Lisa from GGRT will still be away for another week, news is that one or two clubs have come up with some possible solutions to the technical problems that RFUW had raised. Without going into detail it would seem that, on the face of it, these would deal pretty effectively with the given reasons why HQ could not support the tournament.

We'll know more in the next week or so but, on paper at least, it looks pretty promising. Watch this space, as they say.

(NTR=Not The RFUW, by the way...)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And you thought Simon Shutler's shirt was a bit garish...

Remember the shirt Simon (the Saracens coach and ref) wore last Sunday (left)? Bit bright, colourful, garish, maybe mildly tasteless?

You ain't seen nothing yet. It was a picture of sartorial elegance compared with the shirt on the right.

Yes - it is a rugby shirt.

Yes - as worn by a professional rugby team.

This is - I kid you not - the shirt that will be worn by Stade Francais this season. 

Admittedly they have a reputation for playing in pink shirts tastefully decorated with flowers, etc. but this really takes things to another level. Its so bad that actually its rather good. 

And there is one obvious benefit. They'll only ever need the one design as they could never claim that there was a colour clash with any opposition team...

(with acknowledgements to Total Flanker)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Is New Zealand's crown slipping?

Its not been a great year for the Black Ferns - New Zealand's normally all-conquering women's rugby team. Successive defeats by England at Sevens was followed during our summer by their only scraping through to the World Sevens Cup finals by means of second place at the Oceania qualifer.

What we don't know whether these slip-ups at Sevens are an indication of a decline in the strength of the full XV. New Zealand - shamefully underfunded by their Union - play very few test matches outside of the World Cup, so its very hard to gauge their progress.

That makes this weeks two game series (Tuesday and Saturday) against Australia all the more interesting. Incredibly this will be the Kiwis' first visit to Australia for ten years and the first international in Australia since 2001. With the Wallaroos sevens win over rivals still fresh in their minds they should approach these games with more confidence than ever before, as well as home advantage.

New Zealand must still be clear favourites. Australia are probably no better than 7th or 8th in the world (behind France and the USA), so a win in either game would be a gargantuan upset. What will be of more interest will be the magin of victory. Last year the Australians got within 20 points of New Zealand for the first time, losing only by 21-10 and 29-12. If they can reduce the margin to, perhaps, a single score this time then that will be a huge moral victory. New Zealand's status as world number one would look increasingly shaky - and England's hopes for a home World Cup win in 2010 will be all the stronger.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Stevenage return after four years - and our U15s get a game!!!!

Its been nearly four years since we last welcomed Stevenage to Legends Lane. In our first season we had a memorable home-and-away series with Stevenage either side of New Year 2005 where we came out ahead - just - but only because Carla could kick goals better than her opposite number. 

After that girls rugby at our two clubs went different ways and by 2005/6 there was no team at North Road for us to play. So its good news that the latest attempt to revive the game at (geographically) our nearest neighbouring club appears to be the most successful - indeed at U15 rather more successful than us in recent years. They made their debut at Herts 7s last season, and will now be joining us this weekend for the visit of Wimborne.

The greatest news to come out of this will be for our U15s who will now have someone to play with. If Sunday goes well it opens up all sorts of possibilities for our small but loyal juniors - including maybe training specifically for their age group, as well as regular fixtures. It also potentially puts the future of girls rugby in North Herts in general on a much stronger footing.

Free money - just ask

Mars are giving away money.

Okay - its not quite as easy as that, but pretty close. Every month from now until the end of the year Mars will be giving away at at least 200 awards of up to £500 to sports clubs or individuals - all you need to do is say why they should give it to you.


Just go here and click on "apply".

Hall of Fame updated

After last night the Hall of Fame has been updated.

If there are any awards or selections or anything else worth commemorating that I have missed please let me know.

A great night for rugby!

The annual Herts Sports Partnership's Service to Sport awards were presented at the University of Hertfordshire last night and it was a really good evening for rugby - in particular, girls rugby - with both Welwyn and Letchworth claiming awards.

