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, June 20, 2009

Rugby in the "other" Six Nations

The worldwide reach and growth of women's rugby is demonstrated this weekend when the fifth Caribbean Women's Rugby Championship kicks off in Barbados.

Despite being left out in the cold by the IRB's World Cup plans which give them no opportunity to compete for a place in next year's finals, Caribbean women's rugby continues to grow. The Championships - run by NAWIRA (North America & West Indies Rugby Association) - included only two teams back in 2003, when Trinidad beat Jamaica over two games to lift the first title.

When revived (in Jamaica) in 2006 the pair were joined by Guyana (Jamaica winning this time), and the following year the tournament should have expanded to four teams when the Cayman Islands hosted... until a hurricane ripped through the island the day before the tournament was due to start (not a problem generally faced by Six Nations teams over here).

The same four competed last year in Guyana - with Trinidad pipping the hosts on points difference - and this year the circus moves on to Barbados and sees the international debuts of both Barbados and St Vincent XVs. The only set-back in this rapid expansion is that Guyana will not be at this year's tournament - there is no information anywhere to explain why, but presumably finance will have something to do with it.

Money is certainly one big difference between these six rugby nations and their European counterparts - and you have to wonder if the carrot of World Cup qualification might not have improved things a bit on that score at least. As a result the entire event will take place in a single week, rather than being spread over a month and a half, with all teams being faced with four internationals in seven days - and in the heat of a Barbadian summer (and you all thought that Harpenden was a bit warm this year)!

Another difference is the make-up of the teams. These are real amateurs as the biogs of the Cayman players (average age 36) shows. No lottery funding here - or month long training camps. On the other hand, whatever funding the Caymans get will be well spent - at least three of them are accountants! The Six Nations in Europe also takes place in the glare of publicity compared with this event. Seriously - most of the competing nations' websites don't mention the tournament (assuming they have websites!) and even the host has yet to officially publish the match list (though it has been tracked down).

As for the likely winners, the absence of Guyana means this really is a two-horse race between Jamaica and Trinidad with the latter most likely to retain their title. The Caymans should record their first international win sometime during the week, but when it comes to Barbados and St Vincent... who knows!

However, the main message to come from this tournament is the strength of the women's game. This will be the last tournament of the 2008-09 season, during which there will have been 51 internationals making it the second-busiest non-World Cup season ever. And the busiest was last season, 2007-08, when were 69 internationals (the difference was the lack of a European championship this year). That is 120 full 15-a-side internationals in two seasons, with games being played on every continent by 30 different nations. Its a record of strength and diversity that few women's team sports can match.
  • Despite the general lack of publicity in most islands, you can catch an interview with members of the Cayman team as broadcast on Cayman Island TV's "Daybreak" programme. Its actually pretty good. When did the England team last get this sort of respectful coverage? Clearly there is a higher standard of sports journalism in the Caribbean!

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