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...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Step into the unknown at Herts 7s 2009

The draw for the 2009 Herts 7s has thrown up some fascinating opposition for both our U15 and U18 teams.

For almost all of the U15s this will be a new experience - in fact none of them will ever have been in a competition as big as this before. Twenty teams will play in four groups of five - and we have drawn a combination of teams with a national reputation (such as Worcester), relative novices (Old Northamptonians) and county combinations (Norfolk and Berkshire). It'll be challenging - but an experience which will make all of our U15s better players, and well prepared for next season.

The U18s will also face something new - because we have never played any of the teams we have drawn before! Oakmedians, Ealing and Old Northamptonians are all relatively unknown quantities (though we did at least see ONs play at Gloucester). However the target must be to get at least as far this year as last, and given a full squad there is no reason why we couldn't do that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

200 match milestone ahead

Sometime on Sunday afternoon the U18s will walk onto the field at Worthing for what will be a notable game. First, if all goes well, their fourth game of the day could be a semi-final,  or it may be the final group game to reach the semi-finals. However whatever the game is it will also be a bit of a landmark for the team, the girls' section - and maybe the whole club.

This is because it will be the girls' section's 200th game!

That is quite a lot of rugby, and hopefully there will be at least three girls on the field who were there for match number one - Carla (then hooker and goal kicker), Nikki (then a centre, if I remember right), and Mel (who played on the wing(?) - and whose idea and enthusiasm got the whole section going in the first place!).

During this time we have played games from west Cornwall to north Nottinghamshire against about 80 different teams (you can see them all here), including three from Canada, with something like 100 girls (maybe more!) pulling on a Letchworth shirt - some for one game, most for many more than that. Nikki for one played her 50th game in only our second season, so heaven knows how many times she has played now! 

We've have also won just under half of our games, which isn't bad. Remember that one unique feature about Letchworth is that most of our players do not come from mini sections or families who play rugby. We've all had to learn, most from scratch and (as our new U15s are finding) that means that you may lose a few before you learn to be a winning team. However (again as the U15s are showing), the most important thing - much more important than any result - is that everyone enjoys playing the game and in that we we must be getting something right at Letchworth!

This is a significant milestone. Unfortunately many (possibly most) girls teams do not get this far - the game loses about a third of its girls clubs every two years, and even those that continue rarely play an average of over 40 games per year.

So congratulations to everyone. By the season's end we should be well on our way to 250 games - and our growing number of players should see us through that milestone and beyond!

Proposed law could help women's sport

What goes on in Parliament may seem to be a bit distant, not to say dull, most of the time but today a new piece of proposed law - the Equality Bill - could help increase opportunities for women and girls to play sport.

Most of the Bill deals with things like equal pay and age or religious discrimination - so these will attract most of the publicity - but the Bill also creates a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights which will (apart from many other things) be able to support or even run its own activities "designed to involve members of communities" (its an odd choice of language, but girls or women are a "community" under this Bill) - and sport is definitely included. 

So in theory a programme that was (at least in part) designed to raise the number of girls playing rugby could get lots of official support, whereas something just designed to promote the game in general would get nothing. This could have a galvanising effect on the way future events like the current RFU Play On campaign are planned and designed - like including images of women in a positive, active way and not as so much set dressing. Or a guide to rugby which featured equal number of boys and girls might get funding support, but a guide featuring only boys (as most now do) would not.

In addition the Commission would be able to launch inquiries into any areas of inequality. The shockingly poor coverage of women's sport in the press and on TV would be a great candidate for such an inquiry, partly because Olympics are coming, but also because several ministers and MPs have highlighted this in recent months. Such inquiries are important - they might reveal illegal discrimination, or they might encourage changes in the law, or they might simply embarrass sports journalists by forcing them to say why they ignore women.

There are lots of ifs and buts and maybes at the moment, and any actions in these areas are months or years away (even if this becomes law the Commission probably won't start work until at least April 2010) - but if the Bill is mentioned on the news remember that what they are talking about could affect you.
  • Those of you who I hear might be interested in legal careers might like to look at the actual Bill (click here) - in which case you'll also maybe want to see the Notes on Clauses. The most relevant bits would be clauses 11 and 14-21.

For "Bedford" read "Basford" ...

Bright but not too early on Sunday morning, our U15s met at Letchworth club for the short trip t0 Old Albanians to join them and Hertford and Bedford in a 13-a-side match. On arrival at OAs we couldn't find anyone who knew anything about the match (except a solitary Hertford player who was as confused as us) until we happened to notice Pete & Tina with a group of their players from Basford ... a brief conversation revealed that it was Basford not Bedford that were the intended opposition!

