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, January 31, 2009

Club tournament at OAs on Sunday, 1st Feb

This event is open to all players in both age bands.

Please meet at the Letchworth club at noon on Sunday to travel to OAs for a 1pm start.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Friday Floodlight game CANCELLED

The planned floodlit match against Basford this Friday (30th Jan) has been cancelled as they do not have enough players available.

Playing with the big girls: Three Go Down to OAs

Carla, Hayley and Jess went down to the OAs open evening yesterday to sample life at Hertfordshire's highest ranking club.

The standard was probably closer to what they were used to, and - despite the high level they play at - their players were not overwelmingly, unapproachably brilliant. And the clubhouse, facilities etc. were spectacular... which we knew (and which everyone else can see on Sunday). On the other hand the journey to OAs is not that easy - especially on a wet, misty January evening - so how practical getting to the ground at least twice a week is more of problem.

As an alternative I've been in touch with Shelford, who train on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Its the club that Lizzell from Kettering is likely to join next year and if any of you are interested I can set up an evening that you could go along to to sample a club that we know rather less about at the moment.

As for this week, it sounds as if Friday's game at Basford may be off as they do not seem to have enough players. Final confirmation this evening, hopefully.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

RFUW calendar for 2009/10 (updated)

Denise Hodge at Devon County has unearthed the first draft of the RFUW calendar for next season. As this has yet to be officially circulated by RFUW it needs to be hedged around with all kinds of warnings about it being subject to maybe significant change.

Anyway... a few standout matters of note are that it is broadly similar to this years calendar. For example, Twickenham has not yet swallowed its pride and reinstituted the National 10s. On the other hand, the National Cup continues - but it is now reduced to just two rounds (a qualifier and a final), presumably reflecting the number of teams who can actually take part in the competition if the rules are followed literally. The draft Devon have sent me doesn't include the National 7s... but it stops at 2nd May, so presumably it is incomplete?

Incidentally a season lasts roughly 32 weeks, and its interesting to note that two years ago RFUW devoted about 20% of the season to national club tournaments that they organised, by next season this will dropped to less than 10% (ie. just three weekends - one of which is a "final" for presumably just two clubs). On the other hand well over 40% of the season is now devoted to county and regional rugby. 

Dates listed in draft circulated by Devon are:
  • Club training: 6, 13 Sept
  • Club matches: 20 Sept; 4, 11, 25 Oct; 1, 15, 29 Nov; 13 Dec; 10, 24 Jan; 28 Feb; 18 Apr; 2 May
  • National Cup: 14 Mar; 25 Apr
  • County: 27 Sept; 18 Oct; 8, 22 Nov; 6 Dec
  • Regional: 17 Jan; 7, 14, 21 Feb; 7, 21, 28 Mar; 10/11 Apr.
In addition the following dates are not listed, but will presumably be...
  • Club matches 9, 16 and 23 May
  • National 7s: 30/31 May

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Croeso i'r Gogledd Cymru!

News about girls rugby in another country that - for once - isn't the USA or Canada! In fact I've its a blog from that land that is so scary that RFUW won't allow us to play its teams in the Gloucester City Tens for fear of... well, I've no idea actually...

Anyway - its a'n fawr croeso i'r "ruckosphere" i Gogledd Cymru Bachgennesau Rygbi (or something like that - its been a heck of while since I said so much as a beint cheweru, os gwelwch yn dda).

In fact North Wales Girls Rugby has been running since the beginning of the season when the new Gogledd Cymru regional team was formed, along with four other new regions (Scarlets, Blues, Dragons, and Ospreys) when the WRU decided to match their rugby development regions to the professional regional teams. As North Wales (which is what "Gogledd Cymru" means, if you hadn't worked that out!) has no professional region a fifth region was set up just for players in the top half of the country.

Apart from that it is a familiar tale - including disgruntled southern teams not wanting to travel to the remote north (generally South Walians view North Wales as somewhere akin to the moon!) and not enough fixtures, but there are some interesting snippets - like WRU videoing regional games as a means of informing selection rather than relying totally on trials.

Anway - good to see the blog idea spreading...

England show where their priorities are

The England squad for the San Diego Sevens has been announced. 

Normally this would not be exactly headline news, but this Sevens is the last tournament before the Sevens World Cup and will be taking place in the same weekend as the second round of Six Nations matches when England are due to play Wales - arguably the biggest obstacle in the way of a fourth Grand Slam. So the identity of the players selected in the England squad bound for California was always going to tell us where England's main target for 2009 is. Would the "big names" stay at home to counter the Welsh threat and ensure a XVs triumph, or should the Sevens take priority (even if some people, like the manager of a certain East Anglian team, don't see this version of the game as important)?

Well, if there was any doubt before today a quick glance at the Sevens squad removes it:
  • Sue Day (Captain) (Wasps)
  • Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens) 
  • Claire Allan (Saracens)
  • Charlotte Barras (Saracens)
  • Sarah Beale (Lichfield)
  • Rachael Burford (Saracens)
  • Heather Fisher (Wasps)
  • Emma Layland  (Richmond)
  • Kat Merchant (Worcester) 
  • Michaela Staniford (Wasps) 
  • Danielle Waterman (Blaydon Team Northumbria) 
  • Jo Yapp  (Worcester)
Wow - that is quite a team! An "impressive combination of youth and experience" would be how it might be described. Two former England captains (Day and Yapp), plus Rachel Burford (current XVs vice-captain) stand out alongside established stars like Danielle Waterman and rising stars like Michaela Staniford.

Its obviously a slight gamble. England will be risking a 22 year-old 100% record against the Welsh (25 consecutive wins to date) at a time when their opponents have probably never been stronger - but its probably the right decision. England have greater strength in depth than any other team in the world, and the players who come in to fill these stars boots should be more than capable of rising to the challenge. Still, its going to make the weekend of 14th/15th February very interesting...
  • In other Sevens news - and relevent as a form guide - Brazil won their fifth consecutive South American sevens title at the weekend.

    Unlike the men's game, where Argentina dominate the continent, in women's rugby it is Brazil who stand head and shoulders above the rest. However there was a small shock in this year's event when, for the first time since 2005, Brazil actually conceded a point! In fact for a stunning few seconds Uruguay were actually ahead in their semi-final... before normal service was resumed.

    Quite what this means for the World Cup is difficult to say as a full-strength Brazilian team has never played outside South America.

Monday, January 26, 2009

IRB launch coaching resource

Building on Rugby Ready, the IRB have launched a new online coaching database - IRB Coaching. The database appears mainly aimed itself at junior rugby, and is at its core the same as the Sportplan system on the RFU Community Rugby website. 

