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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

England win World Sevens warm-up

The Sporting Chance Foundation (aka England) were winners of the Dubai Exiles Sevens today, beating a multinational "Saudex Wooden Spoon" 12-10 in the final - comfortably England's closest game.

Despite sneaking ahead 7-5 at half time, England were behind for most of the final, and they were still behind with only four minutes left, before Sarries' Charlotte Barras scored England's crucial second try. However, it was Alice Richardson who was the main difference between the two teams with a try and two conversions that saw England to the title.

Several of the key Wooden Spoon players were from Scotland - but as they are (famously) not going to the World Cup the final was perhaps a poor guide to the fate of that event. Of more significance may was England's semi-final win over the Caribbean and North American champions Canada, where England ran out 12-5 winners (the RFUW website says that the "swept aside" the Canadians, but with a margin of only a single score its doesn't quite sound like that). This followed on from an even more comprehensive 34-7 win over the other North American qualifier, the USA, on the opening day.

Although these games were technically not internationals, the Canadian and US teams were effectively their national squads. This means that in the last six months or so England have now played (and pretty comfortably defeated) all of their likely challengers for the World Cup except one - Oceania/Pacific champions Australia. With one more warm-up tournament in San Diego to come, England look well set to live up to their number one seeding.

* Before you ask, Aylesford Bulls - whose unfortunate draw was highlighted last week - did creditably well against England in fact, going down 39-0 on Day 1. However they then lost 50-0 to Wooden Spoon and 39-0 to the USA before finally getting onto the scoresheet in the plate tournament where they lost to the Netherlands 25-7.

Friday, November 28, 2008

30th November

As we are without a large number of our U18s this Sunday, there will be no girls training at Letchworth on November 30th.

U18s who are travelling to Worcester on Sunday for the county match should meet at the University of Hertfordshire Sports Village :

"A 53 Seat Coach to take the Herts U15 Girls Squad and Herts U18 Girls Squads to Worcester RFC on Sun 30/11. It has been hired from Reg’s Coaches (which should be printed on the side of the Coach) and will be leaving from outside the Sports Village at the University of Hertfordshire Sports Village, de Havilland Campus, Hatfield Business Park, Hatfield, Herts, AL10 9EU at 09.30 sharp."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Six Legends get county call to Worcestershire

Six of our girls have been selected in the county squad for this weekend's U18 trip to Worcester. Its one less than we sent to the Sussex tournament as Natalie and Emily are unavailable, but Hayley is joining the county team for the first time this season as for once she has no representative trials, and it also means that we have had more of our girls play for the "senior" of the two county teams this season than ever before!

The full teams appears on the Herts blog, but our girls (with their squad numbers which would seem to reflect likely positions):
  • 2 Charlie Hughes
  • 4 Laura Watson
  • 7 Jess Robinson
  • 10 Nikki Alcock
  • 12 Hayley Guilder
  • 16 Eleanor Morris
Congratulations everyone, and have a good game.

I just realised that when tidying up the indexes I accidentally removed the link to the Hall of Fame. Sorry! Its now back - and updated (see the links on the right).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The forgotten award

Rugby's biggest awards evening took place last night - the eighth IRB Awards. All the headlines were about Shane Williams winning the Player of the Year (no female nominations... but then there never have been), New Zealand team of the year (the men... obviously), and various players and teams being inducted into the Hall of Fame (which, needless to say, remains male only - not least because no woman has ever been nominated).

However, buried deep in the awards (and I mean deep - only one of the IRB's many press releases and web pages on the subject even mention it) was the one award out of thirteen which recognised the existence of women's rugby - the curiously named "IRB International Women's Personality of the Year Award" (can the IRB not bring themselves to call women "players"?). And - in a night dominated by New Zealanders - it was won by an Englishwoman.

So congratulations to Carol Isherwood - former Performance Director at the RFUW until her surprise departure a year ago, and now Sports Development Manager in Westminster. The IRB describes her as the "one of the driving forces behind England’s success on and off the field over the past decade and a champion of the global development of the Women’s Game". 

The only other coverage of her award I can trace has been in a short press release from the RFUW which expands on Carol's 10 years of achievements at the RFUW by saying that she was "heavily involved in working to develop an effective partnership with the RFU and making the women’s game sustainable for players, clubs and at the elite level of the game". What neither the IRB nor, curiously, the RFUW mention are small details such as six Grand Slams and two World Cup finals in those ten years - a record possibly unmatched anywhere in rugby, male or female (unless anyone can suggest someone who has a better record?) - arguably deserving consideration for the Hall of Fame rather than a single line buried deep in a two page IRB press release.

Past winners of the IRB International Women's Personality of the Year Award:
2001: Shelley Rae (England)
2002: Monique Hirovanaa (New Zealand) 
2003: Kathy Flores (USA)
2004: Donna Kennedy (Scotland)
2005: Farah Palmer (New Zealand)
2006: Maggi Alphonsi (England)
2007: Sarah Corrigan (Australia)

Monday, November 24, 2008

RFU seeks your views on ELVs

We've been using the ELVs - the "Expermental Law Variations" - since the start of the season. So what do you think? Have you noticed? Have they made the game any better?

