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...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

World Cup: D-Day

Its D-Day on Saturday in the World Cup - four years of work could come down to a few points here and there, for some teams in matches that they are not even playing in!

For some teams, hope of World Cup glory is already at an end. The ageing Kazakhstan team probably did expect to be competing for a semi-final place - they may well dominate in Asia, but the gulf between that region and the rest of the world is growing, at least at 15s. Sevens may be a different matter, but that is for another year. Now they will be aiming to avoid the wooden spoon.

Similarly Sweden are now out of contention for the final four, but will be less disappointed as their performance to date has exceeded expectations - all of their players rising to the challenge, none more so than Ulrika Andersson-Hall, for whom this may well be her last international tournament. If you get a chance to see her in action over the next week don't miss it - she would find a place in any international XV! In many ways Sweden's World Cup starts now - a win against Scotland could see the Scandinavians with a top eight finish, which would be a real triumph.

The fact that most observers give Sweden a real chance of beating Scotland is an indication of how disappointing the Scots World Cup has been. Outclassed by Canada, they only began to hit their stride in the second half against France - but which it was too late. Lucy Millard has shone, but simple things like the speed of pass and positioning has let them down.

However no side will be more disappointed than Wales as they have no-one but themselves to blame. They could have won both of their opening games - perhaps should have done. However the performance against Australia that was basically inept - having seen how good their backs were Wales persisted in kicking the ball to them, only stopping after they were 21-0 down after 20 minutes - by which time it was too late. They also dominated possession against South Africa, but still contrived to lose by three tries to one.

All other teams retain at least a theoretical chance of making the semis. Admittedly for South Africa this would take a fairly unlikely set of results, but having picked up their first ever World Cup win they are unlikely to be too unhappy. Given the age of most of the team their time may well come in 2014 by which time - if the SARFU continue their support - they could be very dangerous indeed.

They may yet have a second win over Australia, especially if they learn from New Zealand about how to play the Wallaroos - ie. keep the ball in hand, frustrate the forwards, starve the backs, and wait for the mistakes. Australia have been as expected - a very talented side when they have the ball in their hands, but seriously lacking experience when put under pressure. Five yellow cards in two games cannot be just down to different "interpretations" of the laws - especially as their opening game had a southern hemisphere referee!

They can, however, still sneak into the semi-finals - but to do so will need to score more points against South Africa than Ireland can manage against Kazakhstan. This seems unlikely, not least because the Irish look very good indeed. Very nearly preventing England from scoring a fourth try in their game, they recovered well to not only beat by dominate their game against the USA. Its a little unfortunate that, if they do get to the semi-finals, chances are that it will be England that they face. Again.

The USA are currently in fifth place, but will need to beat England to progress. They too will be disappointed - the game against Ireland was really a winner-takes-all challenge and the Americans came away with nothing, despite all their feared defensive abilities even letting in four tries.

However, all of these teams will be watching one game - Canada vs France.  If France win then it will end the hopes of everyone else, but so uninspiring have the French been a win seems unlikely - and as a result this could be their worst World Cup since 1998. Canada, on the other hand, have been superb and should wrap up a semi-final place comfortably.

Chances are that this will be against New Zealand, who have hardly put a foot wrong, overwhelming South Africa and Australia - and probably Wales too on Saturday. However, their only weakness seems to be goal kicking - which is why England seem certain to pick up the top ranking position, assuming they score four tries against the USA. Katy McLean and La Toya Mason have converted a remarkable 13 out of the 16 tries England have scored so far - including 11 out of 12 against Kazakhstan, La Toya only missing the final kick. Their opposite numbers Rebecca Mahoney and Kelly Brazier have only managed six out of 15. Is this the chink in the Black Fern armour? It won't be long before we know!

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