As with the RFU system, though the website boasts over 300 drills and videos, free access is given to only 20 per month and you are encouraged to pay for more. However, 20 drills should be enough for a few weeks of coaching sessions (and if you needs more, then simply resubscribe via a new email address!). The IRB system also give access to similar resource collections on "Agility and Fitness" and "Workout" which making the website of interest to players as well as coaches. 

However, the IRB system also has a range of other free information and guidance, including a six stage programme to introduce new players to the game, free drills and videos on key skills, an a forum to seek and exchange ideas and advice with other coaches around the world.

Remarkably some of the videos even include the odd female demonstrating some techniques, though no girls older than about 10 and none featuring any form of contact - once you get into the "serious" stuff its pretty much male only by the looks of things!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2010 World Cup Final NOT at Twickenham?

I would never normally publish rumour, and obviously nothing is decided, but I've heard more than once now that - even though the tournament is to be held in west London - the 2010 Women's Rugby World Cup final might not be held at Twickenham. 

Its true that the last time the tournament was held in the UK (in Scotland in 1994) the final was not held at Murrayfield, but that competition was organised at only a few week's notice (it was astonishing it took place at all) and moreover was not supported by the IRB - so its not surprising that access to the national stadium was not possible. None of that applies to the 2010 competition - it has the full support of the IRB and RFU, and the organisers have nearly two years to plan and promote the event.

Apparently its down to economics and expected crowd size - something about the owners/ managers of Twickenham demanding that any event at the stadium must have a crowd of something like 20,000 or more (the precise number is uncertain, but the basic concept seems agreed).

This may make sense to the beancounters - but it ignores the fact that Women's world cups are rare, and events of national importance (or should be). The last time there was a comparable sporting event in England was sixteen years ago - the Women's Cricket World Cup of 1993. It was unlikely that holding the final of that competition at Lord's made much economic sense - and the ground was far from full - but the cricket authorities realised that a major international event demanded the use of a major international venue. If they did not take the game seriously how could they hope that the media would? The result was live TV coverage, and massive headlines the following day reporting on an England win which boosted that sport to a level that women's rugby can only currently dream about.

Whatever the economic logic that may be applied (and who is to say that, if marketed competently, the final might not get a big enough crowd?), if what is being suggested came to be it would be a massive public relations disaster - especially in the very year that RFU and RFUW "merge". The very idea of the most important game in women's rugby taking place at some club ground somwhere while the National Stadium is standing idle round the corner would show everyone exactly how important the IRB, the RFU, and the game in general considered women's rugby to be... and likewise guarantee media coverage right up there with Icelandic basketball.

The final has to be at Twickenham. Otherwise what is the point?

Welwyn county day cancelled

Session at Welwyn called off - pitch waterlogged.

Could be worse - you could be stuck in a jam on the M25 trying to get to Upminster...

On 4/20/08, John Birch

Sent from my mobile device

If you thought the cancellation of the National Tens was bad...

How would you react if the National Sevens was cut too? Then maybe throw in the disappearance of the TDG programme, the disbandment of the national U20 team, and the reduction of international games to two per year with no overseas games played further away than France. 

Fortunately this is not being contemplated in England... but amazingly this is the situation in New Zealand... or at least was before the recent budget cuts. 

A teacher and "girls rugby rep" from Auckland, now teaching English in Japan, passed on this information - and more - in response to the posting earlier this month about the number of women's rugby players worldwide which showed (amongst other things) the remarkable fact that there are more adult women players in Thailand now than there are in New Zealand.

He says that before he left New Zealand five years ago the NZRU said that there were around 3,000 women players - but in the latest data sent to the IRB they are now claiming only 1,187. If accurate "it`s also a pretty damning statistic on the NZRFU" he says, adding that "they pretty much take the Black Fern`s success and women's rugby for granted."

As well as bemoaning the lack of any regular international program he also points out that NZRU have never bid for the World Cup, even though New Zealand have won it three times in a row - and despite the success of the recent U17 girls' football world cup, played to audiences of 10,000 plus across the country. 

The school rugby programme is very successful - girls' rugby is a routine part of the sporting curriculum - but many girls play more than one sport and "the rugby authorities do a poor job of encouraging the school leavers to continue playing or giving them info on where they can play at senior level. Other sports do much more" - especially netball which has a massive profile with games shown live on national TV.

He also says that "there are still many senior clubs that are either oppose (ie senior club officials are diehard anti-women's rugby) or just tolerate the women's team in their club (again club officials attitude is to the fore) without welcoming and nurturing the women's team players often leaving the women's players feeling as outsiders in their own club."

Its pretty shocking stuff, and might just be the complaints of one former administrator if it were not for matters like the the treatment of the women's team in Canterbury reported last year, and the remarkable fact that New Zealand shows a uniquely massive decline in player numbers (relative to men's player numbers) between the teenage and adult game compared with pretty much every other significant rugby-playing nation worldwide.

However the key question, of course, is whether this will have an effect on the strength of New Zealand international teams. It need not. With so many girls playing at school talented players could still be spotted and encouraged to continue to play as adults, this ensuring the continuation of a strong national team - even if the recreational adult game as a whole all but collapses. However, is the series of defeats recorded by the previously invincible sevens team last season the first sign of a cracks Black Fern armour?

But maybe the main message that comes across for us must be that, however imperfect the RFUW sometimes may be, things could be far worse!

*I was checking back on a posting that appeared a few days ago which began with a bit of a dig against the awful RFU/RFUW website... except I managed to miss out the word "website" from the first line, an omission which may have ever so slightly changed the intended meaning of the opening sentence. This has now been corrected - and my apologies if what appeared originally may have unintentionally been over-critical of a different target!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A long week ahead

Thought it might be useful to remind everyone that next week is likely to feature an awful lot of rugby...

Saturday: Why not come along and watch the men's 1st XV beat Welwyn, KO 2.15? 

Sunday:  County day at Welwyn. U15s and U18s. If you need transport please contact Mike, even if I'd normally provide you with alift, as I'm booked to take Jess down to regional training. Games for everyone - make sure you don't miss out

Monday: Day off. You are going to need it...

Tuesday: Training at Hitchin. If you are at U18 and interested in sampling a training session with Hitchin Ladies contact Carla, or Rachel (if you have her contact details). 7.30 to 9.00.

Wednesday: "Open Day" at Old Albanians for U18s. Special "get to know you" evening with Hertfordshire's leading women's club (being as Saracens is actually in Middlesex!). Practical coaching and training from OA players. Starts at 7.15. If you want to go along but have no transport let me/Mike/Wonky know and we'll see what we can arrange.

Thursday: Training for all - usual time and place.

Friday: U18 floodlight evening away game at Basford (in Basildon we assume!). Start time and departure details TBA.