Eventually we did get everyone together and sorted out teams which were, in essence, Basford and OA/Letchworth/Hertford with Basford borrowing a couple of players to even up the numbers.

With the Basford girls being an established side, this was always going to be a tough afternoon for the predominantly novice Hertfordshire girls and so it proved to be with Basford running in a series of tries. However, as the game progressed the Herts girls were competing more effectively and were denied a try in the second half only by superb chasing back by Basford to bundle Sydney into touch just 5 metres short of the tryline.

The result was a well deserved victory to Basford but the Herts girls should be very encouraged by their improvement through the game. After all, they were playing with unfamiliar teammates and many of them were playing in positions they had never tried before so it is bound to take some time to settle into the game. The most important thing was that everyone was striving right to the final whistle and was enjoying themselves - it was so good to see you all smiling and enthusiastic at the end. Keep it up, girls!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Youth Section Presentation Evening

On Saturday, all the boys and girls teams in the junior section of the club were invited to attend the 'Junior Presentation Evening' which is a popular annual event held to recognise the achievements of players, coaches and everyone else connected with the junior teams. As in previous years, the head coach of each team gave a brief presentation of the key points of the season which, in the case of the girls section, would bring Dave Rae to the microphone. But before Dave was called forward, club chairman, Dave Sharp, presented girls teams manager, John Birch, with a club blazer in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of the girls game in the club, county, region and nationally.
In the club, it was John who first formed the girls team in spring 2004 and he has been constantly involved with this section ever since. Having completed such a marathon stint in charge of the girls game, he has seen the original band of players graduate through the age bands of junior rugby into the women's game and has decided to retire from the manager's role at the end of this season. John will be very much missed by everyone involved in the girls rugby section.

Then it was Dave's turn ....

Although, as everyone who knows him recognises, Dave is a quiet, shy, retiring individual, he gave a polished performance and (surprisingly) didn't embarrass himself hardly at all as he recalled many highlights (and a few lowlights) of the season so far.

This year was a little different from previous occasions in that the main awards for the girls section of "Most Improved Player", "Players' Player" and "Player of the Year" were not presented on Saturday because the girls are not yet halfway through their games this season! The U18s, for example, have played a total of 20 matches and still have 4 tournaments involving at least another 20 games to go.

However, there was no shortage of trophies being presented with the girls who have played representative rugby each receiving a commemorative award from club chairman, Dave Sharp. This year, eight of our U18 players have been selected to play for Hertfordshire -

Nikki Alcock
Hayley Guilder
Charlie Hughes
Eleanor Morris
Jess Robinson
Natalie Threlfall
Emily Vivian
Laura Watson

and two of these players went on to represent the RFUW East region -

Hayley Guilder (Senior team)
Jess Robinson (U18s team)

Friday, April 24, 2009

World Cup 2010: your help needed to make it a success

RFUW have launched an appear for volunteers to help ensure next year's World Cup runs smoothly and successfully. Volunteers will be needed in a range of roles, from medical assistance to spectator services to liaison officers. 

Volunteers will need for be aged at least 16
 and most of the work will be in the area where the tournament will take place - Richmond in west London - between 25th August and 12th September. Some 
jobs may be in at the grounds being used - even at pitchside - but not all. The positions will be unpaid, but volunteers will receive their own distinctive "stash" of clothing and will also get food, drink, and match accreditation for the game or games they will be working at. Training will be provided

If you are interested in volunteering you need to complete an Expression of Interest form. At the moment no closing date is listed, but clearly the sooner you apply the better.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Senior National 7s cancelled - future junior tournaments under threat?

The Senior National 7s has been cancelled by RFUW due to a lack of entries. Until a few days ago only five teams were listed as having entered a tournament designed for 32 teams. The junior sevens has attracted a full entry of 16 teams for each age band (see here for complete entry) and will still go ahead.

Until only three years ago the National Sevens was a three day event, with the adult competition taking two days to reach a conclusion. Its decline seems to have started with the move of the event to Leighton Buzzard and the related reduction of the tournament to a single day. This also resulted in disappearance of many of the social activities associated with the event, which may have been a reason for the decline.

However, at £150 for a single day's rugby the National Sevens may also have priced itself beyond the reach of most clubs - a bit of a problem especially with the rise of the Bournemouth Sevens, which is cheaper, offers a full weekend of rugby, includes both men's and women's tournaments, and has a lot of off-field attractions. Letchworth already send a men's team to Bournemouth and it is being suggested that next year we could "reunite" our U18 players from previous years and take a women's team as well - and the prospects for that look good.