The RFU now want to know what you think - be you a player, coach, manager or spectator - and have published a short online survey. It takes barely five minutes to go through, so please pass on your opinions.

Note: There are a couple of questions about the ELV that allows a maul to be pulled down. Remember that this law does not apply to junior rugby so you will not have played it - but you may have seen it in action in games on TV.

British Colleges trial: further information

One question I've had about the the trials for the England and British Colleges team is whether your college needs to be an RFUW member for you to be able to attend the trial. As the question doesn't have a name attached I thought it would be a good idea to reply here so that everyone is clear.

Because the short answer is no. While you should encourage your college to join the RFUW (it probably won't cost them anything), and while RFUW membership is probably necessary for insurance at inter-college fixtures, it is NOT required in order for you to attend the England/GB XV trials.

This is mainly because you are taking part as an individual, so the insurance for the trials day, and any subsequent matches, is a matter for British Colleges Sport - the organiser of the event - not you or your college. Also the English and British Colleges representative teams are not RFUW teams (unlike - say East Region or England U20s) so actually whether or not your are a member of an RFUW registered club or college is irrelevant. 

However I now discover that there are some eligibility requirements that I wasn't aware of earlier - though in practice I cannot see that any of these will be a problem:
  • Your college needs to be a member of British Colleges Sport. However, if its a local authority college is almost certainly will be. If in doubt you can check you college's affiliation here.
  • I also discover that you actually have to be aged "over 16 and under 19" on the preceding 31st August - so its not quite any age, but its certainly covers all of you - and for both this season and next. In essence therefore its a U19 team.
  • If you attend more than one college then its a bit complex - but basically the college where your spend the most hours has to enter you.
In short all you need is to get someone at your college to sign that form - and even that may be unnecessary as BCS have contacted us inviting us to put forward names. It is possible that this is an error on their part, but if so they have now made the same error twice - so if you college can't/won't nominate you... we probably can! Just ask.

After that all you need to do is get Wednesday afternoon off college on 3rd December, and make your way to Northampton - and unfortunately over to you on that.

Letchworth leave it (very) late!

Sunday's visit by Suffolk Sabres almost fell foul of the wintry weather which delivered frozen pitches and a little snow overnight but the morning rain eventually provided pitches with enough give in them for the game to proceed. And, by the kick-off at 1pm, the grounds were awash with sunshine ...

Once again we were pleased to welcome girls from Stevenage RFC who joined in the fixture bolstering the numbers on both sides. And what a great fixture it was! This was the keenest fought and closest contest Letchworth have had this season with the lead always within a single score right up to the last 10 minutes when Suffolk Sabres opened up a 10 point lead by scoring 2 tries in rapid succession. However, the Letchworth girls were not finished as they maintained pressure on the Suffolk line for a large part of that last 10 minutes and were rewarded with a try by Hayley which left them 5 points down with 5 minutes to play. More pressure was exerted but sterling defence by Suffolk Sabres kept out repeated Letchworth attacks until, with the last play of the game, Jess managed to cross the line to equalise the scores.

No pressure then on Nikki who had the conversion to win the game for Letchworth ... despite the strong breeze in her face Nikki managed to slot the ball over to secure the victory.

Many, many thanks to Suffolk Sabres for making the long journey on such a wintry morning and providing us with such a stern test.

Result : Letchworth 29 Suffolk Sabres 27

Letchworth scorers :

Tries : Hayley (3), Jess (2)

Conversions : Nikki (2)

vRugby: volunteers wanted

More information on the vRugby initiative - the new programme designed to use young volunteers to help spread the game.

It seems to be very early days yet. In Hertfordshire we have a "County Activator" in place - Sam Fulling at Saracens. The next stage will be the appointment of seven volunteer "Club Activators", aged 16-24, each of whom (with a team of four other volunteers) will run on a project designed to benefit their club. The chosen project will need to match one of four "themes"...
  • vRugby Fun: increasing participation and introducing rugby to people who may not have experienced it before
  • vRugby Life: delivering healthy lifestyle messages using the rugby ethos
  • vRugby Cash: fundraising
  • vRugby Force: mini club makeovers 
... but will otherwise be more or less of their (and their club's) choice. In practice this might mean running projects to increase participation (such as schools rugby festival or similar), performance (coaching), fundraising; or improving facilities. In return, as well as helping their club, the volunteers will get all expenses paid, full training, the chance to develop all kinds of project management and other skills, and free branded clothing.

Club activators are being sought now - so is anyone interested? If so please get back to me or Mike asap so we can look at how we might use this scheme to benefit our club and the wider game.

The Great RFUW AGM Mystery

After the game yesterday discussions turned, as they do, to the matter of the RFUW AGM.