Saturday: Another day off. You probably need it by now!

Sunday: Club day at Old Albanians - informal inter-club "festival". U15 and U18.  1.00 meeting at OAs  for a 1.30 start - depature time from Letchworth TBA. This really is not to be missed (unless you have regional training, of course) - U15s will definately get games, and the U18s could be playing in a three- or four-way mini-tournament! Please let Heather or Mike know if you cannot make it asap!

Tens: An note from Gloucester Girls Rugby Trust

In response to the debate (see post-but-one below) GGRT have sent me a letter detailing the background to the Welsh club exclusion and related matters:
GGRCTF offered to run the National 10's to help eradicate negative press of the game due to cancellation of it. We had the experience, inspiration, vision, belief and energy.

We advertised.

The Wales RFU Women’s RDO called - August to see if she could encourage her Welsh clubs to enter having already played some teams and secured a good relationship with Team Managers. Fantastic I said - great for the players!

We received 42 team entries.

RFUW responded having heard about the event to not call it "National". To pacify and encourage good relations, we amended the name to "Gloucester City 10's".  We had offered to run it on behalf of RFUW bearing in mind most of our club trustees already "served" and had served (one having been a RPM) as volunteers on other programmes for RFUW, this could have overcome "national" issues. No gratitude or reply to this offer was received. We could not stop press releases already released reference "National".

RFU responded sending the "permission to run a leisure event" application form. This was sent to us by RFU Leisure Events Team. RFU declined to sanction due to RFUW.

I met with RFU Director & RFUW MD on 18/12/08. One month on, the 2nd application was eventually accepted, with new edicts.

To be accused by RFUW to my fellow RFUW affiliated club Trustees "for raising expectations out of RFU/RFUW control", is just unbelievable. How can inviting kids to an event to play in passing a bit of rubber with air in it, be considered raising expectations. 

As an ethical organisation, we try not to practice exclusion. Where kids come from is not a consideration for us(as long as their Union has authorised it, which as far as I was aware through the phone call, they had, and due to the influx of entries post phone call). The feedback meets with our expectations.

There was no mutual agreement to call the event local - we were just told to call it local or not have the event sanctioned. We opted to not let players down, but in changing the nature of the game, the goal posts moved to then introduce the edict of "no none RFUW affiliated teams allowed" - including WRFU.

Needless to say, I have spoken to Wales teams and the original associated management and apologised, they understand the problem and are as disappointed for the players, clubs and the game as us. 

In the interests of player retention, we will deliver subject to the following. 

We are aware some clubs have now dropped out due to the delays.  Thus, we will survey all remaining clubs teams (32) to ascertain interest and proceed from their. As time is running out, we may now require additional volunteer resource for officiating, your help will be requested at the same time.

We apologise for any upset or inconvenience caused in offering to deliver this event.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

Kind regards

Lisa Holmyard (formerly Walsh) DMS / RFU Leadership Academy
Chairperson GGRCTF

Rugby the big loser at Comet Awards

Okay, I knew I did not stand an earthly but one remarkable thing about last night's Comet Sport Awards was the way in which rugby players, clubs or administrators had nominations in the running for pretty much every award - two out of three in some cases - but contrived, I think, to win just one title (Stevenage Boys' U17s for Youth Team of the Year). A bit like one of those Oscar nights when the most nominated film wins next to nothing.

This was even more notable when most of the inter-club banter concerned rugby - Stuart Kenny (for Letchworth, complete with tie) vs. Stevenage vs. Hitchin, egged on by the compere - a fact even more remarkable when you realised that (myself aside) Letchworth were not nominated for anything at all, despite being the "senior" club in the area and not without its successes in 2008. 

For example, it was fascinating to hear that one of Stevenage's main claims to fame and justifications for their award was the fact that they had beaten Letchworth in a cup final (by one point!). I was left thinking about the teams like Letchworth's boys' U15s who, if I remember right, had done just as much - if not more. Why were they not up for an award? Did no-one think to nominate them? Are the boys' and men at our club a bit shy, perhaps - a bit reluctant to advertise their successes?  Or is it innate generosity, to share things around and allow the smaller clubs to have their moment in the sun?

RFUW ban Welsh clubs from Gloucester tens - and every other tournament?

News has come through that the RFUW will not allow Welsh clubs to take part in the Gloucester Tens. This surprise decision has, apparently, been taken on the basis that the tournament is not a "national event" and so cannot be open to teams from outside the Union.

This is, to put it mildly, a remarkable ruling as - if this is now how Twickenham interprets rules concerning cross border matches - it means that the participation of any Welsh clubs (or come to that clubs from anywhere outside England) in any tournament run by anyone other than the RFUW (because only RFUW can run national events) is now impossible. This news that will come as a bit of a shock to many, many tournament organisers - especially those close to borders. For example, it would mean that our "Canada Day" event in 2007 was probably illegal, and I hope Worthing have no Welsh clubs taking part this year.

It also means that the reverse must be true and that any English clubs playing in tournaments in Wales not run by WRFU will be breaking the rules - so our boys' U11s had better return the trophies they won in Aberystwyth last year as they should not have been there. Or does this rule only apply to girls?

It also very strange. Wales actually changed its age bands this season to match those of England, presumably so as to make cross-border matches easier to take place - looks like that was a waste of time. Or are single cross-border fixtures be okay, but tournaments not?

I am sure there is a terribly good reason why this rule exists - but I cannot work out what it might be. If someone could enlighten me and let me know how it contributes to the development of the game I would really like to know.

Meanwhile the GGRT will now have the difficult task of breaking the news to the Welsh clubs who had entered. Can there ever have been a club tournament more tied up in red tape than this one? You can only have sympathy for them - they have put so much effort into putting on an event for clubs shocked by the loss of the National 10s, moreover an event that will not cost RFUW a single penny, and its been a struggle all the way. Its hardly a tale that would encourage anyone else to try to organise girls rugby tournaments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

County plans for regional dates (CORRECTION)

Sorry - got one date wrong in the original post!

The normal complaint is that regional weekends means blank weekends, but Herts county have put together a programme which means that you could be playing rugby on every single "regional" weekend!