Congratulations to the following award winners from Herts rugby clubs (in the order they were announced) :

Young Community Volunteer : 2nd place : Katie Alcock

Team of the Year : Commendation : Welwyn Warriors

Volunteer of the Year (under 21) : Commendation : Natalie Threlfall

Volunteer of the Year (over 21) : 2nd Place : Peter McCullough

Service to Sport : Commendation : Dave Sharp

Many thanks to Phil Threlfall for these pics of the presentations :

As you've probably realised from this last picture, Dave Sharp couldn't be there so Wonky collected the award on his behalf.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Rochford 10s cancellation confirmed

This season's Rochford 10s has been cancelled.

New came through yesterday that East Region's oldest girls 10s (and one of the country's longest running events) - not to mention the scene of probably our biggest ever triumph - will not take place this season due to "double booking". This is after the tournament was moved a few months ago to avoid a clash with county dates. Worcester contacted us about a possible replacement fixture as soon as the news came out and - obviously - several other clubs will also now have blank spaces in the fixture lists so you can expect that Heather and club secretaries will be busy filling in the gap.

So hopefully we'll not have a blank weekend

Its a huge disappointment, though. Tournaments like this are special days - exciting, hectic, sometimes mildly chaotic, loads of girls from loads of clubs (many you many never have heard of before) - but at the minute they seem seem to be collapsing faster than the banks. This news comes in the same week that we heard that Not the RFUW National 10s is also now threatened - though in this case by various (and completely irrelevent) off-field disputes between GGRT and RFUW . 

However, this does mean that a great season full of tens tournaments could be cut back to just Beckenham (in just over a week) and Worthing (in May). Hopefully at least the NTR Nationals will still go ahead (there is still plenty of time for a solution to be found there), but there is no time now to rearrange Rochford.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sport North Herts grants: larger, but fewer

A change in the criteria used to distribute sports grants to talented individuals and coaches was announced this evening at the Sport North Herts meeting.

With a limited budget SNH had been concerned that the largest grants they could offer - even to international athletes - was only about £180, which seemed too small to be of any real help to those that needed funding help the most. As a result SNH plans to significantly increase the level of grants offered - but in order to do so they will be raising the minimum level of achievement required to qualify for awards.

As a result SNH awards will now only be available to people playing at regional level or above who do not have any other significant awards (ie. lottery funding, etc.) - county level athletes will no longer be eligible. So if you have played, or are likely to play, for the county team this season and were planning to apply for an award because of that... save yourself a stamp!

SNH grants are awarded every six months (applications close in June and December - see NHDC website for more details), however, so if any of you do make the regional squad in January you will be able to apply for an award then.

England top seeds for sevens world cup

With 14 of the 16 qualifiers now known, IRB have released details of the seedings for the first Sevens World Cup, to be held alongside the men's event in Dubai in March.

The qualification process have thrown up all kinds of surprise results, including the defeat of New Zealand by Australia (though the Kiwis still made it through their qualifier in second place), the failure of Wales to qualify from Europe, France scrapping in behind Netherlands, and now unfancied Thailand qualifying from Asia at the expense of Kazakhstan and Hong Kong.

Only the North American round remains, with two places on offer in the Bahamas next month - USA and Canada being the almost certain qualifiers (the only question being who will get the vital third seeding - and thus avoids England, Australia and New Zealand in the group stages).

The eight seeds for the group stages of the tournament will be:

1. England
2. Australia
3. North America 1 (likely to be Canada or USA)
4. New Zealand 
5. Japan
6. Netherlands
7. South Africa
8. Brazil

One of the remaining four European teams (France, Russia, Spain and Italy) will be drawn at random in each group. Thailand, China, Uganda and North America 2 will then be drawn in the remaining groups  - but presumably not in the same group as other teams from their region.

This will presumably put England in the same group as Brazil - which is a good draw (Brazil are good, but have virtually no experience outside South America) - but with some major nations floating around in the non-seeds, such as France and USA/Canada.

The qualification process so far also shows how exciting a 16-nation World Cup can be - which makes the IRB's insistence that the 15-a-side World Cup in England in 2010 remains a 12-team competition all the more disappointing.