Okay, a strange thing to discuss and not normally something high on the list of post match conversations but, as I recall, we had by then solved the world economic crisis, come up with a workable way of ensuring world peace, and had only been diverted away from Fermat's Last Theorem because someone pointed out that it had already been solved. So you can see we were running low on topics.

Even in these circumstances, the subject of Great AGMs I Have Known is normally not much of winner in rugby bar conversation but in this case it was pointed out that there is something seriously odd about this one.

When an organisation has its Annual General Meeting - as a rule - it will normally make a reasonable attempt to ensure that as many people as possible can attend by organising the event on a date when most people do not have alternative commitments. It is obviously impossible to come up with a date that suits everyone, but as a rule avoiding other major events in your own organisation's calendar would normally considered a good start.

Which is what makes the RFUW AGM ever so slightly remarkable as not only are Sundays match days for most clubs, but (as one correspondent pointed out earlier this week) this particular Sunday is also the final junior county fixture date - so anyone who is anyone in English junior rugby will be involved in an inter-county tournament somewhere. And in addition to that the 14th is also the date for senior regional trials, so most people associated with senior rugby will also be otherwise engaged. 

This did give those with a conspiratorial turn of mind cause to wonder. What is going to be discussed at the AGM this year? Or maybe what is it hoped will not be discussed? After all - as someone said - if you wanted to pick a more inconvenient date in the entire calendar so as to ensure that as few of the leading players, officials, parents, coaches, or volunteers as possible would be available then, short of choosing Christmas Day, you could hardly come up with a better date than 14th December.

Personally I think such speculation is nonsense and suspect that this is simply an example of frighteningly poor planning. After all, what things might RFUW possibly want to avoid discussion about? Any suggestions?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

British and English Colleges XV trials: your chance to wear the red rose!

News that the trials for the English and British Colleges teams will take place at Moulton College in Northampton on Wednesday 3rd December between 1 and 4pm. The team is open to anyone (regardless of age) attending a Sixth Form or Further Education College.

I understand that the team is roughly the same standard as a regional team - last year several girls from the Essex county team played for England Colleges against Scotland in Edinburgh - so if you have ever been selected to attend a regional trial you really should give the trials a go.

I am seeking clarification, but appears that you need to be nominated to attend the trials by your college's PE department. They should have been sent nomination forms today. If they have not had the forms then download this form, give it to your head of PE (or someone appropriate) and get them to send it to Vicky Buck ( as soon as possible. Or send it yourself. Or stand over them while they send it.

Then to get there the above map may help. In addition, official directions are: 
  • Exit the M1 at Junction 15 and join the A508 North. After 2 miles the A508 becomes the A45. 
  • At the third intersection leave the A45 by the slip road and join the A43 (signposted Kettering).
  • Travel for 3 miles, straight across 2 roundabouts and at the third turn left onto Overstone Road (signposted Moulton). 
  • Continue until you see the Co-op and bear slightly left until you reach a mini-roundabout in front of the Post Office. 
  • Turn right down Stocks Hill, which leads into Cross Street, which leads into West Street. 
  • Take the first turning right into Pitsford Road and then first right again into the College.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The changing face of English girls' rugby (update)

Further to the article last month, the RFUW have now issued an updated club list which includes several additionally teams - some of which are genuinely new, some just a bit slow with the paperwork. Clubs registered on the new list (which is not, unfortunately, dated) who were not there in October list are listed below. Clubs that are "new" (ie. did not appear on the 2006/7 list) are in bold:
  • Beaconsfield Belles (Bucks)
  • Bournemouth (Dorset)
  • Cinderford (Gloucestershire)
  • Crawley (Sussex)
  • Darlington Mowden Park (Durham)
  • Daventry  (Northants) - (U18 only)
  • Durham City (Durham)
  • East Grinstead (Sussex)
  • Frome (Somerset) - (U15 only)
  • Liskeard & Looe (Cornwall)
  • Malton & Norton (N Yorks) - (U15 only)
  • Old Northamptonians (Northants)
  • Tamworth Wildcats (Warwicks) - (U18 only)
  • Wallingford Maidens (Oxon) - (U15 only)
  • Rockcliff (Northumberland)
  • Winchester (Hants)
  • Witney (Oxon)
So, to revise the numbers from the previous article, that means that (if my maths is right...) we now have:
  • 130 girls clubs (119 offering U15 rugby, 114 providing U18 rugby) - up from 118 in 2006/7
  • 75 clubs from 2006/7 list also appear on the 2008/9 list
  • 43 registered clubs from 2006/7 are no longer listed
  • 55 clubs are "new"
There are about 100 "viable" teams in each age band - ie. capable of fielding a team of at least seven on their own:
  • 93 Category A teams (48 U15s, 45 U18s)
  • 89 Category B teams (47 U15s, 42 U18s)
  • In addition 51 "Category C teams" - ie. teams that would have to combine with another club to field a team.
Its a slightly improved picture compared with a month ago - and there are still a few clubs missing yet (*cough* Swaffham *cough*). However overall losing a third of a sport's registered clubs in two years must be a bit of worry. This is more than balanced by new teams, but think how strong the game would be if this hemorrhaging of volunteers, players, and experience was even just halved - surely its cheaper to maintain an existing club than it is to build new one? We'd then have a game genuinely and rapidly expanding rather than (more or less) staying where it is.