This Sunday:
County tournament at Welwyn.  1.30 for 2.00 start.
  • Any U15s or U18s who go to Welwyn on Sunday will get to play for a county team in a tournament involving Kent and possibly other teams - so if you want to play you are encouraged to go along. As mentioned in earlier posts, all the regional players will be elsewhere so there is no need to be overawed by the idea of "playing for the county" - this is an afternoon for everyone.
1st February: Club day at Old Albanians. 1.00 start.
  • Details are being worked out on this, but the idea is that everyone not playing with the regional teams is being invited to Old Albanians for and inter-club tournament. If clubs have enough players would play as their club, otherwise players will be brought together to form teams for the day (its a bit like the SW League). Again this looks well worth supporting - even more than the county day, maybe, as you should get to play for the club!
8th February: East fixtures at Old Albanians
  • ... though we are playing away at Jimmies
22nd February:  County tournament in Kent
  • As above.
8th March: County tournament in Eastern Counties
  • Again the same idea as this Sunday in Welwyn
15th March:  To be arranged...
  • We are playing Jimmies at home

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday training with Hitchin Ladies

Jess, Ellie, and Carla went training with Hitchin Ladies on Tuesday evening. Tuesdays are mainly fitness and ball handling apparently (they do contact sessions on Thursdays) so its quite feasible for them to include "under age" players. Reports are that it went very well and the girls who went certainly seemed to enjoy the session. 

Training at Hitchin runs from 7.30 to 9.00 - a bit later than we train, but they seem to have impressively bright floodlights. Rachel has said she can probably organise lifts - if you do not have Rachel's contact details, then see Carla.

Incidentally, don't be too put off by the idea of "fitness" - apparently if you can survive a Letchworth session then sessions at Hitchin will be no problem at all. Curiously I hear that the same seems to apply to fitness sessions at certain Cambridge colleges, so if you ever suspected that the sessions run by Wonky (or his predessors) were being a bit sadistic... well, now you know!

The "new Amanda" takes charge

Our region's new WRDM (Women's Rugby Development Officer) has now started work.

Former policeman James Fisher will have a tough act to follow as he is replacing the legendary Amanda Bate, who left the RFUW at the end of last year. James has been in post since the beginning of the year, and attended his first Hertfordshire clubs meeting on Monday. He is clearly relishing the challenge and is steadily working through Amanda's copious notes with the aim of familarising himself with his area (which includes not only East, but also much of London and the South East too!) as quickly as possible.

James hopes to be at regional and county games, including the games at Old Albanians on 8th February where both of his regions will be playing. 

There doesn't seem to be a picture of him yet, and he bears absolutely no similarity whatsoever with the Beatrix Potter character of (almost) the same name - though, for those of us who have a rotten memory for names, its a great aide memoire!.

James can be contacted via

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Not the National" Tens... is ON!!!

Well, as near as dammit because RFUW have agreed to support an event for "RFUW affilitated" teams. 

The teeny snag is that several Welsh teams have entered (with the WRU's support) and so, if this were strictly adhered to, they could not play. Gloucester Girls Rugby will be seeking clarification on this rule as they presume that it is there to prevent rogue sides from participating, and had not taken into considreration that Welsh sides had entered. If this is the case, which seems the likely, it can easily be resolved by only allowing teams affiliated to their National Governing Body, which will support the original intention. 

After all, Welsh regional teams have played in the RFUW's own regional championships so cross-border competition even at official events is not impossible - and the Gloucester City 10s (to give the event its correct name) is not even an "official" event, and so far as I am aware it is not unheard of for Welsh clubs to take part in English club fixtures.

England draw USA in Sevens World Cup

Today's draw for the Sevens World Cup saw No. 1 seeds England snag the most dangerous of he competitions non-seeds - USA - in Group B of the tournament.

As this is the first World Cup the IRB ensured that at least one nation from each of the regional federations was seeded. One result of this was that countries like Japan and South Africa were seeded ahead of USA and France, which in theory could have resulted in some massive "groups of death".  However, by and large this was avoided as the clash matching England with the USA has been balanced by their being pitted against Japan and Russia.

In fact the nearest thing to a "Group of Death" is in Group A where Oceania champions and No. 2 seeds Australia have an interesting challenge with games against Netherlands, France and China. In theory Australia should go through, but this really is a group where no results would truly be seen as a surprise. Netherlands finished runners-up behind only England and well ahead of France in the European qualifiers, while China are a real unknown - though their few forays into 
international rugby have often been remarkably successful.

Canada will have few problems in Group C where they face Brazil, Spain and surprise Asian qualifiers Thailand - however a fascinating and unpredictable battle royal between these three for runners-up spot in the group can be expected.

Finally Group D should also see New Zealand safely into the quarter-finals with South Africa and Italy fighting for second place while Uganda (who the IRB strangely allowed to be drawn in the same group as their fellow African qualifier) really compete for experience.

England captain Sue Day is looking forward to the challenge - "Because funding is unequal it tends to be more in the regions that you play each other. The exception has been USA and Canada, who do get around the world quite a bit and that is what is so wonderful about the World Cup, you get to challenge yourself against the best in the world."

Speaking of England's pool, Sue also said "We have played USA quite a bit before, I’ve seen Russia but don’t think we have ever played them* and have never played Japan. It is exciting, we’ve never had the opportunity to play these sides. It looks like a tough pool, although I suppose they are all pretty tough groups and I’m looking forward to the challenge. We saw Russia play at the Europeans and they have a couple of real speedsters. USA have got a very strong group and have a great tradition of Sevens so we know how good they are and Japan are a complete unknown."

The tournament runs from 5th-7th March, in between two rounds of the Six Nations - a fact that may make Italy, England, and France carefully consider where their priorities are. 

A tournament for men's teams will also be played at the same time

*Actually Sue has a short memory as England played Russia at Sevens as recently as 2007, England winning 45-0 in that year's FIRA European championships. England also played Russia at 15s twice, last also in 2007 - winning 62-0 - as well as back in 1994, where the score was 66-0. However Sue is right to say that England have never played Japan before, at sevens or fifteens.

England have also played USA many times - and at Sevens have quite a poor record against their North American rivals, losing two of their three games. The first was in the 1999 Hong Kong Sevens where England went down 24-5 following which England lost again 10-0 at the same event in 2001. However England did win their last encouter 5-0, also at Hong Kong in 2003 and the two teams are due to meet again before the World Cup in San Diego in February. England have also won 8 of their 9 match-ups at 15s.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Options at 18

Hayley's match with Hitchin Ladies today (report and pictures from Mike below) is an opportune moment to look at the options available for everyone "graduating" at the end of the season, or indeed for those of you who turn 18 next season. Moving up to adult rugby may sound daunting, but there is a major difference between the men's and women' game is that in the former junior players moving up will find themselves playing alongside players with many years experience. In most cases this is not the case in the women's game - fact is that most of you will find that you will be far more experienced players than many of your new teammates!

So first, the rules. You can only play adult women's rugby (or attend adult trials) after you have passed you 18th birthday - and you can also still play U18 rugby until the season ends. This is a change from a couple of years ago and is also different to the men's game where you can play adult rugby in the season you turn 18 (why? see below*). In addition you can train alongside senior players before you are 18 - something which is worth considering so that you can get to know you future teammates.

