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 29, 2011

U13 Age Band. The anger grows.

If you thought that the introduction of leagues last year caused a bit of a fuss "you ain't seen nothing yet". Last year's rumblings are peanuts compared with the reaction to Wednesday's announcement and the appearance yesterday of further details (see here for the new U13 playing rules). Regular correspondents, not normally known for their written invective, have been swearing like troopers, while at least one leading Hertfordshire coach has been proposing what comes close to outright mutiny. Any RFUW officials planning to attend Herts and/or National Seven may need some serious protection if one or two people get anywhere near them.

And you cannot blame them. The leading clubs in Hertfordshire (and I dare say across the country) have been carefully nurturing and encouraging girls currently in Year 7 to move over to the girls' game next season. Many have had on-going programmes for years in local primary and secondary schools that ensured that girls leaving at the top of the U15 band were always replaced with girls coming in at the bottom. The effort these clubs put in is astonishing, impressive, effective - and has been a complete waste of time.

I will avoid naming names as fear of RFUW reprisals continues, but I must pass on some of the reaction.

For example, as a result of this change I understand that one the country's leading (and biggest) clubs with a superb recruitment programme will barely have a viable U15 team next season - and if they cannot put out a full XIII (and I remind you that U15 rugby is meant to be 13-a-side, whatever the league rules may be) then heaven help anyone else! As for them fielding a U13 team...

Another club tells of a superbly talented girl, with years of rugby experience in the minis - a potential England player (and this comes from a coach who knows both real and potential England players) - who has been preparing to move into U15 rugby next season but who has now already said, as a result of this week's announcements, that she does not want to play any more.

I could go on.

What really gets me, though, is the basic thread woven into all this - and that is that the problem with recruiting girls (and actually boys too, going by other proposals in recent years) is that they are scared of contact. So, if you reduce (and all but eliminate) contact from junior rugby you will get more junior players.

This is utter tripe. First, they will have to start playing contact at some point - unless adult club rugby is going to move over to tag as well - so if any girl or boy is going to drop out of the game because they are frightened to tackle (or be tackled) then they will just drop out later. All you are doing is delaying the inevitable, while maybe artificially boosting player statistics (hmmmm....).

It also ignores the basic reason about why children - and especially girls - play rugby at all. You ask any rugby player, or read any interview with girls or women who play the game, and see why they took it up. Every single one - every single one - will say the same thing. Its the contact. No other girls team sport offer this - it is rugby's "USP" (Unique Selling Point). It may not attract all girls - it may (indeed probably does) put the majority off - but for thousands of girls across the country for the past 20 years or more it has been the reason why they have taken up the game.

This is the siren call of a sport whose officials have no confidence in either themselves or the sport they run. Fact is that you cannot have a sport that appeals to everyone. Some people are scared of the hard ball used in cricket - but that sport's authorities are not forcing teenagers to play with tennis balls in order to "attract more players". That there are some children with a fear of water is not sufficient to make swimming clubs empty their pools so as to boost numbers. Just because boxing is a minority sport has not panicked that sport to ban punching, any more that fear of speed has forced motor racing to have speed limits.

Every sport has something special about it - and for rugby it is contact. Whatever the new U13 game will be - this unadventurous, committee-designed, grab-and-tag, non-kicking, anti-septic, pasteurised travesty - it won't be rugby! It may attract new players, but they are unlikely to be the sort of girls who will want to move into the full contact game - and they will join the game at the expense of girls who DO want, or who would be attracted to, contact - but will find in this wishy-washy pap nothing that attracts them at all.

And is it is these girls - the outgoing, confident, adventurous girls - who are the future of the England team. The days when international stars learnt the game in their teenage or university years have gone - as far as I am aware EVERY member of the current England team started playing in the minis. With U13 girls rugby being such a step backwards from U12 minis how many future Pococks, Scarratts and Spencers will now turn to other sports for their excitement?

In Memorium

In loving memory of English junior girls' rugby
bludgeoned to death by unthinking officialdom

Mourned by well-wishers, supporters
and players past and present



  1. Anonymous3:06 PM

    This risk free, rubbish is not restricted to the girls game but is coming to the rest of the game too. Read the shaping the game pilot document on the RFU site.
    What's stopping the girls who want to 'play rugby' from staying in the continuum and playing in with the boys until joining the restricted U15 group?

  2. The rules? Girls cannot play continuum beyond U12.

  3. Anonymous7:30 PM

    Good point, must read things better. Ok can they play up to U12 in the continuum thereby leaving the U13 year to be the one single year. The continuum rules (unless changed) allow girls and boys to play in the same team until U12 in contact rugby (currently). This would leave a "gap" year but better than two years of this rubbish

  4. Yes - so long as the coach in the U12 team is interested in having girls play in his team ie. he encourages them to play, rather than just tolerating their presence.

  5. Anonymous10:11 PM

    It is absolute sexist rubbish! My daughter has been playing contact with 12year old boys and now has to play tag? She'll lose interest and what's more, what do I say to her about this sort of sexism? Incredible!! Encourage rugby how you see fit RFUW but don't put girls off! We'll be complaining...

  6. That's good. When asked last weekend a senior RFUW official claimed to have had only one complaint...


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