(The U15 and U18 maps on Google Maps have also been updated).

Watch the skies...

Winter is arriving early this season but despite the Doomsday headlines (Colder than Siberia!) as things stand the forecast for tomorrow at our end at least remains pretty good. Dropping below freezing tonight with the odd sprinkling of snow possible, but rain and rising temperatures in the morning reaching the dizzy heights of at least +6 by kick-off, so even with our ground's reputation for freezing we will be okay.

If the headlines are right our opponents, on the other hand, will be coming to us through a desolate Arctic landscape so here's hoping that they have fed the huskies...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Sunday - East Anglia comes to Letchworth

The biggest home fixture of the season so far will (weather permitting!) see challenging games for both U15s and U18s on Sunday.

The U18s will face Suffolk Sabres, the new team made up of the pick of Suffolk (and Norfolk!) including at least one well known face!

U15s will be combining with Hertford to take on Norfolk Nomads - a combined team from the county, based mainly on Swaffham, but also including players from the likes of Holt, Faversham, and Wymondham  Cancelled owing to illness at Hertford.

Meet at the club by 12.15 (12.00 if possible, says Wonky) aiming for a 1pm kick-off. Gloucestershire's county manager will be the referee.

Region: a light in the fog?

The RFUW have responded very quickly to yesterday's piece about the senior regional trials.

  • the trials are still "open" events - ie. anyone aged 18 or above may attend;
  • some players on the RFUW mailing lists have been sent individual "automated" invitations - but this apparently does not mean anything special;
  • they advise 18 year olds from "rushing in" to senior rugby and that they should discuss whether or not they should got to the trials with their coaches at club and county level; 
  • finally, they clarify that a U18 selected for the senior regional squad cannot also play in the U18 squad (which is in all honesty no surprise and eminiently reasonable - though it was interesting that I could not find anything actually saying that in the more obvious sources - and I did look - hence my somewhat tongue-in-cheek comments).
It is really useful to have this clarification - but it has to be said that it would have been rather better if the above had appeared in the automated emails, because in no way do they read as if they are general circulars. If you doubt this then think how would you react to a personally addressed email that...
  • begins by saying "The dates for the RFUW 2008/09 Regional Programme have now been set and we would like to invite you to register for the upcoming trials." 
  • goes on to detail how to register and pay, 
  • gives you your individual registration code, and
  • finishes with "We look forward to seeing you there!"
No hint there about talking to club or county coaches about whether you are up to it (which surely would be a good idea for players of any age).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Could you help spread girls rugby?

There is a new initiative designed to spread the game of rugby - and its looking for volunteers aged 16-24 to organise and run events, large and small.

vRugby is a project funded by investment from something called the v match fund, a charity that exists to promote youth voluntary work in England. It has come together with the Rugby Football Foundation with the aim of putting together a network of CBs, clubs and 3,750 individual young volunteers to run events, improve facilities, spread the game's ethos, and raise funds.

Its sounds great, but working out exactly how you could be involved if you were interested is at present a little like trying to nail down a jelly. There are a fair few articles and websites out there (including one today about England's U20 captain Laura Keates being appointed a "vRugby Ambassador") but none seem to answer the basic question of "what do I do if I want to be involved". However, I have tracked down the Hertfordshire "County Activator" - a guy called Sam Fulling at Saracens - who should hopefully be able to fill in the gaps.

In the meanwhile take a look at the vRugby website and think about whether you could become involved.

Surprise (and slightly confusing) regional news

In a development that will really please the county U18 coaching staff Hayley (and presumably the other Hertfordshire girls aged over 18  who went to the England U20 trials) has been called up for the East Region's senior trials on 14th December. That means the trials for the adult regional squad - not the junior trials, which take place in January.

The reason that this is likely to have the county coaching team a shade peeved is that the 14th December clashes with the final county date, and the Notts Lincs and Derbyshire tournament. It also means that they will have been able to field a full-strength Herts U18 team on only one weekend all season - the trip to Worcestershire on 30th November (U15 team, and U15 and U18 travel information, for that here) - which makes that a rather special event.

Obviously girls like Hayley who fail to get into the regional senior squad will still be eligible for the junior trials in January. However if they do make the senior squad it is not clear that they will not be able to play for East U18s as well. There are some date clashes, but surprisingly not many, so its is not practically impossible.

Amongst the incentives for going to the senior trials is that there are fewer regional dates, but also more actual matches (rather than training sessions). The senior regional system also ties in better with the pathway to national squads.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The worst ever draw?

