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, 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.

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