What looks less good is the prospects for the Junior Nationals 7s in the future. Both it and the Senior Sevens still appear in the draft calendar for next season, but we saw this season how the failure of a senior tournament lead to the cancellation of its junior equivalent as well. Hopefully this will not happen in this case, but it is difficult to see how the senior tournament can be revived (certainly as an event at this time of year). The cost of running just a junior tournament on its own would be significantly higher than running it alongside an adult event - so at the very least the cost would go up. And the junior National 7s is already by far the most expensive tournament Letchworth RFC enters, for either boys or girls...

The loss of an official club sevens would be a wider problem. Over 80 countries play sevens while less than 30 play 15-a-side game. If rugby gets into the Olympics, sevens it will become the major format for international women's rugby. Apart from in England...

And still they come...

We could have another fixture against a Canadian touring team before next season begins. A U18 team of 25 players from Manitoba is visiting the UK between August 24th to September 3rd and the have asked Lisa from Gloucester Girls Rugby to help organise their tour. They are looking to arrange four games and clubs interested in playing the team are being asked to contact Lisa by 1st May 2009. 

We'd obviously need to combine with another team, especially as people may still be on holiday, so there are a few matters that will need working out. There is also the small matter of when exactly the 2009/10 season starts (and therefore who would be eligible to play in any game!).

It is amazing how many girls rugby teams from Canada tour the UK each year - far more than make the return journey. Adult clubs from the UK occasionally go to exotic locations, but the furthest I can recall reading about any junior team travelling was the Worcester trip to Ireland a couple of years ago. There are only about 1900 teenage players in Canada - at this rate most of them must visit these shores at some point in the rugby careers!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Glorious Gloucester photos

Professionally taken photographs of the teams, many of the games and the presentations of trophies at the Gloucester 10s tournament can be viewed on http://www.flickr.com/photos/lindadawsonrocks/

These photos can be bought by emailing the file numbers of the pictures you wish to buy to lindadawson@btinternet.com. You will then receive a paypal invoice for the amount due.

The cost of the pictures is £10 for a 5" x 7" print or 3 prints for £20. Postage is £2. Proceeds go to the Old Northamptonians Girls Rugby Tour with a donation to Gloucester Girls Rugby also being made.

Other sizes are also available on request : please call 01604 585810 for more information.

Please note that orders must be made by 20th May 2009.

At the time of writing, not all of the photos have been uploaded to the website so be sure to look back again in a day or two when all the photos should be on show.

Glorious Gloucester : Part 2!

News is filtering through that the U15s Sunday tournament was just as well organised and just as hotly contested as the U18s had been on Saturday....

Letchworth girls combined with Berry Hill for this event to form the 'Amazon Barbarians'. As both teams are relatively young and inexperienced, this was always going to be a difficult tournament for them but the reports reaching me emphasize the spirit with which the girls took on opponents far bigger and more experienced than themselves. Jade, in particular, seemed to relish bringing even the biggest of opponents down to earth with a bump and everyone, as Wonky put it, 'got stuck in' and kept going all day. The team was getting better game by game and was only narrowly defeated by Old Northamptonians in the Plate semi-final by 14-20.

After a hard days rugby, Amazon Barbarians finished in 8th place with Sydney their top scorer in the tournament. The girls were still smiling at the end and were determined to do better in the next tournament! The enthusiasm and effort they put in certainly suggests that much more successful tournaments await them in the future ...

Letchworth scorers :

Tries : Sydney (4)

National Cup correction

It seems that I have been misinformed about Thornbury's withdrawl at least. My apologies to all involved.

Even so the main points remain. It is difficult to understand why national resources are being directed in support of a competition that attracts a handful of entries (9 U18 teams and - I believe - 13 U15 teams?) while other, more popular, formats have been cancelled. Fifteen (or thirteen) a-side rugby may be important, but at this stage in development very few true club teams can come up with squads large enough to take part in this sort of event, especially with the rules as they are. As a result three days in a wildly overcrowded calendar set aside for the event also seems just a bit excessive - the knock-on effect of the tournament ultimately restricts as many playing opportunities as it creates.

But in addition - and the main thing that made all this worthy of mention - was that the format chosen in the south was extraordinary and worthy of comment. At least some of the clubs involved were far from happy - which is why information about it found its way to here. Good luck to those who do go to the second day, but really two days - and two long journeys - should not have been necessary for the task of reducing five teams to one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reserve this date now: Gloucester 10s 2010

Stop Press: Gloucester City 10s is on again for next year! So make a date in your diary NOW for...