Imagine that you have entered a sevens tournament. Its a special event with lots of international teams - and its being played out in Dubai - but still most teams are normally club standard. Should be fun.

And the draw comes through and you find that you are playing someone called the Sporting Chance Foundation. Never heard of them - a bunch of charity workers maybe, odd ringer perhaps, but sounds good. Bring it on!

Well, that is the situation for Aylesford Bulls, from Hampshire [or maybe Kent. Apparently] who entered the Dubai Exiles Sevens, to be played at the end of this month. However, since the weekend they may have reassessed their view of their first opponents. Because there is more than one ringer in the team...

A press release from RFUW reveals that the team is, in fact, England. That is the full England sevens team - favourites for the Sevens World Cup next spring - who are using the tournament as a first warm-up. And England are not the only international team. Both USA and Canada - and possibly one or two more besides - have entered in varying degrees of disguise, which goes some way to explain why England are flying out to Dubai to face Aylesford Bulls rather than going 50 minutes down the M2. Anyone care to guess the score for the game?

After this England will be off to San Diego for a sevens there. Then it'll be back in fifteens mode for the Six Nations, preceeded by a warm-up game with Ireland in December. 

England will be going for their fourth consecutive Six Nations Grand Slam, and despite RFUW's attempts to make it seem slightly exciting it has to be said that England are now SO far ahead of the rest of Europe that an England 2nd XV would still be favourites win the title and, indeed, the slam. The only question is how many tries they will conceed - if any. They certainly won't lose any games. It'll be interesting to see who comes second or third, whether France's decline has now reached free-fall, and whether its possible for Scotland to get any worse - but the actual championship winner is a foregone conclusion.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ellie makes her mark!

Both Letchworth U18 and U15 squads travelled to Hertford RFC today with the U18s playing against the hosts and the U15s combining with them to play against OA Saints and Saracens.

The U18s dominated their match against a novice Hertford team from the very first second when Jess fielded the kick off and immediately ran in a try. More tries followed soon after but, to their credit, the Hertford girls stuck to the task throughout and provided sterner opposition as the game progressed. Highlights of the game from a Letchworth perspective were a brace of tries for Georgie and a stunning 70 metre break-away try by Ellie in the closing seconds.

Result : Hertford 0 Letchworth 68
Letchworth scorers :
Tries : Hayley (3), Nikki (3), Georgie (2), Mel (2), Ellie, Jess
Conversions : Nikki (4)

Three Letchworth U15s - Laura, Jess and Ellah - joined with Hertford to play 2 matches in a triangular tournament with Saracens and OA Saints. The first game against OAs started as a close affair with the sides exchanging tries until Hertford/Letchworth managed to pull out a 4 try lead going into the final minutes. However, OAs came back strongly and managed to halve the deficit by the final whistle. The second game against Saracens was comfortably won by the visitors. The Letchworth girls all aquitted themselves well - particularly so as this was the first match at U15s for Ellah and the first match of any sort for Jess. Well done, girls!

Results :

Hertford/Letchworth 30 v OA Saints 20

Hertford/Letchworth 0 v Saracens 35

Many thanks to Hertford RFC for an excellent days rugby.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

North Herts sports grants: apply now!

Now is the time to apply for Sport North Herts grants. You can apply for a grant to help meet the cost of sports equipment, travel expenses within the UK, clothing specific to the sport, and training and competition fees.

In order to qualify for a grant you must have: 
  • reached a regional or national standard
  • be a permanent resident within the boundaries of North Hertfordshire District Council.
  • have not received any direct financial assistance from North Herts District Council or Sport North Herts within the current financial year (1st April – 31st March).
The application form can be downloaded from here. There are two rounds of grants every year, so if you get into the regional squad in January you will be able to apply in May.

Sport North Herts newsletter

The latest newsletter from our local community sports network, "Sport North Herts", contains a number of interesting articles.

In particular, you may be interested in the front page feature "North Herts sporting heroes" which covers the Herts Sport Partnership's Service to Sport Awards at which 3 people from Letchworth rugby club - 2 of them from the girls section - were rewarded.
Not only that but the back page is given over to a full page article about Letchworth Girls' rugby.

And there's lots more intersting stuff inside, too.

For your own electronic copy of the newsletter, click here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It could be worse...

When complaining about newspaper and media coverage of women's rugby its difficult to believe at times that it could be worse. But it could.

You may have thought that the next world cup is in 2010 - but there is a women's rugby world cup going on right now. Its nearly finished - the final will be is this weekend, between Australia and New Zealand - and England have finished third after a play-off earlier today. 