167 games, 54 opponents... and counting

167. That's how many matches we seem to have played since 2004, and we've won roughly as many as we have lost while playing at least 54 different teams - I say "seem" because I am certain that there are a few games missing from the lists - the season totals look a bit low in some cases. 

You can see all the club-by-club details here. All tournaments are included, whether they are 15s, 10s or 7s. How many of these teams can you remember playing against? Anything missing?

It also means that many of you will now have played 100 games or more. Nikki in particular was the first to pass the 50 game mark (if you add in county and regional games) at the end of only our second season, so heaven knows how many matches she has now played!

Some rugby was also played

Sasha and Jess's post match celebrations on one of the drier bits of Saracen's pitch. This, and 43 other pictures from the game can now be found on Phil's rugby archive (or in the slideshow).

And, while on the subject of yesterday's game, a word of praise to the forwards - and especially the front row - who played brilliantly. The work of forwards is often overlooked as their names rarely feature on the scoreboard, but they held - and even pushed back at times - what was probably a larger Saracens pack. They were also a major reason why Saracens - although they often got within inches of the line - could never get over it

They also totally dominated the line-out, Emily out-jumping (with Laura and Rosie's help) Saracens by a foot or more. Phil's picture is typical - and shows that the training at the start of the season is working well.

Rosie and Ellie also made many hard yards, sucking in the opposition to give room for all the backs to make their runs.

So well done to everyone - you were all outstanding.

New threat to National 10s?

Out of the blue a threat to the "Not the RFUW" National 10s has emerged.

As you will all know, the tournament was created in response to the RFUW's decision to cancel the 2008/9 National 10s due to a "lack of interest". Over the summer various emails were exchanged between several of last year's finalists unhappy at this decision, following which the Gloucester Girls Rugby Trust agreed to run a replacement event at Hartpury College - one of the leading rugby facilities in the country.

Interest from clubs across England and Wales has been very high, with both the U18 and U15 tournaments looking like being fully subscribed. 

Up until now the only response from RFUW concerned the use of the word "National" in the name of the competition which they felt would cause confusion, though as there is no other national 10s tournament being run this year it was difficult to see what the confusion might be. Even so the organisers have modified the tournament name in order to keep Twickenham happy.

So everything seemed fine - but now it would appear that because RFUW do not "support" Gloucester Girls they may not "support" the tournament. 

Quite why RFUW would not support what is clearly a very successful body bringing a lot of girls into the game is difficult to understand (though not hugely relevent), but its even more difficult to understand why they would not support the tournament (especially because so many of its member clubs clearly do - and its also not going to cost them a penny). I'm also not sure I even understand why RFUW's "support" is needed - we didn't need it to run the Herts 7s back in 2006, any more than the club needed RFU's go-ahead to run the North Herts mini tournament last weekend. So this is all a bit strange - but without RFUW's official "support", apparently RFU won't support it, which makes insurance a problem. 

No-one seems to be doubting the ability of Hartpury to stage the event (after all, RFUW use the college themselves so they must think the facilities are good), nor of GGRT to run the it (it'll be a big tournament but, in terms of number of teams, no more an administrative headache than - say - Herts 7s). It is not as if it will be any strain on anyone's budget - no grants were being requested from RFUW (even though they were offering funding for 10s tournaments) or anyone else. In fact from what one hears the problem seems to be nothing to do with the tournament as such, but relates to a longer standing dispute between GGRT and the RFUW - a dispute that is now threatening what should be the highlight of the year for close on 400 girls from across England and Wales.

Fortunately there are several months to go before the date of the tournament so there is plenty of time, we must all hope, for those involved to sort their problems out. 

Familiar face to run three quarters of the compass

Those of you who make it to region may find a familiar face managing one of the opposition teams. 

Apparently Joe, having returned to college, has now taken up the offer to coach the Gloucestershire county team and the manage South West North region. As Joe has already worked with East he now has a complete set of cardinal points for his CV!

Seriously this is quite a coup for our Joe. His new (if clumsily titled) regional charge takes in an area stretching from Dorset to Gloucestershire - an area that has produced several England age group internationals in recent years, along with at least one national U15 champion club, while his county responsibility is an area with huge potential but something of a troubled history.

