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...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The new U13 age band. It's worse than you could have possibly imagined.

Yesterday I gave RFUW the benefit of the doubt with the new age bands. A lot of questions were unanswered, but even so it was good to see this hitherto ignored age group taken seriously - and apparently there had been pilots run, so it was not another off-the-cuff, ill-considered, un-thought through depth charge for the junior game.

Oh how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

I mean, it is a well known fact - even the RFUW have said so - that the U15 band has had its problems in some areas with not enough players to form viable teams - you may have recently read the example of the disastrous U15 league in the North East. So, given that how could you possibly make things worse?

Well, how about removing one third of the players from the U15 band. Yes - the RFUW's solution to the player number problem is to ensure there are even fewer players! Incredibly, unbelievably, from next September the U15 band will be cut from three years to two - only girls from School Years 9 and 10 will be able to play U15 rugby.

And, while you are reeling from that body punch, along comes another. The U13 band will ALSO be only two years - so instead of having one barely viable team, the average club will now have two. Moreover, these groups of girls will not only be banned from playing with each other - they won't be able to train together either (well, not contact anyway).

So that means its utterly useless as a means of keeping girls who start playing rugby in the minis (you know - the place that practically every member of the current England Squad started playing) in the game - providing an alternative for dedicated, talented girls marginalised by coaches because they will not be part of that clubs (boys' teams') future.

Not sufficient to knock the junior game to the canvas? Okay, well why not take this for the knock-out punch... U13s won't be even able to play contact rugby! What they will be forced to play is, basically, tag rugby without tags - sort of Frankenstein's monster of touch and tag combined (you grab hold of the ball carrier for two seconds and the referee calls "tackle", then turn and pass).

What the ...... !!! Imagine, a couple of girls who have played rugby from the age of 6 or 7. Let's call them "Emily Spencer" and "Catherine Scarratt". They started off with tag, but put away such childish things at the age of 8 or 9, ever since when you've loved getting stuck in this unique game. They've learnt to stop tackling with their fingers (and all the other examples of bad technique that tag encourages), battled away, had to be better than the boys just to be accepted and ensure their coach took any notice of them at all. And now they have to move into girls rugby... and its back to [insert word of choice] tag again! But with the extra "bonus" of not having a team to play for. Would you be surprised to learn that they've gone off to play soccer instead? Or basketball. Or hockey. Or (in those areas where it is an option) rugby league...

The only glimmer of light is that there is a small loop-hole - this only applies to clubs. Secondary Schools can still play to the rules they currently use (though RFUW will be "encouraging" them to switch backwards to primary school tag). So get on to your PE Department now!

And by the way, if anyone thinks I am being alarmist then within hours of the details coming out I had heard from coaches at three clubs - one in Herts - who have said, for example, about how they had Year 6 girls looking forward to joining their U15s squad next season who are totally uninterested in playing touch. I have also heard about how clubs had been working hard in their areas to balance players being lost from the top of their U15 age band by new girls coming in at the bottom... who now will not be allowed to.

Oh - apparently there was a consultation. Well, not one that anyone I have heard from was involved in. Perhaps the only people consulted where the ones who could be relied on to say the right thing...

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