So who should you play for (even if you are going to university or college who have a women's team its still worth thinking about as you will still need a club to traing with and play for during when you are at home). We have a number of teams of varying standards within reasonably easy reach, so its a difficult choice. 
  • Do you have ambitions to play beyond club level? If so then you really need to be playing at a "Championship" or "Premiership" level club as only there will you be playing regular, full-sized, games against top-level opposition. There are several such teams in our area - but they do tend to be the ones furthest away.

  • Do you just want to play recreational rugby? Even if you have no representative ambitions you still probably want to go to a club that plays at a level that best matches your abilities - it could be a bit frustrating otherwise. However, several of you joining the same club could transform things.

  • How far can you travel, regularly? Remember you'll need to be able to get to evening training sessions as well as match days.
Okay, given all that what are the choices? Roughly in order of distance from Letchworth (and, co-incidentally, level of play)...
  • Hitchin Ladies. Our nearest club, but also the team at the lowest level of league rugby - National Challenge South East North 3. However that may not be the case for much longer as they are near the top of that division at the moment and if several of you joined Hitchin together you could make a big difference. Training is at Hitchin is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, so it would be worth going along to see what the club is like - in fact I know that some of our Hitchin-based players are already doing just that.

  • Hertford Ladies. One of the longest established clubs in the county and at a slightly higher level, being one division higher than Hitchin - and also with a reasonable chance of promotion this season.  

  • Shelford Ladies. Because they are not in Hertfordshire we often forget about Shelford, but they are - in fact - the third nearest women's club to us. They are also have a long history, play at Championship level (Midlands 2)- so two above Hertford - and have a railway station (Foxton) nearby (about 5 miles away) on the same line as Letchworth (so lifts would be very feasible - or cycling, given how flat it is!). If you have ambitions beyond recreational rugby (ie. regional or beyond) then this is probably the minimum level you need to play.

  • Old Albanians Saints. Just north of St Albans, OAs run two XVs - the 2nd XV playing in the same division as Hertford, and the first XV in Championship 1 South - one below the Premiership. Superb ground - England's international home for two seasons and home of Saracens "A" team - and a club very keen to attract new players (two open evenings planned, the next one on Wednesday week) - you could be sure of a welcome. Only real downside is that it is impossible to reach from Letchworth by anything other than car.

  • Saracens Women. Play in Southgate, north London (not very far from to Potters Bar). Claim - with some justification - to be the best club side in Europe with two XVs, 2nd XV in the same league as OAs 1st XV, and the first XV in the Premiership. England players galore, national champions on innumerable occasions, the club to play for if you want to play at the highest level - but again inaccessible from Letchworth by anything other than car. The only local club to enter last year's National Sevens.

  • In addition there is a team at Tabard from Radlett who play in the same division as Hitchin. 

  • Other local clubs have, or have had, ambitions to run women's teams - including Ampthill, Fullerians (Watford), and Welwyn - but are not currently playing in any RFUW league.
All of the clubs would probably welcome anyone coming along to their training sessions (check their websites for details) - Hitchin and Saracens have already invited any of you to come along, and OAs have their open days. If you are interested in having a look at any of the clubs contact them direct yourself, or - if several of you are interested in the same team - let us know and we arrange something at club level.

*One of the most important is that legally until you are 18 you are still a child, and that requires clubs to have all sort of child protection policies. This is not too important in the men's game where junior and senior teams are invariably part of the same club so the policies and club officials exist, but in women's rugby - as we know - adult and junior teams have in many cases grown up separtely so the adult teams may not have the right policies in place.

Hayley takes to the field for Hitchin Ladies

Hayley made her competitive debut at women's rugby today by playing outside centre for Hitchin Ladies in their home game against Tabard. It was great to see a good number of Letchworth team mates, family and other supporters able to make the trip to cheer her on.

What's more it was a very successful debut. Indeed, it could hardly have started better as Hayley made a clean interception early in the game and stormed through to score under the posts!

The game was a tight affair with few chances to score falling to either side. Hayley's contribution was her usual mix of searing breaks -

and cruncking tackles -

Well done, Hayley!

Result : Hitchin 17 Tabard 0


Can you find room in your home for a British Columbian Yeti? Though no relation to the Himalayan creature (or so we are assured) the Wild Okanagan version does hail from a mythical land with the salmon have arms (apparently). 

Another feature is that they play rugby, and sixteen of them are due to visit this country in March - and they have asked us for a game. All we need to do is find them somewhere to sleep. So we need your help to for two nights (Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March).

We're already pretty much half-way there already with firm offers of seven or eight places already made, so we just need a few more of you to fill the gap. 

So - can you find a home for a Yeti? Let the usual management team know asap.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Extra fixture this weekend - CANCELLED

Good news that Heather has arranged an addition to the fixture list with a home game against Hertford, meeting at 12.15 for a 1.00 kick-off.

With just this evenings training following a month-long layoff (thanks to Christmas and the weather) it should be an excellent way to blow away the mid-winter cobwebs.

Unfortunately the game has now had to be cancelled - sorry everyone! Training at 10.00 as usual instead.

Support Sash: dates for your diary

With the RFU/RFUW website continuing to be its usual impossible self, finding out little details like the dates for the England U20 fixtures requires a bit of lateral thought, or more to the point monitoring of US or Canadian websites.

So its partly thanks to USA Rugby (as reported - with information about the US squad - by Your Scrumhalf Connection) that we learn that the U20 Nations Cup involving England, Canada, USA (and maybe others?) will take place - probably somewhere in London - from 6th-16th July. This will be the second U20 Nations Cup - the first was in Canada last year (see here for the results) - however, this will be the first to feature a certain prop that you may know (as long as she gets into the team, of course!).

England U20s are also due to play Wales on 1st March - though unfortunately as a team we are likely to be busy elsewhere that day as it clashes with a fixture against Suffolk and a senior regional game.

(Just Sasha's luck to get selected in a year when the furthest England are due to travel is probably north London! Hopefully she'll see more exotic locales in future years!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jess makes the grade

Great news from the regional trials - Jess has made the regional squad!

Jess therefore joins a very select group of Letchworth girls who have made the East U17 or U18 squad - an achievement that only four other girls from our club have matched (the others being Hayley, Sasha, Carla, and Nim Parnell). Its also a sign of how much Jess has developed as a player as she did not make the squad when she was an U14 (whereas Emily, Natalie and Nikki did - though admittedly any or all of them might also have got in this time if they have put themselves forward for the trials).

