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, May 15, 2010

Maybe it was the National Cup after all...

Whatever the press release may have called it, witnesses to the event who have (very speedily) contacted me confirm that the 2010 "National 10s" was definitely not the like the National 10s of old. To begin with - in a worrying example of administrative dyscalculia - it seems that teams in this version of the National 10s actually fielded 12 players. Go figure, as they say.

However, the biggest give away was in how the teams were made up. One of the great things about the real National 10s was that the teams were - for the most part - genuine club sides. In a couple of cases clubs may have clustered, but even then the players were always a genuine cross-section of the clubs concerned. It was a real club tournament for real club teams.

The National Cup has - for the rules reasons mentioned earlier - never been quite the same. In most seasons the number of real clubs capable of entering on their own could normally be counted on the fingers of one hand - if not the thumbs - so teams (though they might play under a club name) have invariably "borrowed" players from other clubs. However, these have rarely been ordinary players - when it comes to creating a team "clubs" concerned have traditionally entered into a kind of rugby arms race. Considering there are only about 30 TDG girls in each age group it is amazing how many can be found in the average National Cup "club" team!

And so, in the best traditions of the naked win-at-all-costs ambition that has been such a feature of the competition over the years, one "club" reportedly this year fielded at least seven - SEVEN - TDG girls (a new record?), three of whom were borrowed from another club to help them "make up numbers) (isn't amazing how the only girls available just happened to be TDGs?) while most of the others had (allegedly) only been registered by the club very recently - some correspondents say within the previous week! Another "club" was basically a regional team in club shirts, a third was mainly one of the leading county sides, and another featured three "ringers" from, well, Letchworth Saracens.

Its all a bit - well various words springs to mind - perhaps the kindest would be "pointless". I mean what the heck does it prove if a bunch of country's leading players are cherry picked, stuffed into a club shirt they have probably never worn before (and never will again), and sent out to "represent" a club. I'm sure the trophies and medals looks magnificent in the various clubs' cabinets, but they are hardly deserved. Winning a trophy with the help of a quarter of the country's TDG players (most of whom will have been introduced to the game by someone else) just shows which coach has the best connections (and phone book). It is certainly not any recognition of the recruitment and training abilities the club may have.

Of course this not really the concern of most real clubs - the National Cup is not and never has been a true club competition, and their best players are only borrowed for one weekend - and there won't be a National Cup next year anyway. However there will be the new National Leagues, which will (apparently) result in a national final. Given that these will be run by the same RFUW officials who administer the National Cup, and that the naked ambition behind many of the National Cup sides will still exist, what is to stop the leagues being just as dominated by the same sorts of artificial teams - a fact that would be rather more dangerous to the continued survival of real clubs?

  • A thought. If the aim of the National League is to extend and broaden the base of the game (and if it isn't it should be - the elite players already have Divisions and TDG and Player Pathways) then why not actually have a limit on the number of Divisional or TDG players a team could field? If a club happened to have too many then maybe it could lend players to weaker opposition, thus making more competitive matches and allowing more girls to learn from playing alongside talented team-mates. Doesn't that sound a more sensible idea than RFUW's suggestion that all the best players gravitate to a small number of elite clubs? Or have I missed something?


  1. Anonymous9:40 AM

    Most clubs are concerned about the proposed leagues and the potential for mismatches.The lack of information from the rfuw about who clubs could be possibly be playing in there league, if it is 10s or 13s for u/15s etc is also not helping.The win at all costs by some clubs who bring in TDG girls and try to bring in england u/20players is not right. But as long as they are allowed to get away with it nothing will change.What the main concern should be is what has happened to the girls who have been pushed aside to bring in these other girls .

  2. "What the main concern should be is what has happened to the girls who have been pushed aside to bring in these other girls."

    Many will have stopped playing. Forever. Looking back on Letchworth's one excursion into the National Cup - when we clustered with Sudbury - it lost us players. Several girls who did not make the combined NC squad stopped playing - it is the major reason why we never entered the NC again.

    And the fact is that RFUW do not care. Not a jot. They are only interested in elite players who might one day play for England. That is all.

  3. Anonymous6:13 PM

    Whilst I totally agree that the current set up is detrimental to the girls game as a whole, and does tend to target super-clustered teams, I think perhaps you are being a little harsh with generalising all of the teams that take part in this competition.

    I am (predictably, given my argument) an ex-Worcester player and played in 4 of their National Finals, winning 3 of them. I can vouch for our club by saying that we most definately did not borrow players for the purpose of fielding a National Cup side. Our players had always played for Worcester all season. The only time we did borrow was when we had a few players from another local side, all of whom had been playing for less than a year, just to cover for injuries and make sure we went with a full squad.

    Similarly, I believe recent winners Reading are, for the most part, a group of girls that has at least spent the season playing together?

    I guess I'm trying to say that whilst many of these super-clustered sides appear to be dominating the game, there are a number of decent club sides who have been very successful in this competition for a number of years. It was always the highlight of my season along with the regional finals day, and I am very sad to see it go.

  4. I did try to word things so that I was not saying that all clubs were artificial Superteam - Worcester being the "thumb" I was thinking of. Actually I often find myself cheering for Worcester in tournaments as not only are they are a great club but they carry it well. Even though they have stuffed Letchworth a fair few times, there has never been any of the friction and unsportsmanlike behaviour that one of two other teams tend to be guilty of.

  5. Anonymous8:57 AM

    The main concern John mentions about the remaining girls is very true from our point of view. Having gone from having 18 odd girls across the two age groups regularly training at our club the lack of games in the region due to other clubs reluctance to work together has lead to a number of players being invited to get game time elsewhere (and much further afield) and then the reminding girls drift off. You don't need an event to exclude / discourage players it happens way back down the 'food-chain' and sadly rebuilding after that is just about impossible.


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