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...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Senior rugby - at 11 years old?

This might be an unremarkable article here from a local paper about a local sportswoman - except for a couple of things.

Its about Task Kara (right) who will soon be playing her fiftieth senior game for her club. But she is only 15! Even more astonishing is the fact that she played her debut at the age of 11!

And this is not tale from some small country with only a few rugby players. This story comes from Waimea women's 1st XV in Christchurch, New Zealand. Who are they? Well put it this way, when Tash went on for her first game four years ago she did so as  replacement for Stephanie Mortimer - at the time the wing for New Zealand's women - while her captain on the day was current the Black Fern's skipper Melissa Ruscoe.

Task is obviously a pretty good player (she scored 10 tries in that first season, which isn't bad for any team) - but that is not the matter of note here. What is truly amazing is that if Task had been in England should would not have been able to play even U15 girls rugby. Indeed she would not be allowed to so much as train with an adult team, never mind play in a side containing two World Champions.

So who is right here? Presumably there are no strict age rules in New Zealand (though there must be age band teams?) - it seems that if you are good enough to play, you play - and it is a policy that certainly doesn't do them any harm at international level (or indeed below that).

Would that work here? Its an important question. The strict application of age bands in England has undoubtedly lost the game players. We have seen it at Letchworth. Over the last few years we have lost maybe five or six girls from the U15s because we could not get regular games for them (despite endless attempts to form links with other clubs). That must be multiplied many times over across the country. Indeed it is questionable whether we as a club would have got going at all if we (and other clubs) had not been able to bend the bands a bit in some games in that first season, thus getting everyone games.

However its obviously a safety concern. Would there be pressure to put girls into situations that they were not capable of dealing with? Would injuries increase? Would insurance become impossible to arrange? On the other hand age is not a guarantee of safety - we have all seen massive 14 year olds perfectly capable of holding their own at a higher level who tower (arguably dangerously) over little 12 year olds. And wasn't it mad that Nikki got to play one more season of junior rugby - despite being only days older than Carla, who had to stop playing last year?

Its a difficult balancing act. Any policy that results in players being lost from the game needs to be justified - and clearly they have found a way around all this in New Zealand. Perhaps the Age Band Review should be looking further afield when it takes its evidence?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

U18s Finish on a Winning Note!

The Letchworth Saracens U18s played their final league game of the season at Letchworth on Sunday and for 6 players (4 Letchworth and 2 Saracens) it was their final home game before moving up to senior rugby next season. Obviously, that made it a special day but it was also special because the match was against Berkshire Baa-Baas who had defeated Letchworth Saracens in the first game of the season at Reading.

From the moment the referee got the match underway, there was no doubt that both teams were well motivated and a fierce battle ensued with half chances being created by both sides. With play ebbing and flowing down the pitch, it was anybodies guess who would score first in this encounter but the home side were gradually getting the upper hand and were eventually rewarded with a try by Megan. Claire added the conversion.

Immediately, the Berkshire girls were back on the attack searching for an equalising score but it was Letchworth Saracens who broke away to extend their lead with a try by Bubbles. Once again Berkshire responded to the challenge and were rewarded with a well worked try to leave the score 12-5 at the break.

The second half was characterised by both defences getting the upper hand and, indeed, although it was fiercely contested, there were no further scores until the very last move of the game which saw Jess dive over for a third Letchworth Saracens try. Once again, Claire succeeded with the conversion.

Score : Letchworth Saracens U18s 19 v. 5 Berkshire Baa-Baas U18s

Letchworth Saracens scorers :

Tries : Megan, Bubbles, Jess

Conversions : Claire (2)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Farewell Swaffham?

Swaffham was a bright and active club in Norfolk - effectively the centre of Norfolk girls' rugby. They began a year or so after us, and modelled quite a lot of what they did on Letchworth - including a very effective blog! We also played them several times, making two visits to their ground in 2008/9

Unfortunately in recent months we've been hearing that Swaffham had run into problems. Support from the CB - Eastern Counties - seems to have all but collapsed, fixtures seemed to be a growing problem and several players were lost to other clubs (including Chloe, who came to us). However, I think we all hoped that things would turn round for them. Those behind the club were so dedicated, and the club was producing so many talented players, that surely they'd find a way through?

Unfortunately this evening I received the following message:

John, can you take the link down for the Swaffham girls site from the Letchworth one. We have turned the light off, shut the door, etc........
The last straw seems to have been the RFUW's proposals for leagues. The disappearance of Swaffham may also all but kill off the Eastern Counties team, and therefore any route into representative rugby for girls in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, as the only significant club across the two counties would seem to be Sudbury.