Its a great achievement, but it does mean that both Jess and Hayley will be largely unavailable for the club until virtually Easter. Training starts in a couple of weeks time and - hopefully - both Jess and Hayley will make their debuts for their teams on 8th February against Thames Valley at Old Albanians.

RFUW reissue law card

RFUW have now reissued the law card that caused the confusion at the U15 county game in Hampshire earlier this season (as reported earlier) - but though it has been updated to include the ELVs the text has been little changed elsewhere and certainly would do nothing to stop future confusion.

I suppose we must hope that news of events in Hampshire will have filtered round the country to the region coaches and managers so that we do not get a problems in regional games or, heaven forbid, a repeat of the sort of confusion we had at the final U14 festival a couple of years ago when there was a last minute disagreement over pitch sizes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Decision day for Not-the-National 10s

A long, winding, path that began back in the summer when a surprise omission on the RFUW calendar was spotted at last appears to be reaching a conclusion. The many, many clubs in England and beyond who have expressed an interest in entering will shortly be receiving this letter from Gloucester Girls Rugby Trust (published today on the GGRT website):
Dear Entrants,  
Re: Gloucester City 10's ~ 2009
We are pleased to annouce that a decision to sanction the event will be made by the RFU Leisure Events Team and RFUW by this Friday.
As part of local governments very important healthy living campaign, the Right Worshipful The Mayor of Gloucester, Councillor Norman Ravenhill, has sanctioned use of our City Crest in support of this volunteer run local event. The RAF & OPRO awards will be presented by him and a rather famous RAF dignitory.
The mouse has scheduled us in and hopes to come along to share helpful fund-raising ideas with you on how to support your clubs' financial development.  (I hope your raffle tickets have been selling well too!!)
We would like to thank you for your impressive patience and words of kind support over the last few months. 
We hope to have good news for you on Friday, until then, have a good week.
Kind regards
Lisa Ruth Holmyard*
Gloucester Girls Rugby Charitable Trust Fund 
*(formerly Walsh)
Assuming RFUW say "yes" this will almost certainly be the biggest girls rugby tournament ever held in in this country - certainly the biggest club tournament. With at least 32 teams sending squads to the weekend we are looking at maybe a sixth of the registered teenage playing population in England, and probably a significantly larger fraction of the active players. 

And it won't be costing Twickenham a penny, not least because of a line up of sponsors that is incredible - lead now by The Royal Air Force, no less, as well as other including mouthguard manufacturer and keen sponsor of many RFUW events, Opro. The event also has the support of the mayor of Gloucester - hence the official title of the "Gloucester City Tens" (but then how could a man named after a famous rugby ground say no?). Has there ever been a women's or girls' club rugby event with a more impressive line-up of supporters?

After a pretty miserable season for clubs with so many big events falling by the wayside due to the weather, ground availability, or other unavoidable events this at last promises to be some good news. So fingers crossed for the right decision on Friday!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Herts 16-19 County Youth Games

The only downside with Herts Youth Games is that there isn't much for anyone over the age of about 14. However, this also about to change as a new HYG for older students will be taking place on 26th March. 

Its all a bit vague at the moment, and it won't include rugby (shame!) - indeed you will not be allowed to play a sport that you already participate in at club level. However, I thought it worth mentioning as I am sure that most of you would relish the opportunity to:
  • a) get a day off school
  • b) have fun doing various sorts of sports and games, for free!
Someone from North Herts School/Sports Partnerships will be contacting your school very shortly to see if they are interested and work out which sports your school might provide teams for... so if you fancy a free and active day mucking around at the University of Hertfordshire's Sports Village make sure your PE department knows you are interested. Now!

More American madness

Thanks to Your Scrumhalf Connection for this surreal example of student lunacy which I am sure many of your will appreciate.

I reckon the girls in the short skirts (like the one in the Letchworth coloured socks) are cheating - there should clearly be a minimum length of dress! On the other hand the referee is dressed as a ref should, shades excepted maybe - and where's the tie? Even so perhaps someone should suggest this outfit to Dave Sharp or Joe for our next home game (or maybe to Simon Shutler!). 

US TV reporter learns about girls rugby... the hard way

There are a few of these TV reports on girls and especially high school rugby on various local US TV channels - but this one from Colorado is rather good partly because what is said, but mainly because about 1:30 into the report one of the reporters is completely mullered by the girls' fly half. An excellent, text book, side on tackle knocks him virtually out of frame!
Watch :: The Stream :: Girls Rugby in Sports Online  |  View More Free Videos Online at

This is also quite relevent as we have had an email from neighbouring British Columbia about a Canadian club team (Yetis RFC from a place called Salmon Arm - the girls U18s are the "Wild Yetis" apparently) who are over here in March and are looking for games. Some complications due to our already having a fixture on the date in question, and also they want to play sevens, but neither is hopefully insurmountable - Heather is seeing what we can do.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lies, damn lies, and... women's rugby data worldwide

Women's rugby continues to expand, it seems. In the past few days both Scotland and Ireland have announced growing numbers of players. Unfortunately Scotland have not published their new figures for women's rugby north of the border, but Ireland have and they make remarkable reading.

Apparently Irish women's and girls' rugby has, in only around four years, gone from just over 5,000 players to an astonishing 13,199. Astonishing not only because player numbers have more than doubled but also because this is more players than the RFU and RFUW claim for England! 

When you look at it in more detail, however, you find that 10,000 of these players are apparently Under 12s - though that is still pretty impressive as, if it is right, it means that Ireland has four times as many girls playing mini rugby than England have. Actually this is almost certainly wrong and the disparity will be due to clubs in England not registering their girl players properly - when registering everyone at Letchworth last year I noticed that if you are not careful the process tends to default to players being male, which means that there are probably a lot of "boys" out there playing rugby with names like Sophie and Alice. So you have to bear in mind how this data may be collected!

However even when you look at adult players Ireland are doing very well - close to 7% of Irish adult players are women. Although England boast three times as many players, overall only just over 3% of players are women. Admittedly both nations pale into insignificance compared with countries like the USA and Canada (where 25% of rugby players are women), Kazakhstan (over 40%), or the Cayman Islands (45%!).

For those of you into this sort of thing, a few more facts and figures (from data on the IRB website):
  • Women rugby players worldwide: 52,524 (6.6% of all players)
  • Teenage players worldwide: 55,717 (6.4% of all players)
  • Women and girls (all ages) worldwide: 175,485 (6% of all players)
  • Media coverage of women's and girls' rugby: As near 0% as makes no odds!
  • Most women players:
    1. USA (8,777)
    2. South Africa (8,450)
    3. England (6,000) [Gt Britain: 7,847]
    4. France (3,759)
    5. Canada (2,932)
    6. Ireland (1,799)

  • Most teenage players:
    1. South Africa (10,637)
    2. USA (7,994)
    3. England (3,794) [Gt Britain: 5,206]
    4. New Zealand (3,548)
    5. France (3,385)
    6. Ivory Coast (2,100)
Or if you enjoy playing around with spreadsheets try this.