17th/18th April 2010

The most important woman in world rugby

Her name is Susan Carthy, she plays for UL Bohemian RFC in Ireland, and she is now the most important woman in the world of rugby, and arguably the most important ever.

Why? Because she has just taken up work as the IRB's first Development Manager for the women's game - as mentioned when she was appointed back in December - the first woman ever to have a senior position in the IRB. Susan was Ireland's equivilent of Rosie Williams until the Irish Women's RFU "integrated" with the men's IRFU - much as the RFUW will be "integrating" with the RFU next year. 

In recognition of her taking on her new role Susan was interviewed by Colin Duffy of the IRFU last weekend. Not the most enlightening of interviews, it has to be said - and clearly Mr Duffy doesn't know much about women's rugby - but opportunities to hear Susan discuss her work are rare.

It shouldn't happen to a referee...

Not women's rugby related, but worth a look as this is possibly the funniest rugby video compilation yet...
... and I'm sure all the incidents were "accidental"?

Glorious Gloucester!

The Gloucester City 10s tournament took place over the weekend of 18/19 April at Hartpury college with the U18s competition on the Saturday and the U15s playing on the Sunday.

In the U18s competition, Letchworth were depleted to only 10 players due to various work commitments, etc. and were fortunate to be joined for the day by Emily Kingston as this gave the potential to rest one player at a time during the tournament (or, at least, that's what we had hoped!). The competition involved 10 teams split into 2 groups and Letchworth found themselves in the same group as old adversaries Worcester and Suffolk Sabres as well as two teams we had not played before - NewCull (Newquay & Collumpton) and Berry Hill.

The first game - against Suffolk Sabres - was a close fought battle which was eventually won by Sabres 14-0. This was followed by a more one sided match against Worcester who romped away to a convincing 27-0 victory. During this game, Georgie took a nasty bang to the head and was duly taken off to the local hospital to be checked out - so much for having a player to spare! I'm glad to report that Georgie was able to rejoin the team in time to see their final match in the tournament.

With only 10 players, Letchworth next played NewCull who were even worse off as they only had 7! The game was therefore played as a 7-a-side contest and was again a very even match with Letchworth running out winners by 12-7 thanks to a couple of excellent tries by Natalie and Bubbles and fantastic chasing back by Natalie who just caught the NewCull player short of the line and prevented them snatching the game away from Letchworth in the final minute. The last group game against Berry Hill saw the Letchworth girls take command and win by the comfortable margin of 22-0 with tries by Nikki, Emily and Jess (2).

At the conclusion of the group stage, Letchworth were in 3rd place and qualified for the 'Tornado Shield' final against Exeter Saracens but before that game there was time to take a team photo - unfortunately without Georgie who had not yet got back to Hartpury -
and to take part in the RAF Team Challenge in the gym. This was a timed series of tests with the emphasis on problem solving, teamwork and communication -

- all the challenges were completed but a high number of fouls (particularly on the 5 person balance) saw Letchworth end up in 7th place.

And so to the Tornado Shield final against the reigning RFUW National 7s champions, Exeter Saracens. It was an exciting game dominated by break away tries with Exeter gaining an early lead and building on that base throughout the rest of the game to finish with a commanding lead. The highlight from a Letchworth perspective was a great interception by Jess who then ran the length of the field to score under the posts and put herself to the top of the Letchworth try scorers this season.
This was a very hard days rugby and the Letchworth girls were excellent throughout the day with everyone doing their utmost right up to the final whistle. Runners-up in the Tornado Shield (6th place overall) was a fine achievement in what I feel was the highest standard competition I have seen in girls club rugby.

Not only was the standard of rugby very high, the whole tournament was very well run and very sportingly competed. Many, many thanks to Gloucester Girls Rugby Charitable Trust Fund for a fantastically well organised event.

And finally, a special 'Thank you' to Emily who played brilliantly for Letchworth throughout the day.

Group Results :

Suffolk Sabres 14 - 0 Letchworth
Worcester 27 - 0 Letchworth
NewCull 7 - 12 Letchworth
Berry Hill 0 - 22 Letchworth

Tornado Shield final :
Exeter Saracens 31 - 5 Letchworth

Letchworth scorers :

Tries : Jess (3), Natalie, Bubbles, Nikki, Emily
Conversions : Carla, Nikki

A report on the U15s competition will be posted shortly.

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