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 24, 2011

Women's 7s international tour: announcement imminent?

"The result of discussions between various countries, to increase and improve the competition between Selections Women, the International Rugby Board (IRB) announced the creation of the IRB Women's International Sevens Tournament to be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 1 to 3 December next."

Or so said the Brazilian RFU today.... but as yet nothing from the IRB.

Quite what is behind the IRB's reticence can only be guessed at, though if the Brazilian press release is accurate then it is possible that they are hunkering down to avoid a heap of irate complaints from much of the sevens world. Why? Because the release implies that the opening tournament (and maybe the whole tour) will be restricted to eight teams - New Zealand, Australia, England, South Africa, United States, China, Canada and Brazil.

No Spain (European finalists). No Netherlands (the world's only professional team). No France or Russia (either of who could finish in the top six, if not top four, if allowed to join in). No Japan or Hong Kong or Kazakhstan (all quite capable or beating China on current form). East Africa frozen out again, along with the Caribbean and Pacific. All missed out in place of several nations who rarely play outside their own region, if they ever play at all.

We can only hope that the release is incomplete, or the translation misleading. Otherwise what should be a great announcement for international women's rugby could be its worst kick in the teeth for years.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Its a full-time life in the England women's team

Interesting statistic (well, I find it interesting)... in the last 12 months (up to yesterday) England's women have played 14 test matches. That is more (over the same period) than the professional men's team.

Indeed, if you add in the "A" internationals - which several squad players also play in - this relatively small group of 40 or so amateur rugby players have been involved in 20 high status international games in space of a year. As well as playing for their clubs. And holding down jobs (or studying at university in some cases).

What is more (and thanks to the correspondent below for this), England have five more test matches coming up before the end of this year - two against France (no. 4 in the world), followed by three against New Zealand (no. 1). Then in the New Year its the Six Nation, followed by the European Championship (which in 2012 is a first team event - so that is another nine tests after January, or 14 in all for the season - and that is before the summer tour somewhere (if there is no Nations Cup). And then the same again in 2012-13, followed by a summer tour to New Zealand...

Add to that England's commitment to sevens. Though they have a theoretically separate sevens training squad, this was heavily augmented by main squad players for the Europeans and - if the IRB tour goes ahead (and a lot of national sevens coaches seem to be treating it as a done deal) - that will almost certainly be the case in the future (unless the England management are capable of stomaching a few developmental defeats, which they do not seem to be). So another four high intensity weekends for some players. Then in 2013 its the Sevens World Cup, followed by Olympic qualification...

Daunting stuff...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nations Cup: The natural order is restored

In the end the final results of the Nations Cup was pretty much as expected. England won, Canada made the most of home advantage to finish second, USA took third, and South Africa were fourth.

However, getting to that point was far from a smooth ride for all concerned. The group phase was full of surprises (or near surprises) as teams used the tournament to experiment with different players and formations.

Even on finals day, the winners had to work hard. USA's eventual 29-9 win over South Africa (see USA Rugby match report) came only after the Africans had challenged hard at the start, even taking an early lead. England also often found the Canadian backs difficult to handle, the skills of their sevens stars being a real threat. Though England lead from pretty much start to finish, eventually winning 41-19, Canada stayed with little more than a score of them until the final quarter of the game.  It is also worth recording that Canada's 19 points (and two tries) against England's strongest possible XV was more than England conceded in all the matches in their entire Six Nations campaign at the start of the year - in fact its the largest number of points a full-strength England has shipped in a single game since the World Cup final in 2006.

One interesting change over the fortnight was England's change of kicker - Emily Scarratt taking over all of Katy McLean's kicking duties by the end of the tournament - and to great effect, though Emily did not seem entirely comfortable at full back. Natasha Hunt and Kay Wilson also made impressive debuts, and the extra competition for places in the England backline seemed to have a noticeably beneficial effect the quality of handling by the England team.

The next time we will see an England team take the field will be in November - and their opponents then will be New Zealand. Are they ready?

RFU report

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nations Cup Final will be streamed

... unless it rains. And its not going to rain (according to Canada's equivalent of the Met Office).

Rugby Canada have confirmed their intention to stream the third place playoff and final of the Nations Cup tomorrow. Only severe weather during their set-up before Tuesday's games forced them to abandon coverage. And the good news is that the weather for finals day looks good - indeed very good. Sunshine with occasional cloud, temperatures in the high 20s, and no chance of any rain at all.