In case you haven't yet guessed this is Women's Rugby League World Cup. You may not have realised that there WAS an England women's team, never mind a world cup, but clearly there is. But you'd be forgiven for not knowing because media coverage has been practically nil. The tournament has no website, and even news pages on women's rugby league sites in Australia have been unable to compile a complete set of results. RFUW may like to have more media coverage, but the England union team are clearly media superstars compared with their league colleagues

So let's acknowledge the performance of the "other" England women's team. A little digging reveals that they were up against seven teams opponents - New Zealand, Pacific Islands, Australia, France, Russia, Samoa, and Tonga. England finished runners-up in their group with 74-0 and 54-4 wins over the Russia and France and a 22-4 defeat to Australia. On Wednesday they lost their semi-final 16-4 to New Zealand, resulting in today's third-place play-off against Pacific Islands which England won 20-0.

Rugby sets out case for inclusion in Olympics

Today was a big day for the IRB's bid to get rugby back into the Olympics when they formally presented their case to the IOC.

As mentioned before, their proposal is based on sevens rugby, rather than the full game, and would include a women's event. My personal view is that the IOC's acceptance of the IRB's bid would give a totally undeserved seal of approval for the IRB and major Union's levels of "support" for women's rugby, whereas a rejection might just persuade these bodies to join the 21st century. On the other hand, obviously many players of both sexes are excited about the possibility of becoming Olympians, so its not a view that is widely shared. This means you as the bid concerns the 2016 Olympics - its too late for the inclusion of any new sports to 2012 - so probably the players who would benefit most from its inclusion would be currently playing U18 rugby. 

This has come about as a result of the dropping of baseball and softball from the games. Both of these sports are bidding to return, as are four others - golf, squash, roller skating, and karate. This is pretty stiff opposition. Rugby's main "selling point" seems to be the low cost of an event - no extra facilities needed - but the IRB do have a tendency to exagerate their claims about the number of countries where the game is played at a high level.  

Only two of the sports bidding for a place in the games can "win" - and there is no guarantee that any will be chosen (none received enough votes last time around). Looking at the coverage beyond the rugby media I suspect that the favourites may be baseball and softball - both because the reasons for their rejection seem to have been rather dodgy, and also because a leading bidder for the 2016 games is Chicago. Squash has also spent many years building support, and roller skating would appeal to the IRB's wish to attract a "youth" audience (and a whole new sponsorship stream). In the end, whether you support rugby's bid or not, you have to agree that the game will really have to work very hard indeed over the next eleven months if it is to even avoid elimination in the early rounds of voting. It should beat golf - but I wouldn't bet on rugby getting the vote ahead of anything else.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Arrangements for Sunday, 16th November

This Sunday both the U15s and U18s are travelling to Hertford RFC for matches involving several clubs. The U18s are taking part in a match involving the hosts, Stevenage and ourselves while the U15s are joining with Hertford and Saracens in their game.

All players need to arrive at Hertford by 11.15am (11.30am latest) as the first game is planned to kick off at noon.

Please meet at the Letchworth club by 10.30am on Sunday to travel to Hertford.

Guardian positive about the future of women's rugby

Clearly the moon was blue last night - one of our national newspapers has acknowledged the existance of women's rugby! Admittedly the article only appears on one of the Guardian's journalist's blogs, rather than actually making the printed page, and it only narrowly avoids being totally patronising, but still its a start.

The article concentrates mainly on Saracens, and in particular Maggie Alphonsi, but does include reference to the 2010 World Cup. However what is interesting is the writer's last couple of paragraphs where she gives her own opinion about the direction the game should take, at least at club level. It does betray a certain lack of knowledge, but nonetheless coming from outside the sport its an interesting view.

Herts County v. Worcestershire on November 30th

Just a reminder that all players at Herts County training last weekend were asked to let the Herts County managers know of their availability for the U15 and U18 matches at Worcester and the U12 game against Kent on November 30th. This also applies to any players who were not at that training session but wish to be considered for the Herts County teams.

The relevant managers are :
U18 : Dave Marques :
U15 : Peter McCullough :
U12 : John Birch :

If you haven't already done so, please remember to let them know as soon as possible if you are available for the games on November 30th.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Angry Girl - the making of the book (UPDATED)

Several people had some good things to say about the book produced for Hayley's 18th yesterday, and some wanted to know how it was done. The answer is via the website - the same site responsible for producing the last two team calendars.

If you fancy doing your own book (or calendar) for someone - perhaps as an unusual Christmas or birthday present - its pretty simple (and quite fun, even artistic) to do, even more so now than in the past as they've made the site even easier to use. 

You will need around 40 or so good quality digital or scanned images - at least in the order of 1024x768 pixels (and probably bigger) - but even the cheapest moden digital cameras will manage that.

The cost rather depends on the size of the book - and the £/$ exchange rate that day - and the result takes about 10 days to arrive if you use the cheapest mail option (the cost of which also depends on how many copies you order).

"Not the National" 10s hits the press

Signs that the "Not The RFUW" National 10s is still very much alive comes from a well-informed article that has appeared in the local press in Gloucestershire.

The article highlights the success of the tournament in attracting nationwide - even international - interest, and also sponsorship. It also touches on the less than enthusiastic responses from elsewhere (I don't foresee a similarly positive write-up in Touchline any time soon) - and we get a mention too!

