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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

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!

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