So go here from around 7pm tomorrow (Saturday, our time) to watch the games. USA v South Africa will be on first, with the USA desperate to gain revenge for Tuesday's defeat (see USA rugby's preview) followed by the final between England and Canada at 9pm BST.

Nations Cup: Enough with the messing about - England put on serious face for the final

After taking every opportunity to experiment with different formations, Gary Street has clearly decided that enough is enough. One look at the team selected for the final shows that he is taking this pretty seriously as his starting XV is about as strong as fitness and availability could possibly allow.

Apart from anything else, this means that Amy Garnett of Saracens will earn her 100th cap for England when she walks out for the start of the game as, for the first time in the tournament, she makes the starting team. For a player who was originally left out of the touring party this is pretty impressive, and her performances have ensured  that she has won back her place as England no. 1 hooker. For now at least...

19 year-old Kay Wilson, at the other end of her rugby career, is the only player in starting line-up to have made her debut on this tour. Everyone else has played at least 10 times for England, and almost all of them played in the World Cup. Even the bench is pretty experienced, though Marlie Packer and Natasha Hunt both make the 22 again thanks to some excellent performances over the fortnight.

Canada are pretty confident as well, however - and after their performance on Tuesday who can blame them. Julianne Zussman - delighted to be a first choice wing for Canada having spent the World Cup watching from the sidelines - reported, after a day off on Thursday, its back to serious prepartions for the home team "Watching video of [Tuesday's] game was an eye-opening experience, as it always is. It's dumbfounding how obvious things are when you step outside of the game This afternoon we headed back out to practice with fresh eyes. John and Sandro [Canada's coaches] have a clear vision in mind for Saturday, and this afternoon we started to put the pieces in place. Building on the momentum of a successful international 7's season, and of three strong round robin performances, Canada feels ready to play the Brits!".

England's team:

15 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13 Claire Allan (Richmond)
12 Alice Richardson (Richmond)
11 Kay Wilson (Richmond)
10 Katy McLean (C) (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Claire Purdy (Wasps)
2 Amy Garnett (Saracens)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
5 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
6 Rebecca Essex (Richmond)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (VC) (Saracens)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)

16 Vicky Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
18 Jenny Brightmore (Worcester)
19 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
21 Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians Saints)
22 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nations Cup: South African sensation, England scare

Some wild weather in Canada resulted in a lack of any live video coverage, but may have also contributed to some fantastic games in the final round of Nations Cup group matches this evening. With the games having no effect on who plays in Saturday's finals these matches might have been relatively uneventful - but there were anything but and the match recordings will be well worth watching when they are posted, hopefully later this morning

First up, South Africa scored a sensational win over the USA. Two early penalties and a try - helped by at least one yellow card - had initially allowed the USA to build up a 13-3 lead, but the South Africans rallied and pulled the game back to 13-13 at half-time. The second half was a desperately exciting affair, every USA score being matched by South Africa. An American try early in the half gave the USA an 18-13 lead, which was quickly cut to 18-16 by a South African penalty. A third USA try, which took the score to 23-16, was matched within five minutes by South Africa's third, cutting the lead again to just two points with five minutes left. The game could have gone either way in those final minutes, reports suggest constant change of possession - but it was South Africa who broke through, scoring a fourth try in the final minute to win 26-23.

In the second game England, as with their opening fixture against the USA, found things very difficult against a determined defence. With Emily Scarratt on kicking duty for the day, England took an early lead from a penalty, but shortly afterwards Canadian centre Amanda Burk broke through the England line to set up Cheryl Phillips to score in the corner. 5-3 to Canada, and that is how it remained until half time.

England seem to have used the break to reorganise their team, bringing on several players including Natasha Hunt and Maggie Alphonsi. The changes were decisive as both scored tries early in the second half, Maggie's try in particular coming from a "perfect play" with some "brilliant handling" from the England backs. The score was now 15-5 to England, but Canada were not beaten - Kayla Mack touching down for the home team midway through the half to bring the difference down to a single score. A tense final 15 minutes was finally eased for England when Amy Garnett, coming on for her 99th cap, scored England's third try with a couple of minutes to go. Emily's conversion extended England's lead to a comfortable 22-10, which is how the game ended.

All teams will have been experimenting a little in these games and things may be very different in Saturday. However, South Africa and Canada will be full of confidence after these performances. On the other hand USA will be determined to finish with something from a tournament that began so well, but has since been derailed, while England will be wanting to finish the tournament with a decisive win - after all the next time they run out after Saturday it will be against New Zealand!