In fact we are doing pretty well for positive press in the west-country - looks like one of Gloucester RFC's supporters' clubs is a regular reader of this blog!

New county coach makes winning start

I don't have the full details, but I hear that our old coach has come up trumps in his first match in charge of the Gloucestershire county team with a win against... someone. Not sure who as the girls county teams do not exactly feature prominently on the county RFU's website. 

Like not at all in fact...

So if Joe or anyone else (maybe one of the girls from Gloucestershire, if they are reading this?) can fill in a few details...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Help us win some cash

A new source of funding for sports clubs has been launched. Cash 4 Clubs is offering up to £1,000 per club - essentially you just have to bid and say what you want the money for. However before you even get to the bidding stage you need to collect some newspaper vouchers, for which we need your help. 

Simply turn to page 83 in this week's Comet newspaper, cut out the voucher, and give it to Mike on Thursday. Then we can start to think about how to spend the money (big, warm, subsuits are high on the list!).

Saturday, November 08, 2008

No room for women in Commonwealth Games rugby

The expansion of sevens rugby in recent years, and women's sevens in particular, has been quite remarkable. A few days ago it was confirmed that the Pan American Games would include rugby sevens for the first time at the next games in 2011. The Asian Games also now includes sevens, and famously the IRB are pushing for sevens at the Olympic Games.

All of these competitions will include both men's and women's events, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the multi-sport games that really set this ball rolling - the Commonwealth Games - will continue to be male-only for the foreseeable future (ie. the Glasgow games in 2014 at least).

The Commonwealth Games are important to the sport as they include more rugby-playing members than any other "regional" games - only France, out of the eight IRB founder members, are wholly absent (though the Irish team will somewhat depleted), so the continued absence of women players is all the more is significant. As a policy it also means that when the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games take place in the Isle of Man there will also be no room for any girls in the (boys-only) rugby tournament.

I wrote to the Commonwealth Games Federation and asked why and - perhaps partly as a result of this blog's profile - I was delighted to have a couple of very full answers.

The lack of girls at the Isle of Man's Youth Games is being put down to a question of numbers.
The philosophy behind the Youth Games is quite different to the main games in that the Federation want to ensure that it remains small enough to ensure that small nations like the Isle of Man are able to host the Games in the future. When you consider that the Games will attract 250 officials/support staff and 1,000 spectators we could not accommodate any more people on our small Island for an event of this kind.

We were advised to host a maximum of one team game and warned that it would not be easy to host any team games so we have been ambitious in putting rugby sevens in the programme. With a maximum of 1,000 competitors and 71 Commonwealth nations it is probable that most teams will actually be allocated less numbers for the whole team than they would need for a rugby sevens squad. The Welsh Team Management said that they would love to send a rugby sevens team in 2011 but that would only happen if we increased the size of their total team beyond the number they had in Pune. We are under no illusions that deciding on the allocation of team sizes to each nation is going to be extremely difficult.

With all of the above issues to consider, although we would ideally prefer to make all of the sports male and female, I am afraid it will not be possible for 2011.
In short, if there had to be a girls event then there would be no rugby sevens at all.

I can't say I am entirely sympathetic about this as inevitably this means that there will be more opportunities for boys to take part in these games than girls - which seems to be blatantly discriminatory. My suspicion is that when the IoM organisers were looking at whether they would include sevens they did not even consider that there should be a girls event as well - and where could this lack of awareness come from? Perhaps the main Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF)? Why - even in 2014 - will their event still be male only, nearly 10 years after the Asian Games managed to include a women's event?

The answer to this was rather interesting. It seems that back in 2006/7 when the Glasgow games were being planned the CGF sought advice from all sport governing bodies about how events should be run:
The CGF and Host City take a recommendation from the International Federation for a programmed sport as to which format and which events are included in a specific edition of the Games and the IRB may indeed look to recommend the inclusion of women’s rugby 7s in the Commonwealth Games in the future, particularly as they look to further the sport’s Olympic ambitions. This would in due course be considered by the CGF Sports Committee and Host or Candidate Cities.


If you wish to voice your support for the inclusion of women in the 7s event it would be a good idea to write to the IRB.
In short, the CGF asked the IRB, and the IRB only advised them to have a men's tournament. I have no reason to doubt the CGF on this, not least because the official I have been in contact with - Sue Whitworth - actually plays rugby. 

This advice from the IRB would have been very recent - 2007 according to the CGF - which is a bit of a puzzle. Could this is the same IRB that is promoting itself as being all for equality when it comes to the Olympic bid? Further indication then when it comes to equality at the top levels of the game the words "skin deep" spring to mind.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Guinness Premiership club adopts leading women's team

Yet another interesting development from the South West region - Guinness Premiership club Bristol have adopted Clifton, one of the leading women's premiership teams (for details see here). From next season Clifton will be renamed Bristol Ladies and will come under the same sponsorship deal as the Bristol men's team. They will, however, continue to play at Clifton RFC.