Its all a reminder - and both a scary and timely one - about how fragile the girls game is. Ill considered one size fits all policies launched from the centre can be disastrous, regardless of how well intentioned they may be.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

U15s given the run around

Like everywhere else, Letchworth has been very dry over the last few weeks and all but the first team pitch, which had been watered all week, were too hard to play on. So it was with more concern about sunburn and bruises than waterproofs that we prepared for the match. Where I made the mistake, I realise now, was in putting the suncream in the car on Saturday evening ... I should have realised that this would virtually guarantee a downpour on Sunday morning! However, it all turned out alright as the rain had moved on before the game got underway and the underfoot conditions were much improved on last week.

Played as a 10-a-side game, the girls found plenty of space to run the ball and an open flowing game ensued. Despite resolute defence by the home side, the Berkshire girls managed to break through to score a brace of tries before Letchworth Saracens pegged them back with a try of their own. Although Letchworth Saracens were competitive to the end this was their only score and they had to contend with Berks Baa-Baas mounting sweeping attacks which ultimately stretched the home defence to breaking point to open up a decisive margin of victory.

This was a very entertaining game which Berkshire Baa-Baas deservedly won but the Letchworth Saracens girls should be proud that they maintained a high level of comittment and performance throughout.

Score : Letchworth Saracens U15s 5 v. 34 Bershire Baa-Baas U15s

Injury spoils the day

An injury to Ellah in a training game after the league match against Berkshire Baa-Baas on Sunday will see her miss the rest of the season.

This is a cruel blow to one of our most dedicated and well respected players and we wish her a full and speedy recovery.

Support Amanda

There is one person without whom you would almost certainly not be playing rugby - and she is not from Letchworth (or RFUW). It is thanks to Amanda Bate that Hertfordshire is probably the best place in the country to play girls' rugby - more teams, better organisation, better funding than any other county anywhere else. Its also thanks to Amanda that girls rugby formed such an important part of Herts Youth Games, its thanks to Amanda that Herts 7s exists, and ultimately that Letchworth Girls exists.

Now its your chance to show your thanks - and it won't cost you a penny, just 30 seconds of your time (probably less). Just click here and then click on "Back this idea". That's it.

“The guys in my team were accepting. They had to be, I scored all the tries.”

Sorry if anyone thinks these Dee Why stories are dominating things a bit of late, but I think they are excellent - and its nice to have something positive about the game when every day brings more cries of woe about the latest initiative in this country.

The latest article shows how far things have come as it reports on what a girl - Lydal Nuss - who wanted to play rugby 30 years ago had to go through. It may be a tale from Australia, but chances are that the same thing would have been experienced over here as well. It shows - fortunately - how much attitudes can change (though there is still room for things to improve!)

However the best bit of it had to be the quote (above). Its brilliant. Made me smile!

Meanwhile, half a world away...

Its Autumn in New Zealand, the leaves are falling... but who is this familiar face?
It's Simon Hill, Letchworth Girls' coach in 2008/9 season (arguably our most successful season ever - he knew what he was doing once the language barrier was overcome) and former Letchworth 1st XV prop, who turned out for New Brighton 2nd XV in Christchurch last week, starting  on the bench, but coming on in the second half. He may be 18,000 miles away, but Simon is still playing in Black and Amber. Nice hat too, by the way.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Tasman, in sunny Sydney, a more attractive image as Dee Why Pinks (the all-girl Under 6 team) are rapidly becoming media stars. Their local paper are reporting on every game they play - the latest being a narrow 11-10 defeat to Seaforth Gold, who presented all the girls with flowers after the game. The Pinks now have a squad size well into double figures with four or five new players since they first made the headlines a week or two ago - which hopefully means that they won't have to borrow a few boys like they did in an earlier fixture this season.

With such a large squad of girls - who are clearly having such fun - how far might they go in future years?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Fabulous Five ... less one!

It was the end on an era at Letchworth on Sunday, when 4 players made their last home appearance for the club before moving up to the adult game next season. Actually, it should have been 5 players but, regrettably, Chloe had not recovered from an ankle injury and wasn't able to be there.

Laura and Chloe moved to the Letchworth club in 2009 whilst the others are the longest serving players in the girls squad. Natalie and Jess joined the club in 2005 and Nikki is the last of the original Letchworth girls team who played their first match at Legends Lane on October 10th, 2004 to move up to senior rugby -

With the girls season going on to the end of May, there is still plenty of rugby to be played by the Fabulous Five this season as Letchworth Saracens are entered in the Worthing 10s, Herts 7s and the RFUW National 7s tournaments.

The end of rugby... as you know it

And now we come to what is, perhaps, the highlight of the season. With the boys' season over May gives us access to grounds impossible at any other time. As a result its festival time and even without Dorking this year we still have Worthing 10s, Herts 7s, and National 7s to look forward to. A month with two Bank Holidays also allow for teams across the country to get together so we should be renewing our friendship with teams like Darlington, Tynedale, Exeter, Newquay, and Waterloo. Excitement, variety, good weather (most of the time) hundreds of girls together, brilliant days, fantastic memories.

