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, March 30, 2010

Rugby League plan five-fold increase in number of female players

Rugby League is rarely heard of at this end of the country. There are one or two men's amateur teams (the nearest in Hemel), but no women's or girls sides this side of Nottingham [amendment - apparently there is a women's team in London!]. However, that could change in the next few years as the sport - armed with grants of nearly £30m - looks at switching to playing in the summer, and expanding the game southwards.

Professional rugby league has been a summer sport since 1996, and the semi-professional "conference" has also gone the same way. Only amateur (and therefore all girls') rugby league is still played in the winter. However, this could all change very soon as part of a plan to expand the amateur and junior game - plans that aim to increase the number women and girls playing the game from 4,000 to over 20,000 by 2012.

At present the girls' game is restricted to Yorkshire and Lancashire, but in these counties the RL already claim to have more players than RFUW - so once established it can be a significant competitor, and its strength is possibly a significant reason why the North West Region at least has never been a significant force in girls' rugby (they even pulled out of the regional championships four or five years ago due to a lack of players). The RL has had long-standing plans to run girls club and schools tournaments further south, but until now nothing has come of this perhaps due to the strength of union in the south.

This could change as one effect of a move to summer rugby would be to end the competition for players  (the RL Conference summer season runs from May to September) and make it possible to switch codes, playing League in the summer and Union in the winter. While League may not be an attraction for all (especially some specialist forwards, such as most front row), it could be a really attractive summer option for many players - especially perhaps second row, flankers and larger centres and full backs. League is also a far simpler version of the game, and tactically much closer to tag rugby which could make it very attractive to young players.

This may seem all a bit theoretical at the minute, and a long way away too, but the Rugby League are saying that these changes could happen within a year - and they have a real incentive to expand quickly as any grants beyond 2012 will be dependent on their hitting their player targets. It will be interesting to see what RFUW's response will be if women's and girls' League teams start appearing in the south...

Big changes for England U20s

There are changes across the board in the England U20 starting line-up for this weekend's game against Wales. Only six players remain from the starting line-up that fell 36-22 to France.

That result a couple of weeks ago was the first time the junior team had ever been defeated, or even seriously stretched. Only last summer they won the U20 Nations Cup against what most observers would have said were the leading U20 teams in the world, winning final against the USA by an astonishing 110-0. For such an well prepared, experienced team to lose to France U20s - who hardly ever get together at all, never mind actually play anyone - was a surprise, and the margin of defeat a complete shock.

Wales at home should be a rather different matter than France away, and England should not be seriously troubled. Even more interesting is that the game will be the first international to be played at the Surrey Sports Park - the home of this summer's World Cup. In some respects it will be almost a dress rehearsal for August's tournament, with the English and Welsh teams "testing" the almost brand new facilities (though hopefully in August it will be a bit warmer!).

Click here for full team details and RFU's preview

Monday, March 22, 2010

11-try East destroy North East in final warm-up

East U18s look like being one of the favourites for the last ever regional title next month after destroying North East 65-0 yesterday - despite being at less than full strength! Our own Jess scored two, both near the end of the first half - one of the tries being converted by Claire from Saracens, who racked up 19 points, including a hat-trick of tries.

A full report will appear on the Herts Girls blog shortly.

The U15s also won by 24-12, including a try from Sydney.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

England U20s defeated for first time

An almost perfect weekend for French rugby finished with their U20 team defeating England for the first time, in front of a crowd of over 4,500.

England - including a several players who played for or against Letchworth in recent years - began well, scoring the first try and were only 19-17 behind at half time. However, three unanswered French tries in the second half allowed the home side extend their lead to 19 points before England scored their final try in the last few minutes of the game. The final score was 36-22. Full report from RFU.

This weekend France have therefore defeated England in the men's Six Nations, men's student, men's amateur, women's A, and women's U20 level, and only lost the women's Six Nations by a single point.

Welsh shock rounds off 2010 Six Nations

Wales - runners-up and Triple Crown winners last season - have finished bottom of this year's Six Nations after a shock 19-15 home defeat to Italy today. The result was the first time Wales have ever lost to Italy, and only Italy's second win their Six Nation's history and only their third away win in their entire history. Wales had the game fully under control in the first half - 12-0 ahead - but in the second everything went horribly wrong. (See Scrumqueens for a full report). Non Evans finished as the tournament's top scorer, but that is unlikely to be any consolation.

And so the final table looks like this:

PositionNationGamesPointsTable
points
PlayedWonDrawnLostForAgainstDifferenceTries
1England5500156151411710
2France5302974750156
3Ireland530269521796
4Scotland511331108-7743
5Italy511344129-8563
6Wales51044995-4662

So where does this leave the teams, with the World Cup now barely five months away?

England had a reality check in France, but to their credit survived and look in perfect shape for August. Coach Gary Street has taken every opportunity to "blood" as many players as possible (fifteen English players got their names onto the scoresheet during the tounament!), has played around with various combinations, and  could not be better placed. In fact so well prepared are they, if England do not win the title this summer it is difficult to see how they ever will.

France have also hit form at just the right moment. A team that had in recent years seemed directionless and almost embarrassing - barely escaping with a draw against South Africa last summer - came within two plays of a Grand Slam. If they could have kept Scotland out for the final few seconds in their opening game, and if AurĂ©lie Bailon's kick had gone just a few metres more against England, this would have been a remarkable triumph. What is more they have that vital feature of a successful team - the ability to win while playing badly, at least that seems to be the case if the comments of defeated coaches are any judge.