Tough job for selectors at regional trials

The ground was just about playable for the start of the regional trials in Upminster this morning (mind you, considering how far some had travelled there'd have been a small riot if it had been called off!) and, going by the U18 trial at least, its going to be a just as hard a task for the selectors to choose their final squad as the variation in ability and performance was tiny.

The only possible negative this year was that the East pack will not as big as in previous years - which will, I imagine, be some concern as in recent years East have done very well up front. In fact an uninformed spectator would have been hard pressed to say which was the forwards group and which the backs (which is one major difference between the junior trials and the seniors a few weeks ago!). 

There were around 30 U18s present, which means that at least six or seven nominees did not attend. As it no longer seems to be possible to add replacements when nominees drop out this seemed to result in some imbalance. Possibly as a result Jess - our sole trialist (being as Sasha is already "in") who was competing for one of the flanker positions - spent the second half of the trial game on the wing. Experienced hookers also seemed to be at a premium.

Jess had a good trial and was noticably quicker around the field than many other players - getting to the first breakdown in the game and rarely being out of the action after that. However, what with U20 and TDG pre-selections and the high standards shown by pretty much every girl taking part whether she will make the final squad is impossible to say. Apparently we should know by Tuesday.

These high standards promise problems with senior trials within the next year or so. In terms of ability, awareness, and ball-handling skills there was little difference between today's trialists and the best of the senior trialists last month. The seniors still score on sheer physical size and strength, but as today's U18s (and come to that U15s) develop and start to move into the senior ranks competition for places in senior regional sides is going to become intense. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

East to start regional programme in Hertfordshire

Hayley and (hopefully) Jess will  not have to travel too far for their first regional matches this season following the annoucement that both the senior and junior squads will open their programme with matches against Thames Valley at Old Albanians on Sunday 8th February.

Meanwhile Joe will be taking his South West North squad to Ivel Barbarians in Somerset where he will be up against South West South and South... so a day ripe with possibilities for tongue-twisting confusion, if nothing else!

RFUW launch England's Six Nations campaign

RFUW have published full details of England's programme for this season's Six Nations, and their attempt to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Grand Slam. 

One surprise is that after two years at Old Albanians, a single season at London Irish, and a short stay at Esher for the Nations Cup, England will now be moving again - a few miles across London to play their three home games at London Welsh's ground at the Old Deer Park in Richmond. All home games will be preceded by England 'A' matches but with France now ranked only fourth in Europe, the biggest barriers to English ambitions are likely to be the away games against Wales and Ireland. The main challenge England will face, however, will be that Sevens World Cup takes place halfway through the Six Nations.
  • 7th February: England A v Spain; England v Italy (at London Welsh) (KO: 11.45 and 1.30)
  • 13th-14th February: Sevens tournament (World Cup warm-up) (San Diego)
  • 14th February: Wales v England (at Taffs Well) (KO: 1.00)
  • 27th February: Ireland v England (at St Mary's, Dublin) (KO: 6.30)
  • 28th February: England A v Nomads (at London Welsh) (KO: 1.30)
  • 5th-7th March: Sevens World Cup (Dubai)
  • 15th March: England A v France A; England v France (at London Welsh) (KO: 11.45 and 1.30)
  • 21st March: England A v Nomads; England v Scotland (at London Welsh) (KO: 11.45 and 1.30) 
RFUW have also produced some promotional posters - anyone fancy one (maybe for putting up at school, perhaps)?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Jess goes for regional honours

Due to other commitments, it looks like Jess will be flying the Letchworth flag alone at Regional Trials on Sunday (weather permitting!). Sasha is already in the squad obviously, so if Jess makes it through there will be at least one familar face, but before then Jess will have to battle past 40 or so other nominees competing for the 20 or so places available.

Its a very tight timetables for region this year. The first training session is only two weeks after the trial so hopeully the RFUW have sorted out problems that lead to the delays in the announcement of the senior trial results in December.

As usual, once the regional squads are known clubs and counties will be in a position to arrange fixtures etc. for regional dates, so  by the end of the month we may see some more playing opportunities appear in the fixture list.

In the running...

It looks like we are in the running for another award... well, one of us is... well, me actually!

So thank you to whoever-it-was who nominated me for the Service to Sport award at this year's Comet Sport Awards. I am up against John Drew (current President of Herts RFU and heavily involved in the game for many years) and Ken Charles (chair of Sport North Herts and senior basketball official for many years as well) so you could say that the competition is a shade tough! And that is before I have to worry about the requirement to dress "smart"...

Admittedly my competition is not quite as tough as that for Sports Personality, an award which in the past might have been something that, say, guys in the 1st XV might have aspired to win but which it is now not even worth entering unless you are a national household name with at least one world title. Such is the standard that sports stars from this area have set in recent years that with Lewis Hamilton taking on Vicki Pendelton it is practically a re-run of the BBC Sports Personality Award! 

Overall, it has to be said that rugby does rather well. As well as me and John Drew, Stevenage RFU are up for three awards, Hitchin for one, as is Ryan Arbon of the England Deaf rugby team - there are probably others. At a quick look through the list I cannot see that any other sport even comes close. 

So if anyone fancies a free buffet I can probably get a few more tickets, though the fact that the drink is not free at this one may perhaps limit its appeal in some cases. But you never know, Lewis might turn up...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Fixture news

Heather has been busy, as a result of which the fixture list has been updated with several new dates (plus details of senior and junior regional and England U20 dates).

Among the additions...
  • An U18 floodlight away game against Basford on Friday 30th January
  • An U15 game v Norfolk Nomads on 15th February
  • A first-ever visit to Aylesbury Amazons for both age groups on 5th April
Remarkably, if the first game is at Basildon, it will be our first ever visit to that ground!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ground frozen

Just been round to the ground, which is predictably frozen solid (and still around minus 2 despite the early morning sun) - so no possibility of training this morning.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Back to training tomorrow... maybe

After a couple of weeks off, a reminder that we are due to return to training tomorrow morning... though whether we will looks questionable at the moment, given the freezing conditions last night and the forecast that these will be repeated tomorrow. We'll try to let everyone know if training is called off. 