Well, make the most of it this year because - as things stand - it will never happen again.

The draft calendar for 2010-11 that appeared a few months ago showed the surprise move of the National 7s to  the early May Bank Holiday - a move that many of us thought was linked to the need to avoid clashes with events like Bournemouth Sevens which decimated entries to the adult event last year. But in a shock development yesterday RFUW issued a revised calendar which...
  • Includes no mention of the Nationals Sevens (though there is an "Easter Sevens" for juniors only)
  • Ends the season at the end of April
  • States that - for insurance reasons - there must be NO club rugby in May AT ALL
The reason given is the need to bring the female season into line with the male so that there is a single game. However, admirable and understandable though this policy may be, it does seem to forget the reasons why the women's and girls' rugby season has a different structure which is, as suggested above, access to grounds. If women's and girls' teams can now look forward to equal access to pitches (Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings respectively), full and equal funding of its county teams by CBs (and national team by RFU), the appearance of the national team's Six Nations games on TV, and so on then maybe but somehow I don't think that is going to happen.

What we are getting instead is the loss of probably all of our best tournaments, the highlight of our season, and all this on the back of fixture chaos from a rushed review of leagues (more on that later)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nat's a big hit at the Legends Lane farewell

Mike will be writing the match report from this afternoon, but until then - and thanks to Rosie Randall brilliant picture (above) - here is perhaps the most memorable single moment when Natalie charge for the line came to a very sudden stop, floored and lifted off her feet by the strong right arm of  Berkshire's no. 13.

Fortunately Nat was soon up again but was unable to score in her final game at Legends Lane. Fellow "graduate" Nikki also uncharacteristically failed to make it onto the scoresheet, but of the quartet of departees "Bubbles" and Jess both finished off with tries. More of Rosie's pictures can be seen here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

And now the end is near...

The final league game - and the final XVs game - of the season is on Sunday at Letchworth, when the U15s and U18s take on Berkshire Barbarians. Both games will be on the first team pitch - and you will be delighted to hear that the club will be watering it overnight so that it will not be the consistency of concrete! U15s will be playing their game first (12.15 meet) followed by the U18s.

The season is far from over as there are still a whole raft of tournaments to look forward to, but this will be the final fixture at Letchworth this season - and for Nikki, Jess, Natalie and Chloe their final (perhaps ever) games at Legends Lane.

Its therefore a significant occasion. Nikki in particular has spent a third of her life turning up at Letchworth twice a week (or more), every week, apart from the summer months. She has played rugby in the black and amber since the spring 2004 - including the very first ever game. Jess and Nat have been regulars for almost as long, having first set foot on the hallowed turf the following year, while for Chloe it will be the end of her one and only season in black and amber.

If any former legends are reading this perhaps they might like to come along and cheer the girls on?

RFUW age band review

RFUW have issued a consultation document to all clubs about the age bands used for girls' rugby.

Deciding what age bands should be used for girls' rugby has been a continuing problem for the game ever since girls began playing in significant numbers. Up until the age of 12 mixed rugby is possible, so - in theory - any girls who want to play rugby can play with boys as part of the RFU's "Continuum", which generally uses single year age bands - ie. U13, U12, U11 etc.

After the age of 12, mixed rugby is outlawed by the RFU so girls have to play alone - and that creates a problem as there are not enough girls to have single year age bands. As a result girls rugby has always been played in multi-year bands - which means a difficult balancing act between player safety and player numbers.

Until 2003 the bands were - U16 (covering all girls aged from 12-16, or school years 7-11) and U18, mainly because in the early history of the game most girls did not start playing until around the age of 16 - or later. What is more the bands were not policed very strongly - some of out "older" team member may recall Amy Goodwin-Davies, who played for Letchworth when we started. She had played before joining Letchworth, and had even turned out for the a women's team despite being only around 14. Apparently this was not unusual.

However it was clearly not ideal. Even if strictly policed a four year age band bringing together 12 year old and 16 year old girls was a problem, so in 2004 it was replaced with U14 and U17 age bands. Again initially these were not policed very strictly (enabling us to play several "all-in" U16 games in our first season) but after the first season things were tightened up.

These two three-year bands worked far better, but created a problem for 17 year-olds who were now forced to play adult rugby, despite still being juniors. Many women's teams found this a problem as the law required them to have all sorts of child protection procedures which many found an annoying headache. In addition 17 year old front row could not play at all because of a separate RFU/IRB ban on U18s playing in these positions in adult rugby - which meant that the game suddenly found itself with a growing shortage of props and hookers. As a result in 2006 a new age band review had little choice than to change the age bands to the current U15 and U18.