As for the World Cup, France have been given an excellent draw - only Canada stand in their way and, in practice, both could well qualify from their group - and given the huge lift this Six Nations has given them who knows how far they might go. On the down side they will not be playing at home, and their away form remains fragile.

Ireland get better and better, their third place this year being at least as impressive as last year's. New home ground Ashbourne is now an impregnable fortress, while away from home they were impressive - and maybe even a little unlucky - against France and England. They were also unlucky with their draw for the World Cup, but if they can keep the score down in the opening game against England then the "best runner-up" spot could be there for the taking. They certainly have the confidence - and ability - to go further than any Irish team has ever gone before.

Scotland started so well, but then then faded away incredibly quickly. After a historic win over France anything seemed possible, but a few weeks later they were scraping a draw in Italy, being thumped by Wales, humiliated by England, and rolled over by Ireland where the score was - by all accounts - only kept down by the weather. In the World Cup they will face France, Canada, and Sweden and on current form are more likely to be battling to avoid bottom place than a semi-final berth.

Italy ended up with their best Six Nations ever - so they will be ruing their failure to qualify for the World Cup. Instead all they have to look forward to is the European Trophy in May where they will take on the likes of Germany, Russia, Sweden and France A. They should reach the semi-finals at least, but as a Six Nations side should really be challenging for the title.

And so we come to Wales, which is where we came in. Quite what Wales do now is difficult to see. Even based on last season's form a draw that pitted them against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa looked a tough ask, but now its more Mission Impossible. The person with the most questions to answer must be the coach, Jason Lewis, who stayed loyal to the same team despite defeat to Ireland last week. It was a risky strategy as the problem Lewis now faces is where he goes from here. After successive defeats to Ireland and Italy he perhaps knows which team he should not pick for the World Cup, but will have few clues about which team he should be selecting.

Rugby in California - a dangerous game... to watch!

There have been times in the past where there have been the odd heated discussions between spectators at some of our games. Its pretty rare, but some may remember a game last season that had to be abandoned when some parents were unwilling to accept a referees decision following some foul play. This is normally calmed down fairly quickly with only occasional disciplinary action needed by a club.

Well, they take their rugby pretty seriously in California too, it seems. Trouble is, being America, they have other  ways of dealing with things beyond a stern word from the club committee. So when an argument broke out at the end of a women's training session at East Palo Alto on Tuesday between one of the players and some male spectators the result (according to this report) was two men shot, one five times in the back.

Even more remarkably another shooting took place yesterday after a game - this time a men's game - only a few miles away.

Apparently arrests have been made in both cases, and (remarkably) no-one has been killed but perhaps the moral here is that if you are ever in the US and you get to watch a rugby match be careful what you say...

Six Nations rugby live: why are we still waiting?

This fascinating newsreel of (men's) rugby from the 1922 was recently unearthed - its fun to watch, look out for the hilarious lineout, not to mention the awful rucks (you'd expect U12s to play better than this these days and I am not joking!). However, when watching it I was struck by how attempting to following women's international rugby today must be very similar to what it was like to follow men's rugby 70 or 80 years ago because you have to largely rely on written reports. As usual none of this year's Six Nations games could be watched live by anyone, unless you were at the ground:
  • England games were available as short, five minute, highlights issued by the RFU to the media (and well used by the BBC).
  • Wales had all their games filmed by BBC Wales - but again only short highlights are available
  • France publish recordings of some of their games on their website
  • Scottish Rugby TV record occasional women's games, but the SRU do nothing
  • Italy and Ireland never seem to issue any recordings of any of their games
Back in the 1920s there was a excuse for the lack of coverage - like they hadn't invented TV yet - but today? Even the excuse about there not being TV channel show it doesn't work - we have the Intenet. Canada, the USA and even (for heaven's sake!) the Bahamas have all webcast live women's rugby within the last year. Indeed when it comes to the first two you almost take it for granted that their home internationals will be available.

If small, cash-strapped unions like those in North America can manage it, then why do the Home Unions have a problem? Most games are already being filmed anyway - so why not stream them? Its hardly expensive these days - and any cost would surely be justified by the promotional boost it would give.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

England sneak home in France - can the U20s do better?

England won their fifth successive Six Nations last night, completing their fourth Grand Slam in five years - but they had a real fright on the way. In dreadful weather conditions a Kay McLean penalty early in the second half put them 11-3 ahead, but a few minutes later an error in their previously faultless defence allowed Celine Alliament in for a try, which was converted to reduce the lead to a single point. Memories of England's last Six Nations defeat in Wales last season were revived when Aurélie Bailon then had a penalty in the final seconds - but this time it just fell short. Full report on ScrumQueens.

This means that on Sunday England U20s have a chance to show the senior squad how its really done - and what is more Sasha says that the game should be available via a live Webcast from the French Rugby Union's website. The direct address is http://ffrxv.captv.eu/. Its a bit fiddly - you have to log in, but the password etc. is on the page - and the French do not always deliver on their promises to show games! However on the same site you can watch several previous French women's internationals from this season, including their second game against Canada, plus their games against Ireland and Italy. Take a look - the Ireland game in particular is pretty good.

Elsewhere Ireland beat Scotland (see ScrumQueens for a report), but they too were not helped by the weather and only ran out winners by 15-3. So, with one game to go, the 2010 Six Nations looks like this:

PositionNationGamesPointsTable
points
PlayedWonDrawnLostForAgainstDifferenceTries
1England5500156151411710
2France5302974750156
3Ireland530269521796
4Scotland511331108-7743
5Wales41033476-4242
6Italy401325114-8931

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