There is a basic fact about bureaucracies - all bureaucracies. They are incapable of error. It does not matter how wrong a decision appears on the ground - how unwise, how unwarranted, how disastrous - once the decision has been made it cannot be unmade. That would show weakness - it would show that a mistake had been made. And bureaucracies are incapable of making mistakes.
In this regard RFUW is no different to any other organisation. As a result, despite the unprecedented uproar (well, I have never seen the like. Leagues, National 10s - drops in the ocean in comparison) it is highly unlikely that they will back down. So there is every probability that some sort of U13 girls rugby will have to be attempted from September.
So maybe its time to look at the rules - and that is exactly what many coaches are starting to do, and one county coach (I'll say that again - a county coach. At least Level 2, if not higher. Someone with years of experience in junior rugby who knows what they are talking about) last week chaired a meeting and they have passed on to me their main conclusions.
Before looking at these it is worth while reminding ourselves about who RFUW thinks will be able to deliver and coach this new game to this new age group:
What qualification do I need as a coach to coach Tag to Tackle?So - you do not even have to be Level 1 to coach this game. All you should have done is complete a Tag coaching course (and even that is just "advised"). Just bear that in mind - you do not ever need to have been taught how to coach tackling. Or scrums, mauls, rucks etc. etc. Or anything else that involves any sort of bodily contact. Just tag. Nothing else.
a. We advise that you have taken a Tag Rugby Course or are working towards a Rugby Course ideally that eventually leads to a Level 1 qualification (RFUW)
Okay - you can read the complete, official rules here - what follows is a summary and commentary (mine and the county coach's).
RULE 1 - OBJECT.
This just says that the aim is to score tries - 5 points each. No kicks as all kicking is banned (Rule 12).
So far, so unobjectionable. Except... remind me, someone, what is women's rugby's BIGGEST weakness? Could it just possibly be kicking? So why are we banning kicking? I can understand it with boys as otherwise all they will do is kick. But girls NEVER kick - and, frankly, so weak is kicking in the female game we should be positively encouraging it, otherwise in a few years time England will be in the same state that France are a the moment. You are forced to conclude that whoever wrote these rules has never seen girls play rugby.
RULE 2 - TEAMS
All games to be 6 or 7 aside - no more, no less.
RULE 3 - THE PITCH
Effectively half a rugby pitch - like the old U14s.
RULE 4 - DURATION
15-20 minutes each way - which will fit neatly into a PE lesson.
RULE 5 - PASSING
Conventional stuff - with the extra rule that the ball cannot be handed to another player. Penalty - a free pass.
This, therefore, appears to kill off any attempt to set up mini-rucks or mauls, and positively encourage - even demands - wild passes from tackled players of the sort that most coaches desperately try to discourage in the "real" game. However it doesn't as it is contradicted by rule (7)(e)(iv) which says a team-mate can "rip" a ball from a team-mate after a tackle. What is the difference? Exactly?
Also this is the only time that a scrum would be awarded, but instead the penalty is a free pass. So why in section 11 do they have an a to k about scrums!!??
RULE 6 - FREE PASSES
These happen to start a match, after a foul, after a ball has been ripped from an opponent or team-mate (though this is contradicted by parts of Rule 7), or where more that one player from either side joins a contact. The opposition retire 7 metres, the pass can only be made when the referee calls play, and the receiver is not allowed to run onto the pass.
Oh good - let's train girls to stand still and not run onto a penalty...
i. What is the difference between grabbing and ripping?
ii. There is no mention of how the game is restarted after a try is scored or when the ball goes into touch.
RULE 7 - TACKLING
a) Only the ball carrier can be tackled - and they cannot hand-off the tackle. 7(a) says that the ball cannot be "pulled out the the ball carrier's hands" - but this is contradicted by 7(d)(ii) "If the tackle is on the feet the tackler may contest the ball by grabbing it".
Room for some nice confusion here...
b) A tackle is any contact below the shoulders "which results in a grip", whether or not the player goers to ground. The referee then calls "TACKLE".
Bear in mind that a coach needs only to have been trained to coach tag to coach this game. Worried? I think you should be because...
... they are encouraging the tackler to grab the shirt and swing the player around and, without any training (or without training from a qualified coach) girls are allowed to attempt a conventional tackle around the legs.
c) The tackled player can pass straight away, or drive on until they are brought to a standstill and then pass.
d) The tackler must keep hold of the tackled player, may grab the ball (see above), or block a pass, and must get up if the tacked player goes to ground.
e) One team-mate from the attacking team may join the "tackle" and drive or rip the ball (see above)
f) One team-mate from the defending team may also join the tackle, plus one more if the tackle goes to ground
So mini two-player rucks and mauls ARE allowed - and can be coached by people only trained in tag. Still not worried?
g) An off-side line will run through the tackled player until a pass is made
When is a pass "made" - note the word is not "attempted"? Surely a pass is not "made" until it is completed? So the offside line remains the tackled player until it leaves the tackled players hands, or until it arrives at a team-mate, rolling slowly along the ground for some distance, perhaps?
h) All infringements result in a free pass
RULE 8: OFFSIDE
Conventional stuff, much of it covered by Rule 7. However you have to be behind the kicker at a kick-off, and for any kicks in open play.
Hang on a minute - what kicks? Kicking is banned, isn't it?
RULE 9: OBSTRUCTION
Covers high tackles, or hand-offs. Penalised with free passes
RULE 10: BALL ON THE GROUND
Must be picked up. Dives allowed as long as a pass is immediate. Knock-ons penalised with a free pass
RULE 11: SCRUMS
A long page of rules and details made irrelevant by the fact that no infringement results in a scrum being awarded!
RULE 12: PROHIBITED PLAY
Repeats many of the above offences, but confirms no kicking or line-outs...
...but does not say what replaces line-outs. See comment on Rule 6 above.
The above are some of the obvious errors, most of the rest don't make much sense either!!
So - let's summarise. We have a set of rules that...
- are self-contradictory, and open to considerable variation in interpretation
- have clearly not been so much as proof read never mind tried out for real.
- appear to allow full tackling, and small-scale rucks and mauls - but which can be coached by people who have had no training or knowledge whatsoever in any of these techniques.
- will teach bad and dangerous habits (ie. shirt pulling)
- will perpetuate weaknesses in the female game (ie. kicking)
- will offer no real role for forwards (there being no scrums, despite Rule 11) and certainly none at all for potential front row (what vital position is the game U18 and adult most short of - could it be props?)
- What will happen when a team coached by a tag coach (taught to grab and hold shirts and bodies) comes up against a team coached by a Level 2 (taught to tackle legs - and tackle properly)?
- What happens when a player is "tackled" but is still on their feet - and is then hit by a support player from the defending team? At speed? When they cannot hand off, have not been taught how to be tackled - or how and when to go to ground - by their tag-trained coach?