Unfortunately the effect of this was that U12s - girls in school year 7 - now found they could not play girls' rugby. This meant that girls who were being introduced to the game in their first year at secondary school had no-where to go (not many U12 boys being very welcoming to girls in their teams at the best of times, and especially if they are new to the game and are only going to be around for one season anyway). Some local U12 initiatives were launched in various parts of the country, but in practice it has become clear that girls with up to six years of experience in mini rugby are being lost to the game in droves - a real problem as a glance at the current England team shows that it is full of players who started in minis. How many 11 and 12 year-old potential Emily Scarratts or Fiona Pococks have been lost to the game because they had no-where to go to play?

And so the RFUW have launched a new review. All clubs have been written to by Keeley Fathers, RFUW's Competitions Officer, and she is asking three questions:
1) What do you think of the current age bands in relation to encouraging participation?
2) Are there any changes that could be made to the current age bandings which in your opinion would further encourage participation?
3) What barriers do you believe exist which stop girls playing rugby and how can they be overcome?
Replies are requested by email to by 21st May - so please get writing. Even if you are too old for this review to affect you it will affect the girls that come after you - so if you care for your game then spend a few minutes writing to Keeley. A fuller and more detailed consultation is promised later in the year, and this is a great chance to influence what will be in that proposal.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

World Cup venues: The RFUW reply

RFUW have responded to the recent articles on here about the apparent lack of seats at the Surrey Sports Park in particular, as well as the choice of venue for the final. Its the longest and most detailed explanation I have yet seen, and certainly helps understand their thinking. Pity it has taken so long for it to come out. Also if RFUW are now going to start responding to criticism positively in the future instead of either pretending it didn't exist (or issuing veiled threats) it is also a very welcome development. Criticisms on here (and elsewhere) of RFUW policies and decisions are not negative - we all want as strong a game as possible. They come from the RFUW's tendency to make decisions without consultation, explanation, or full consideration of the consequences (the proposed junior leagues being a case in point - more on them later). If that could change then maybe the criticisms would disappear.

Anyway, to get back to the point, here is the RFUW's full, unedited, explanation for its decisions on venues for the World Cup. Make of them what you will.

I have read your latest blog regarding the women’s rugby world cup with interest.
England is delighted and honoured to be hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup (WRWC) and we are working very hard and investing much time, money and resources into making this tournament the best women’s world cup ever. And we hope by doing that, the profile and the interest levels in women’s rugby will grow, and as a women’s rugby supporter yourself, I am sure you’ll want to see the same. As a result I thought it was important to point out some inaccuracies in the piece which could damage that profile and risk that growth.
Firstly to note, the pool games capacity at Surrey Sports Park is not 650 but 2,500 and we may look to increase that further depending on sales for the early rounds.
The semi and finals capacity is 14200 at the Stoop. The reason we have chosen the Stoop over say Twickenham is because, after consulting with players, organisers and the broadcasters, we believe a sold out final will create a much better atmosphere than playing in a less than half empty 80,000 capacity stadium. Yes, we probably could sell more tickets than 14,200, especially if England are in the final (given the last England vs New Zealand game at Twickenham was watched by over 12500 -   a record attendance for Women’s rugby in England), but this decision shows it is not about making money but giving the players and the fans a great experience. Having been to past WRWC final held in massive stadiums I know from personal experience the atmosphere of the occasion has been lost. Also from a media point of view a half empty stadium doesn't look good, and doesn't promote the game well either when it goes out live on TV.
On which note that is another major success for the tournament. We have Sky on board broadcasting live a minimum of seven games. This has never happened before in a women’s world cup. In addition in the coming weeks we will be announcing a number of major sponsors, household names, showing that we have the support in place to make this a truly successful event and one which will have a positive and lasting impact on the game of women’s rugby.
Also your description of the venue for the Pool Games is not accurate. The matches will not be played at a university park playing field. Yes, Surrey Sports Park is owned by the University of Surrey but Surrey Sports park is a multi million pound facility, offering a venue that hosts some of the best facilities in the world. It is already attracting international and national events. In addition to the WRWC, Harlequins have chosen it as their training base, and it is a possible training facility for the Olympics and Paralympics games in 2012.
Additionally the pitches, which are brand new for this tournament (because it is a new facility) are of world class standard so hardly the standard of pitch which student teams  play on. Yes, there will be temporary stands but this is normal for events like this as they do not take place all year round, and no they won't be filled with VIPS. The overall aim of this world cup is to promote women's rugby and grow
the game, and the more people that can get into these games the better as far as we are concerned which to come back to my original point is a view I know you share.
I hope this clarifies some things for you, and please let me know if you have any other questions or are working on further pieces and would like our input.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Carlsberg of sevens tournaments!

Probably the best girls club sevens in the world...