Its actually quite rare for our training or games to be cancelled (one advantage that comes from afternoon fixtures). Fortunately there are no important fixtures coming up - thanks to regional rugby - so a slightly enlongated break will not mean any more losses in a season that has lost so many big events already.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The other side of the looking glass

"While many sports are tightening their belts, Rugby [...]'s governing body is enjoying some of the best financial results in the game's history and are currently celebrating a £30million windfall from Sport England, which will be used to fund grassroots development - and women's and girls rugby in particular - over the next four years." [Press Association, today]
Exciting news! Well, it would be if it were not for the fact that I have missed out a word from the above new report. The word "League".

So why should news that is not of material benefit to our game be of any interest? Because it is remarkable to see the way in which the RFL - perhaps influenced by the impressive world cup for the England women's team back in November (as reported at the time) - highlight their intention to spend the bulk of their windfall on women's and girls' rugby. Can you imagine the RFU making a similar commitment if they were in receipt of a similar grant? 

Of course Rugby League benefits from being a united sport, but even so for a game with an even more macho image than union to make such a statement is eye-catching, to put it mildly.

(The above video should repeat... but doesn't. Refresh the page to see it again)

Girls' (and women's) rugby league is at present a far smaller and less well established sport than our own branch of the game, particularly in this area as none of the League clubs in the south of England currently boast women's teams. However it is a game growing quickly in the League strongholds in Lancashire and Yorkshire. The RFL boast an 81% growth in the game in the past 12 months, a fact that isn't helping the development of rugby union game in those areas. The RFL currently list 30 girls rugby league clubs in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria - rather more than the 19 or so union sides registered with RFUW from the same counties. 

Professional rugby league is a summer sport, but the amatuer and girls' game is still played in direct competition to union. Although followers of rugby union are often critical and dismissive of what they see as a simpler and less attractive sport, it is clearly a force to be reckoned with, at least in its home area. And there is one thing we can be sure of - with the full and active backing of a single, united national governing body and the bulk of £30 million to play with we haven't heard the last of girls' rugby league.

Win a whole pack of sporting and fitness goodies

Sportsister - an newish online women's sports'n'fitness "magazine" (and another title that I have not got round to reviewing yet...) have lauched a competition where you can win loads of stuff. A whole rucksac full of stuff, in fact, including trainers, swimming stuff, skipping rope, jogging kit and so on. Details here.

All you need to do is email them at with your Sportsister username (its free to sign up here if you are not already a member), along with your shoe and clothing size, by February 6th 2009.

U15 law confusion

A recent exchange on the RFUW discussion board deserves rather wider notice than it might otherwise be given, not least to anyone who plays, coaches, or referees girls' U15 rugby.

As you will all know, when the age groups changed the younger tier of girls rugby changed from being a 12-a-side game with five-player uncontested scrums to a 13-a-side games with six player (potentially) contested scrums. This therefore resulted in a number of rule changes for the age group. The RFUW helpfully circulated a card detailing rule variations to all clubs for use by referees, coaches and anyone else concerned.

However, buried deep in a separate publication - the RFUW Handbook (which is not on the website - well, not that I can find-  and which clubs are only sent one copy of each year) - are extra rules which not everyone may be aware of. Indeed these have only come to light due to what sounds an degree of unpleasentness at a game in Hampshire reported by Simon Thomas, a Level 7 rugby referee who you might expect would know his onions. In his post he says that...
"We appoint to Womens League and also County Womens Adult, U18 and U15 matches in our CB. Last season we discovered the useful RFUW Law card on by accident and so printed & issued it to all our referees who cover any sort of Women's match.

I recently had a report from a Society Ref about an U15 Girls county match, where the two sides disagreed with each other and with him. He was using the RFUW card as his reference. 

Apparently there is no #8 pick up allowed and the second rows must us a 'modesty' outside bind on props. Apart from that they use U14 boys variants, but one side insisted they were allowed to follow round at scrum half ! Apparently this is all in the RFUW 2008-09 handbook - a book no one in our Society has ever seen, let alone been sent (this season or in any previous season). 

Needless to say the Referee involved has indicated that he will decline any future RFUW Girls XV appointments." 
I'm not wildly surprised that Simon did not know about this. I was completely unaware of these rules - which is impressive as I was a member of the panel that recommended the age group changes and where the scrum was discussed in some detail. 

David Rose, a senior referee and now working for RFUW, has now replied and it seems that there are indeed different laws for six-player scrums from those that apply to five or eight. David quotes "the handbook" - though its unclear whether this is the RFUW or RFU's handbook, or another altogether. Anyway what he says appear below (and it is interesting, incidentally, that even David Rose had to get this checked). I've highlighted the relevent bits:
13 aside – 6 in scrum & 7 backs 

The game is played between teams having a maximum of thirteen players, six of whom will be forwards and form the scrum, with the remaining players forming the back line. Each side can have a number of substitutes agreed by mutual consent. Substituted players can be re-used at any time. Substitutions may only take place when the ball is ‘dead’ or at half time and always with the referees knowledge. 

The scrum will be made of six players from each team – the front row (a row of three players, i.e. a prop on either side of the hooker, two locks forming the second row and a back-row player who shall bind between the two locks 3-2-1 formation). The locks must bind to each other using the inside arm, with the outside arm around the hips (not between the legs) of the front row (props). The back row player must have their head between the hips of the second row bound with the arms around the hips (not between the legs) of the second row (locks). No player may unbind to pick up the ball at the rear of the scrum but must remain bound into the scrum until the ball is carried or passed out by the scrum half. 

Safety Note: Coaches must ensure that only players trained in the front row participate in contested scrums. 
Okay, hands up all those U15 coaches and referees who knew about this? Actually, I recall that Joe knew about the requirement to remain bound (he disallowed a try for Sasha in a game last year - or was it the year before? - for this very reason), but who knew about the modesty binding bit? And what the heck is that rule meant to achieve, anyway?

My suspicion here is that the confusion comes from our running U15 games to rules designed and written with younger boys in mind. 

Anyway - its clearly a mess and rather highlights a basic communication issue. If you send someone a 200 or so page handbook you cannot assume that they will read it. Equally posting something on the website (because the same rules also appear here) does not mean that it will be read by everyone who needs to read it. It was news to me - and I would venture to suggest that I probably hang around the RFUW website more than the average reader (indeed I might add that the above link includes a section on U12 rules which were at least partially news to me - a fact that, given Hertfordshire's leading role in the age band, is a bit worrying. I don't think we have broken too many of the rules given, though I fail to see the logic of requiring girls-only U12 teams to play to significantly different rules to those used by mixed U12 teams. Perhaps we should draft in a token boy to stand on the wing in games so as to clear up any confusion?).

I'll leave it to Simon to sum up:
"Well whatever you can do to improve communication would be useful as we had two County U15 Girls coaches and the referee each working with different sets of laws/variations, so there is something going wrong somewhere."

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