Detailed RFU report

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Ireland looking for exiles

Interesting news that Irish RFU are intending to set up an "Irish Exiles" team to encourage players based in the UK to compete got a place in the national team. To qualify all you need is to have been born in Ireland, or to have an Irish parent or grandparent.

In the coming season it is intended that the Exiles team will play a number of friendlies, including games against at least two of the Provincial teams, but in the long run the idea is that the Exiles will take part in the Provincial championship.

The next training session will be on Saturday 27th August at London Irish Training Ground, Sunbury. For more information contact Kerrie-Ann Craddock of Saracens.

Support for coaches

Almost everyone gets involved in coaching in some way or another. As a regular player you may be asked to help at school or college or in a demonstration events, parents who know something about the game may be asked to assist at training, if you study PE at any level you'll need to know about coaching plans, and obviously you may end up becoming a coach.

There is quite a lot of help available on the internet, especially for introductory coaching, and there may soon be a whole lot more as the RFU are looking at providing their coach support through the new website. This has been running for a year already as a commercial service, but that could change over the next few months. Quite how is a little difficult to work out from a long but otherwise unhelpful press release from the RFU - but basically we'll know more from about January.

In the meanwhile - and especially if you ever have to do any coaching with a bunch of beginners - US Rugby's Rookie Rugby website ( is well worth a look. This supports their version of tag, and has lots of videos (including this wonderful news report about a girls rugby team based in the famously dodgy area of Harlem, in New York) but it is especially useful as it has three weeks of lesson plans for introducing rugby to children of all ages (page down to number 7 in the list of resources), including warm-up drills and game activities. So if you ever have to work with develop a coaching programme for any group of young players, especially if its tag, its all there on a plate for you.

<<<< A number of other coaching resources can be found in the list of links in the left-hand column.

Nations Cup: Dress rehersal

The next round of Nations Cup games - and the final round of group games - will be played tomorrow. Play returns to Appleby College in Ontario for this round and the final, so hopefull we'll get a live feed and - fingers crossed - one that works better than in round one as well. Drop by the Rugby Canada Ustream feed at around 8.30pm (BST) tomorrow to see. Its well worth doing as there is always a lively discussion going on to accompany the rugby!

First up will be USA v South Africa, both teams looking for the first win. From reports the USA are struggling with playing so many games in such a short time, so may rest a few of their leading players for this game. If that is the case - and if South Africa can keep their discipline and not give away so many penalties - the Africans might cause a upset. Unlikely though.

England have been very slow to release their team - which is unusual - so quite what to expect from their game (due to kick-off at about 10.30 pm our time) is anyone's guess. You'd think that Gary Street would stick with the team that did so well against South Africa, but he might be also wanting to give his "stars" a chance to show that their performance against the USA was just a one-off in a game where, in theory, the pressure will be off. England should be good enough regardless -the "usual" game will probably be enough as the Canadian forwards will probably not be as powerful as the Americans.The only danger will come from the Canadian backs if they are allowed to run.

* The final and third place games - between the same teams - will be on Saturday, with kick-offs two-and-a-half hours earlier in each case.

** The England team has now been announced - and it is an interesting one. Many of the big names return, but not necessarily in the starting XV. Sarah Hunter is the third England captain in as many matches, though Katy McLean is on the bench, as is Maggie Alphonsi and one of last weekend's stars Nathasha Hunt. On the other hand Kat Merchant, four tries against South Africa, is rested - presumably for the final. The selection also allows some young players a chance to show how they shape up alongside established stars - Marlie Packer wears Maggie's shirt at 7, and Hertfordshire's Sarah McKenna gets to play at inside centre between Claire Allan and Emily Scarratt. The full England 22 is:

15 Danielle Waterman (Worester)
14 Fran Matthews (Richmond)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians Saints)
11 Claire Allan (Richmond)
10 Alice Richardson (Richmond) VC
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Vicky Fleetwood (Lichfield)
3 Laura Keates (Worcester)
4 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
6 Becky Essex (Richmond)
7 Marlie Packer (Bristol)
8 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield) (C)


16 Amy Garnett (Saracens)
17 Claire Purdy (Wasps)
18 Jenny Brightmore (Worcester)
19 Maggie Alphonsi (Saracens)
20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
21 Katy McLean(Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)
22 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)

Monday, August 08, 2011

See how England won

Thanks to Anon for pointing out that the US Eagles have downloaded full videos of all of the first four Nations Cup games - including the England v USA game, where you can now watch how England managed to win the game from the last, desperate play of the match.