Well, why not? Over the years our county's Girls Sevens has grown from a little tag tournament put together by Amanda Bate at Hemel just six years ago to the become not only the most prestigious junior sevens (outside the National Sevens) - attracting top teams from across the South and Midlands - but also the most relaxed, the most fun, the best organised, and the most innovative. It is really is something that the county should be hugely proud of.

In keeping with the tradition Tring, have published the draw details early with the promise of full fixture details within the next week or so - as well as planning the biggest ever social occasion. The full draw can be found on the Herts Blog, but the edited "highlights" as far as Letchworth are concerned are...


Group 1
London Irish
Aylestone St James
Oxfordshire A
Letchworth Saracens
Old Albanians

Group 4
Rochford 100
Letchworth Saracens
Aylestone St James A
Thomas Becket School
Old Northampton

So some familiar faces. I am sure the "older" girls will relish renewing their acquaintance with Thomas Becket School, as well as "Jimmies" and Rochford (otherwise known as "Basford" until this season), while the U15s will recognise Oxfordshire from the league, and some will recall Oakmedians from last season's Gloucester 10s.

The tournament also features every Herts club (including Royston, who make a welcome debut) plus top names like Worcester, Newquay, and Paviors as well as representatives from half a dozen other counties.

The fun starts at 10.00am on 16th May.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A strange tale of two tournaments

There are two major international women's rugby tournaments in Europe over the next few months. One is the IRB Women's World Cup - the most important women's rugby tournament - which takes place every four years, and features the best 12 teams in the world. The other - the FIRA European Trophy - is an annual tournament for Europe's second division of nations - mainly those who are either not in the Six Nations, or who failed to qualify for the World Cup (the exceptions being Italy and Sweden respectively), plus the French "A" squad.

Okay, so what is strange about that? Well...
  • One tournament will be played at a series of club rugby grounds across a region, all with permanent stands and ground capacities of 2,000 or more (in some cases much more by the looks of it), and will climax in a final at one of the area's largest sports stadium with seating for 29,000.
  • The other tournament will be played at a university sports field with no permanent seating - though a temporary stand seating 650 (mainly for "VIPs" by the sound of things) will be constructed - and will climax in a final at a stadium that seats around 14,000.
Guess which is which? Here's a clue - if the two French teams reach the finals of their respective tournaments, France A will find themselves playing at a ground twice the size of the one graced by their senior squad.

Odd, isn't it? The European Trophy is an important event - it is vital to the development of the women's game in Europe - but its not a World Cup! So how come FIRA and the FFR (French RFU) are using stadia at least twice the size as those being used by the IRB and RFUW for the World Cup? Does South East England lack for rugby grounds? Does the IRB have less money to invest in women's rugby than FIRA? Or do some people somewhere lack... ambition? Belief? A sense of occasion? Or something?

Letchworth in the news

The club as a whole is making the headlines today  - well, on the RFU's website anyway.

Its all about grants the club has received from the RFU, the Heritage Foundation, and others to develop the new training pitches and floodlights, plus future plans which will eventually see the club having one of the best facilities in the county.

For more info click here to see the article.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

News from Gloucester 10s

Although we didn't send teams this year, you may be interested to know that the Gloucester City 10s took place this weekend at Hartpury College. The whole weekend took place under blue skies, with sunstroke being a real problem for some teams who did not expect weather like this (especially so soon after the winter we had).

The tournament was even bigger this year than last with several Welsh teams taking part. Apparently Worcester won both the U15s on Saturday and the U18s on Sunday. This continues a trend of success at club and school level for the teams from west of the country - Hartpury College themselves won the girls' school National Sevens tournament only a few weeks ago in the first year they had entered.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Watch this and be inspired

If there was a Women's Rugby World Cup for PR brilliance then the USA would walk it. As Scrumqueens recently highlighted, the way they use social media like Facebook and YouTube is a lesson to all - not least a lesson about how much you can do for very little money. All it needs is imagination.

Of course, sometimes a bit of money (though probably not very much) can help as can access to an Academy Award nominated film director. Stick them together and you get... this!

Doesn't this just make you want to get out on the field  - NOW! Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had anything even one tenth as good as this to promote the game over here?

Rugby League's promotional campaign begins...

I've only just picked up on this, so my apologies, but tomorrow will see the RFL kicking off its campaign to attract women (and girls) into its version of the sport with a big "come and try it" day at Richmond College and The Stoop ahead of the Rugby League game between Harlequins RL and Wakefield.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I wrote about the grant the RFL had received, and other changes to their game - I didn't expect to be proved right so quickly! As I discovered since that there is one women's Rugby League team in this region (in West London) but no girls teams (though I get the impression from some responses that girls play adult RL from about 16 instead of 18 in Union).

Anyway - best of luck to them. Anything that gets women and girls playing any form of rugby is a good thing, and if women's RL does become a summer sport then (as long as the fuddy-duddies in Twickenham don't get all silly about it) cross-code links will only be to the benefit of both sports.