We can, however, confidently expect that South West North (and Gloucestershire) will have one of the best packs in the game. If Joe could achieve what he did at Letchworth, think what he can do with the pick of four counties!

And all because he came to watch Rosie play one afternoon...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Saracens 0 Letchworth 37

True rugby weather arrived today for the first time this season, with the U18s match at Saracens being played in pouring rain and a 25mph crosswind.

Letchworth welcomed Mel back into the team for the first time in 2 years but Charlie was sidelined for this match with an ankle injury so we arrived with 12 fit players. Fortunately, Hertford were able to help us out with the loan of 2 players so the match became 14 a side which is very pleasing as we see far too few games at anything close to 15 a side these days.

However uncomfortable the conditions, the girls on both sides didn't let it spoil the game which was a much more even contest than the scoreline suggests. Although Letchworth managed to run, kick or dribble their way to a number of tries, for long periods of the game Saracens were camped near the Letchworth line but could not quite breach the determined defence.

As these few pictures show, it may have been a gloomy day but Nikki appears to be trying out some new dance steps :

Many thanks to Saracens and Hertford for a very enjoyable days rugby in less than ideal conditions.
Players of the Day for Letchworth :
Backs - Mel
Forwards - Ellie
Letchworth scorers :
Tries : Sasha (3), Nikki (2), Natalie, Mel
Conversion : Nikki

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Can you fill in the gaps?

During the summer Mike asked if I could find the results from previous seasons, ie. the two seasons before the blog began. As the teaching population in Herts and Beds is in an unusually healthy at the moment I've had a bit of spare time to dig around and various dusty hard drives and the results of these researches can now be found in the Club Links section (right hand column). There's season 1's fixtures (2004/5) and season 2's (2005/6) - for some reason there is more detail for the former.

So - take a trip down memory lane again. There are a few gaps though, so ... what's your memory like? Anyone remember any games that are missing from the list?

Not quite the Oscars...

... but close.

Wednesday night is Herts Sports Awards night at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, and we have a few people in the shortlist for awards, including Natalie, Katie and Simon (unfortunately the award budget does not stretch to flights or satellite links from New Zealand, so Simon will only be there in spirit).

Speaking of spirit, I am sure that our nominees will welcome supporters coming along to watch them go through the whole golden envelope business, as well as joining them for the accompanying well-stocked buffet (well, it was well stocked last time - right up to the moment when Hayley and Carla arrived, in fact!).

If you fancy cheering our people on and making it a memorable night (Joe will probably never get over the wave of adulation he received for his third place last year) please have a word with Mike or Joan tomorrow. 

Friday, October 03, 2008

Do you pratise rugby?

FIRA is Europe's continental rugby association and they run a number of European international rugby tournaments - everything other than the Six Nations, in fact. Unusually for most rugby authorities they take the women's game very seriously and so the FIRA website is a excellent source of information about women's rugby internationally.
However, FIRA is - and always has been - an association based in France, and so its website is produced mainly in French then machine translated into English. This can lead to some wonderfully fractured language as it would appear that the association do not employ an English speaking proof reader.

Normally you can work out what they are on about, but one of the more recent additions to the website is rather more of a puzzle...
So - any of you fancy a bit of "pratising"?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sunday at Saracens

Sunday, 5th October sees the U18s travelling to Saracens RFC to arrive by 12.30pm for a 1pm kick-off. Will all players please note that there will not be changing facilities at Saracens before the game - so please arrive ready to play.

In order to be at Sarries by 12.30, we will need to meet at Letchworth club at 11.40am and depart by 11.45am. The address, phone number and location map can be found on the Saracens website at

Can all players please confirm their availability to Wonky or Mike.

U15s : Please note that our planned game at Hertford has been cancelled.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

England U20 trials

News from Birmingham is that both Hayley and Sasha took part in a selection match... and will have another game to play next month before the final U20 squad is selected. For some reason the U20 trials do not appear in this year's RFUW calendar - or at least the one on the RFUW website -but assuming they follow last year's pattern then this will probably be on 19th October - the date for Beckenham 10s and county training. The two girls seem to be happy with their performances, and particularly the way in which the trials are being run - but obviously there is a long way to go yet.

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