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, October 26, 2008

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!


  1. My husband and I manage the Taunton Fillies - this is working out brilliantly so far - three weeks ago we visited Tavistock along with Liskeard and our girls managed to play a 15 a side game by combining with the other teams - for most of our girls it's the first time they've ever played a 15 a side game at club level - one girl who would usually play front row was heard to comment 'I'd no idea you could have such fun playing flanker' With so much grass roots rugby disappearing down the pan (in Somerset we've lost three of our strongest sides this past two years) while the RFUW pat themselves on the back about how wonderful the regional programme is this is giving the girls the chance to play good rugby on a regular basis and can only bode well for County and Regional squads. We're managing to enjoy great development rugby while the RFUW fiddles as club rugby burns!

  2. sounds like the clubs working out what works and what behaviour they want to instil in the game. IMHO a bottom up approach is the only solution that will work as the ownership and control is at the right point.
    Excellent solution and credit to them.

  3. Katie Alcock5:17 PM

    This sounds like a fantastic idea, full credit to South West region or whoever implimented the scheme - most of us girls just want to play (of course we want to win, no one could doubt that!) but in my opinion good sportsmanship is just as important - I've frequently been to matches that we've lost, but have left feeling happy and content thanks to the welcoming nature of the club that played us - in the cold light of day no one minds losing to a team that is gracious in victory (stand-up and take a bow Wimbourne who, for the first few years at least, absolutely thrashed us yet always cheered us up with a box of chocolates afterwards!)
    For so many girls getting a game is the important thing - grassroots rugby needs to be nurtured - its the future of the game - its pointless looking after the stars of today while the stars of tomorrow grow disinterested and drift away...
    Anyway, sorry for that essay but well done South West!

  4. Katie Alcock5:18 PM

    ... and of course an initiative that may lead to an improvement in showering facilities will be welcomed by all...

  5. to katie our girls section had the run of 4 team sized changing rooms and one was heard to complain the showers were too hot and they steamed the whole room up.....

    Chocolates is a nice touch after a game.

  6. Hi to all out there. My name is Denise Hodge and I am the person behind the THIRD WAY. In all honesty I could not have done it without the brillient support and backing of the 'NINE'. It is so easy to do but you have to be aware of the full commitment that has to be made by your coaches, volunteers, girls to meet the 15 game programme over the season remembering where County and Regional fall into your calendar and what you are going to do when you loose your girls to county and regional. That aside you are assuring the future of your club, girls and the game at grassroot levels which is where our superstars of the future are coming from. If anyone out there would like to chat about this please drop me a line on For Katies information - you can loose points if you forget the choccies!!!!

  7. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Just to let you know that we are pushing on with the next stage of developing girls rugby in the South West. This is a copy of an email and the basis of a press release to support girls rugby.

    Tag Rugby the answer to girls rugby?

    In order to drive up the number of girls playing rugby, Cullompton RFC have developed a ‘Girls Only Tag Rugby Plan’. The aim of which is to:
    1. Provide a platform where girls between and including years 7 to 12 can play tag rugby on a weekly basis
    2. Provide weekly tag training
    3. Provide weekly tag matches between the Cullompton girls
    4. Arrange regular inter club tag fixtures
    5. Provide regular bridging sessions to help those girls interested to migrate from Tag to Contact

    Why are we setting this up?

    Tag rugby has been embedded into the national curriculum for some time and thousands of girls across our region play or have played tag rugby and yet we always struggle to attract players. Enabling an environment where girls can continue to play a game they enjoy is essential as this will provide the solid foundation to the girls U15 & U18 contact squads that appears to be missing.

    With the rules as they are, there can be nearly a 3 year age difference between the youngest and oldest U15 players. It takes a very courageous girl to simply leap from tag to contact or join an existing squad at the age of 14!

    Whereas running tag along side a contact team will enable a player to develop their skills and confidence as well as their mental and physical capacity, thereby reducing the gap between the two games and hopefully increasing the uptake in contact.

    Creating such a wide age range (years 7 to 12) will catch the year 7’s who have been playing as part of the national curriculum in year 6 and hopefully draw back players who may have not been playing at senior school or want to try and get into playing contact but are a little concerned about jumping straight in.
    All new players, unless they have been playing contact already, will start in tag and have to go through the bridging sessions. These sessions will ensure that all new players are taught the basics including how to tackle, rules and basic rucks and mauls.

    How are we setting this up?

    The plan is to have a mixed age group that can train and play together, each week we will provide the basics to enable them to develop their tag skills. Depending upon the numbers we will then divide the girls up into teams that will play each other on a round robin basis. If we get enough regular members we will divide them up into set teams and run a league amongst each other to provide some competition.
    Ideally we would like to play against other tag teams from other clubs and given the format we already have, these matches could easily slot in alongside the current fixtures. If you already have a tag team or are interested in playing against us please let us know.

  8. i am a 15 year old girl who loves rugby i play for the barnstaple u15s we dont have a proper team but had our first match and teamed up with tavistock against exeter sarricens an amazing game altho we may have lost i think that rugby for girls is brilliant we also have an u18s girls team who drew there match of which they joined up with tavistock against exeter sarricens. i think the more girls that you get into these teams the better as it helps build self confidence and is an amazing game.


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