The world's youngest girls' rugby team?

Start 'em young - that is clearly what they think in Australia. Its probably why they are so good at sport.

So meet the latest bid by the Aussies for world domination - Georgia Biddle (4), Jasmine Corrie (5), Ellyn Conley (3), Tia Eady (3), Jade Brennan (6), Emily O'Donnell (5), and Jessica Scott from Dee Why Lions Under 6 all-girl rugby team - probably the youngest female rugby team in the world.

Otherwise known as the Lions' "Pink Squad" they play in the Warringah-Manly junior mini rugby competition - a 22-team competition based in North Sydney (Dee Why is the unlikely name  of a suburb about five miles north of the city centre). The team wasn't planned as a girls-only side, but it seems that so many girls wanted to join in with their brothers that it came into being almost by chance. The full story is here.

No information is given about how successful they are, but being Australians they do seem to take it pretty seriously (there is already competition for places in the team) - and they look pretty unbeatable on the "Ahhh..." factor. As for the future, perhaps the only thing standing between these girls and gold medals at the 2028 Olympics may be that Rugby League is a bigger draw in their area - so there is hope for everyone else yet!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

World Cup ticket shock!

The Women's Rugby World Cup this summer. It sounds great, doesn't it - especially the group stages when a single ticket gets you in to see any three of six games. A fantastic festival of the best of women's rugby at a brand new venue. Who could want for more?

Well, quite a few people could be wanting more it seems - more tickets! Tickets went on sale a couple of weeks ago and yesterday this notice appeared:
"Important ticket update if your planning on coming along but haven't booked yet - We're nearing 2,000 sold in less than a month and some matches are nearing capacity."
How could the Surrey Sports Park possibly be close to capacity on some dates when less than 2,000 tickets had been sold? Investigations today seem to have revealed the shock answer. Unless someone from the organisers wishes to correct the information I have received the amazing news is that...

The crowd capacity at Surrey Sports Park is only 2,000
Possibly less
(Or no more than 1,000 spectators per pitch!) 

Or roughly a single ring of people, shoulder to shoulder, round the pitch. Or, to put it another way, the organisers are expecting fewer people to come to the World Cup than go to some junior rugby tournaments.

What crazy, loopy madness is this? Summer holidays, easily accessible location, publicity campaigns, roughly 15-20 million people living within an hour of the venue, spectators flying in on package tours from around the world (well, North America anyway) and the best anyone could come up with is a venue that would struggle to host Herts Girls' Sevens????

The immediate message to come from this is simple, therefore...


However, the other message is that incredible lack of confidence and belief and ambition among those in charge of the tournament - ie. RFUW (who will presumably have suggested the venue) and the IRB (who will have agreed it, and set the budget).


Monday, April 12, 2010

Regional Festival: Full results

A report on East will be on the Herts blog shortly, but in the meanwhile I've been sent the complete scores for both the U15 and U18 competitions...

Under 15s
Group 1
Thames Valley 5 West Midlands 0
Thames Valley 10 South West North 10
West Midlands 19 South West North 5
Group 2
Midlands East 28 North West 0
Midlands East 31 South West South 0
North West 15 South West South 0
Group 3
East 17 Yorkshire 0
East  0 Scarletts 7
Yorkshire 0 Scarletts 28
Group 4
North East 0 South 31
North East 0 South East 19
South 5 South East 14
Bowl (9th-12th)
South West North 15 North East 5
South West South 0 Yorkshire 10
Final: South West North 15 Yorkshire 0
11th/12th: South West South 0 North East 22
Plate (5th-8th)
West Midlands 7 East 5
North West 5 South 33
Final: West Midlands 14 South 5
7th/8th: East 17 North West 7
Cup (1st-4th)
Thames valley 22 South East 12
Midlands East 12 Scarletts 5
Final: Thames Valley 5 Midlands East 10
3rd/4th: Scarletts 14 South East 7

Under 18s
Group 1
North West 0 Scarletts 0
North West 0 East 10
Scarletts 7 East 7
Group 2
South 5 West Midlands 0
South 17 Yorkshire 5
West Midlands 15 Yorkshire 0
Group 3
South West North 32 North East 0
South West North 0 South East 0
North East 9 South East 32
Group 4
Thames Valley 10 Midlands East 5
Thames Valley 0 South West South 24
Midlands East 5 South West South 0
Bowl (9th-12th)
North West 0 Thames Valley 5
Yorkshire 24 North East 0
Final: Yorkshire 5 Thames Valley 7
11th/12th: North West 15 North East 0
Plate (5th-8th)
Scarletts 19 South East 10
West Midlands 17 Midlands East 0
Final: West Midlands 19 Scarletts 5
7th/8th: South East 7 Midlands East 5
Cup (1st-4th)
East 12 South West South 5
South 12 South West North 7
Final: East 0 South 0
3rd/4th: South West South 0 South West North 10

Sunday, April 11, 2010

East Region U18s win final regional title

Amended based on replies - thanks everyone!