While its pretty obvious why Clifton Ladies are taking this step  (ie. money), it is interesting that Bristol's reason for supporting women's rugby is all about developing strong links in the community. They can already boast a strong mini and junior programme - women's rugby was clearly seen as the missing piece. At the moment they don't have a girls team, however - maybe St Marys' Old Boys Girls' (the only girls' team in Bristol) will be having a knock on the door shortly...

Looking wider Bristol are actually just following a strong trend among Guinness Premiership clubs, especially in the south west. As we know, Worcester have taken women's and girls' rugby very seriously for many years, and over the past year or so Gloucester and Bath have started to develop strong girls' programmes (not necessarily with RFUW's approval, from what we hear - not that that seems to bother either of them!).

Outside the South West...
  • London Irish burst on the girls' rugby scene last season (not without controversy - the simultaneous overnight disappearance of "Cranberley" cluster was not an unrelated event). 
  • Harlequins have had a women's and a growing girls' team for some time
  • Saracens have also had a girls' and women's team for many years as we know - although in their case of Sarries the link with the professional club does not seem to go much beyond the name.
  • And just outside the Premiership Bedford Blues are also trying to develop a girls section.
Overall what all this means is that seven out of the 12 Guinness Premiership clubs now have significant women's or girls' sections. Ultimately these are all businesses and they are choosing to move into the female game for hard financial reasons - they see that a strong women's and girls' game can only grow rugby in their areas, which will ultimately benefit their clubs. 

Its all good news for women's and girls' rugby. One of the factors behind the rapid expansion and acceptance of women's soccer over the past ten years or so has been the adoption or formation of women's teams by premiership teams. Once clubs like Arsenal began to field a women's team the game became much more high profile and much more accepted. Players gained access to better coaching and training facilities - and teams also got access to the professional club's promotional muscle. On the downside many traditional centres of the women's game at less fashionable clubs lost out - it wasn't popular with the game's old guard - but there is not doubt that it has been good for that sport. The increasing support of women's and girls' rugby by the professional rugby teams promises to be just as good for this game as well.

Monday, November 03, 2008

England Sky TV deal to include (some) women's rugby

An exclusive deal between Sky TV and the RFU as announced today which will mean that from 2010 to 2015 all England men's games, excluding six nations games, will only be available on Sky.

At this headline level this is not that different from previous deals, but what is interesting, is that in the small print (and for the first time) Sky's TV deal specifically includes women's rugby - more specifically the World Cup in 2010. While in 2006 it was possible to follow most of England's games on via a (rather unreliable) Pay Per View internet stream, with the BBC showing the final, and in 2002 some short highlight packages were shown, this should mean that the tournament will get better mainstream TV coverage than ever before in the UK (as well as appearing on the internet via Sky Player).

However this is also the only mention of women's rugby in the deal. While the contract specifically includes all men's age group and Saxons matches, when it comes to the women's game only the World Cup is mentioned. If it is a success maybe they will show more women's games, but at this stage they are not requred to do so. This is a pity and a missed opportunity - TV packages signed by Sky for other sports have included a requirement to show a certain number of women's games, much to the benefit of those sports. Surely the RFU could have pressed a similar case for rugby - I cannot believe that a demand to show, maybe, one home international per season would have been a deal breaker.

There is no mention of women's club rugby, while the new deal does seem to give a complete and exclusive coverage to Sky for all domestic men's club rugby - the BBC lose even the Ango-Welsh EDF cup

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The best laid plans and all that ...

The unfortunate cancellation of one of the most enjoyable events of the rugby calendar - the Rochford 10s tournament - left us at a bit of a loose end this weekend but our neighbours at Ampthill and Stevenage stepped forward to fill the void in our fixture list.

Unfortunately, things didn't turn out quite as planned today when the 3 clubs - depleted by injury and school holiday absentees - got together for games at Legends Lane. The trouble was that the teams were rather more depleted than we had expected and the U15s had to settle for a joint training session while the U18s fared somewhat better by playing a 7s game between a Letchworth/Stevenage team in Letchworth colours and an Ampthill/Letchworth team in Ampthill colours.

It was a good game with plenty on crunching tackles going in on both sides and some fine breakaway tries in the best traditions of 7s rugby, most notably by Carla who ran fully 80 metres to score her third try in the closing minutes of the game. Jess also scored a super hattrick and Nikki converted all 6 of the Letchworth/Stevenage tries.

And, finally, the hattrick girls. Firstly, Jess storms under the posts for her third try (by the wonders of telephoto lenses, it looks to me as if she's going to bounce off the post protectors ... but she didn't, of course!) -

- and Carla sets off on her epic 80 metre dash for her third try -

The game was played in a fine spirit with all the players giving everything right up to the final whistle when the score was

Letchworth & Stevenage 42 Ampthill & Letchworth 10.

Letchworth scorers :

Tries : Jess (3), Carla (3)
Conversions : Nikki (6)

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