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 23, 2010

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.

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