East Region U18s (including Jess and Chloe) brought the curtain down on women's and girls' regional rugby by winning the national championship for the second year running. The title was shared in the end - the final finished 0-0 with South (after Extra Time) - but that still means two years undefeated rugby. Full scores etc. will appear on the Herts Girls blog some time in the next week. The U15 title went to East Midlands, winners 10-5 over Thames Valley (who East U15s beat a few weeks ago - so any news of how East U15s got on, anyone?)

Next season will see a whole new structure at both county level and above - 11 regions being replaced by four divisions. East will be joining forces with joint-champions South, South East and parts of Thames Valley  to form "London and the South East", thus bringing the women's game into line with the men's. Given the form shown by East in recent years, plus the abilities of players from Surrey, Middlesex, Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, London & SE must start as favourites to carry on where East have left off. Their main rivals might be Midlands, perhaps, depending on how many Thames Valley and East Mids U15s move up.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Asia's first youth international

The first youth international ever to be played outside Europe or North America will take place on Sunday when Japan U18s play Hong Kong at Japan's main rugby stadium, the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama.

The Hong Kong team will arrive in Japan on Friday and both teams will have practice at the Stadium on Saturday. The Japanese will not select their 22 player squad until after the Saturday practice.

The structure of junior rugby in Japan is similar to that in England as girls' rugby is not played in any schools. As a result all the most promising players train with one of three regional teams - Kyushu (main southern island), Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe) and Kanto (Tokyo/Yokohama and surrounding provinces). Players from all three will be competing for places in the national side.

Japan were one of pioneers in the early years of women's rugby - a rugby union for women was formed in the country in 1988, only the second to be formed outside Europe. They took part in the first world cup in 1991, but after that development came to a near halt. After 1991 they played only seven internationals in the next nine years, five of which were at the 1994 World Cup. They were not invited to the 1998 event. However, the development of a national U18 team is just the latest example of how things are changing within Japanese rugby. Its also significant that both Hong Kong and Japan are putting money and effort into developing junior players, six years away from the Olympics.

RFUW TDG XV complete junior double

My thanks to a Welsh reader who has provided some detail about the TDG game that preceded yesterday's U20 international:
"The English TDG side won 30-7 over the Welsh TDG. England had the use of the elements in the first half and took full advantage to ease out to a 25-0 half-time lead. The second half was much more competitive - the Welsh fullback scored a fine solo try and a few other chances weren't taken to make the final scoreline closer.
From a Welsh (non-official) viewpoint the fixture was extremely worthwhile and hopefully the TDG process will continue for the future. This was the first group to be selected and the process of bringing that group together was only started a fortnight ago-and finished over the weekend prior to the game." 
If the Welsh TDG system has only been running for a few weeks, that is a pretty impressive performance against a  squad that has been together since September. It would indeed make a bit of sense - and provide some extra focus - if the TDG system could build to an annual climax, such as a game against Wales. It could only benefit future internationals to have a taste of what is to come. Indeed it would make even more sense if we could call the squad England U18s (like the boys do), but one step at a time maybe...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

U20s back on form - in the end!

England U20s were back on winning ways today, recording a 17-7 win over their Welsh visitors - but only after a bit of a scare. Playing at the home of the 2010 World Cup, they went into the break 7-5 down with Wales fully deserving of their lead. However, this changed in the second-half thanks to Welwyn's Emily Scott, who scored all 12 points as England turned the game round. Full report on Scrumqueens.

The result was far closer than last year, when England won comfortably in Wales before going on to win the Nations Cup. This change in performance may be partly due to the way that age group squads inevitably change from year to year (as well as improvements in the Welsh camp) - though RFUW's controversial decision to only run a closed trial for the age band this year cannot have helped as inevitably talented players will have missed selection - at least one player in today's team would not have been there if closed trials had been in operation last season. Whether RFUW will draw any conclusions from this season's results and change their policy is not known at present.

No news yet on the TDG game...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Women's rugby growing worldwide

Quite a few encouraging stories from around the world in the last week or so, all illustrating how women's rugby is growing in many countries that you might not normally associate with the game at all.

This weekend, for example, sees the fifth annual European Nations Training Camp - an initiative started by FIRA and now managed by the IRB which brings together players, coaches and officials from countries outside the Six Nations or the European Trophy - places like Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia. Some of these nations have played the occasional test match, but none of them play regularly - though most are staggeringly enthusiastic about the game (remember the Finns and their "Lumirugby"? There's a report on this year's "snow rugby" here).

This year top coaches from the RFU and French Rugby Union (FFR) will be running sessions for players, coaches and referees - which can be quite a challenge when well over a dozen different languages are involved - leading up to an international sevens tournament on the final day, won last year by Hungary.

Elsewhere in Africa girls' rugby is growing quickly in schools, with the IRB reporting on the first major inter-schools tournament, featuring teams from 12 schools from in and around Nairobi (some of which can field squads of up to 50 girls). It is worth remembering that (in terms of numbers, both schools and players) this compares well with (indeed exceeds) what happens in most parts of England - I am not sure that Hertfordshire could come up with 12 girls' school teams. Just think what Kenya would be capable of doing if it had anything like the money and coaching support we have here!

And in Asia too the game is developing. The region in dominated by Kazakhstan, but they are not alone - China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, Iran, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea and Japan all regularly field teams in tournaments. Some (like Japan) have a long tradition, but at least half of the countries listed only began playing in the past two years.

The only fly in the ointment is the one thing that all of these nations and tournaments have in common - sevens. As this article from Shao of the Singaporean RFU points out, "new" nations seem to be concentrating almost exclusively on sevens - even those that have dabbled (sometimes - like China - quite successfully) with 15s in the past. In some cases this is a question if numbers, but not all - and Shao fears that this is due to the Olympics. Her fear is that the "full game" is already being squeezed in nations where it was already being played, and may never be introduced at all on the newer nations as the attraction and funding associated with Olympic glory has an effect.

China have already set out their stall - they reached the final of the Hong Kong Women's Sevens this for the second time last month, losing fairly comfortably to Australia again, but with another five years to prepare that gap will close. Indeed with most of the "new" world beginning to concentrate almost exclusively on sevens you do wonder if the "old" world of the traditional rugby nations are in for an awful shock come 2016.

Friday, April 02, 2010

"Arena Rugby" - selling the game stateside

Philadelphia Women's RFC in the USA were recently given a great opportunity to show the game off to a whole new audience when a link with the local professional lacrosse club resulted in their being given the chance to play a demonstration game before the lacrosse club's latest fixture.

One small challenge was that the Philadelphia Wings play their lacrosse at the Wachovia Center - the city's ice hockey stadium. Okay, they replace the ice with a carpet of artificial turf, but the boards and glass walls are still there.

This presented the rugby players with some challenges - but they came up with a version of sevens that sounds like it was a curious mixture of rugby and ice hockey, with players being forced against the boards being considered "in touch", plus several other adaptions. The result was a very fast game, well received by the crowd arriving for the lacrosse game, many of whom were interested to find out more about game.

Maybe it could be the start of something new, at least in North America or anywhere else where outdoor sport is not possible in the winter, and where there are also plenty of these indoor stadia. For more information and a match report see this report.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The team that dare not speak its name

Since this blog began it has been reported to me that at times its contents have, on occasion, perplexed or even annoyed some people at the top of RFUW. This, obviously, has not been the intention but the fact is that the Powers That Be have, in fact, never actually contacted me - directly - to complain, comment or correct anything. So such concerns can never have been major

Well, that is not entirely true. They did contact me once.

I just mention this as on Tuesday - as a warm-up to the U20 international between England and Wales - there will be another game and, based on my experience, I suggest that anyone at the former game is very careful about what they say (and in particular what they call) one of the teams. Above all do not use the "E" word.

What do I mean? Well a few years ago I dared to suggest that RFUW's Talent Development Group (TDG) was in some way an England U18 squad - a not unreasonable thing to say being as the squad is selected by English rugby's governing body, is made up of (by common consent) the best players in the country in that age group, and everyone in the squad is English.

The response was quick and not a little heated. "Its not an England squad", I was told in a surprise phone call, "you cannot use the word England in relation to it". Apparently this usage would somehow grievously upset those who had worn the red rose, and anyway it was just a training squad for development purposes. I should not even call it the "England TDG".

As a result I have carefully avoided making any connection between the TDG squad and the "E" word ever since, which makes reporting or previewing events next Tuesday just a shade tricky because, as well as their U20 team to play England U20 at Surrey Sports Park, Wales are also sending their U18 TDG squad to play the... erm... England? English? Home TDG? British (not-including-Scotland-Wales-or-Ireland) TDG? The girls-not-playing-in-red TDG?

Actually its the second time the TDGs have played an ... uninternational(?) - they lost to the touring Canadian U18s a couple of years ago and, whatever they are to be called I hope they do really well. Indeed, given the recent performances of junior Welsh regions when playing their English equivalents, it should be a very close and exciting game. So much so that it is possible that some spectators may forget themselves and blurt out the "E" word when cheering on the Home Team. My advice, therefore, is to be very careful indeed. Bite your tongue. Practice your "Come on you R.F.U.W.T.D.G.U.18 squad" calls. Otherwise who knows who will be calling you - or even tapping you on the shoulder.

You have been warned!

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