The videos can be seen here 

**Occasionally strange things happens with some recordings - USA v Canada does suddenly become England v South Africa for a few minutes, for example!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Good times...

Herts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7's
Herts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7's
Herts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7's
Herts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7'sHerts 7's
Happened across a link to this album of photos from Herts 7s back in 2006 which I must have favourited on Flicker at the time, but don't remember. Its a bit different as its not a Threlfall or Alcock collection, by the work of Steph Crome's sister (I think). One or two quite unusual shots. Includes Carla (wearing no. 5), Nichola, Hayley, Steph, Katie, Randy, Rosie, Amy... No Nikki- she wasn't old enough to play for the U18s at the time!

Anyway... a reminder of some good times...

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Nations Cup: Sweet revenge for Canada, and a quandary for Street

Round two of the Nations Cup resulted in wins for England and Canada, who as a result will now meet twice in the next week - once for the last group game, and then again for the final next weekend.

For Canada their 35-17 win over the USA was glorious revenge for their defeat to the same opponents in the World Cup last year. After a tight first half, Canada - cheered on by an excited and increasingly vocal crowd  - ran away with the game, their sevens stars running riot as the US defence tired, scoring 21 unanswered points until the USA's consolation try just before the end.

Video of the game isn't yet available, but reports from the game suggested that while the US's awesome defence held for most of the first 40 minutes, keeping the visitors in touching distance, the game was a very close affair. However, once the defence had been breached and the US had to go on the offensive they had little to offer other than an over-reliance on kicking. As a result the game occasionally degenerated into a ping-pong contests where the Canadians invariably came out as winners.

Earlier in the evening what was effectively England's reserve squad put together a convincing 46-8 win over South Africa, Natasha Hunt having a dream debut with the boot, slotting three penalties and a conversion in the first half, as well as setting up the opening try in the second. With England now 26-5 ahead Street took the opportunity to give the bench some game time, Hunt being one of those replaced. This did little to reduce England's domination, Kat Merchant in particular going on to score four tries.

The success of the younger players, compared with the more stuttering performance by the big names in the opening game, could present Gary Street with something of a selection problem. The next game against Canada is a dead rubber, so there is room to experiment. On the other hand, England have never lost to Canada - a fact that creates a pressure all of its own. It will be interesting to see which team is selected.

RFU report on England v South Africa

Thursday, August 04, 2011

New look England team faces South Africa

Only four of England's starting XV from Sunday will start against South Africa tomorrow, following the narrow 15-11 win against the USA. The changes will almost certainly not be a reaction to that game, but a planned opportunity for Gary Street to give the fringe members of the squad a run out against the weakest team in the tournament.

There are a number of new caps, most notably 19 year-old Kay Wilson at full-back, who has rapidly moved through the U20 and "A" squads in less than a year to now run out with the big girls. Scrum-half Natasha Hunt also plays her first game, but the young players will be supported by players at the very other end of their careers, such as Amy Garnett, winning her 98th cap.

The evening's two games will be played at a different ground to the first round, and at present indications are that there will be no live feed. Hopefully we will get delayed video - not least because the other game (USA v Canada) will be a treat - but at present nothing is confirmed.

England team:

15 Kay Wilson (Richmond)
14 Katherine Merchant (Worcester)
13 Claire Allan (Richmond)
12 Sarah McKenna (Old Albanians)
11 Michaela Staniford (Wasps)
10 Alice Richardson (VC) (Richmond)
9 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
1 ClairePurdy (C) (Wasps)
2 Amy Garnett (Saracens)
3 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
4 BeckyEssex(Richmond)
5 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
6 JennyBrightmore (Worcester)
7 MarliePacker (Bristol)
8 Jo McGilchrist (Wasps)
16 Vicky Fleetwood (Lichfield)
17 Laura Keates (Worcester)
18 Tamara Taylor(Darlington Mowden Park)
19 Sarah Hunter (Lichfield)
20 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
21 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park)
22 Danielle Waterman (Worcester)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

USA v England: The official view

I generally dislike publishing RFU press releases without severe editing, but in this case the report does at least answer a few questions that followers of the feed missed. And it will be hours before it appears on

USA Rugby's report has also been published and  there is also a very good post-match interview with the USA captain, but here is Julia Hutton's report from the England camp...

England Women open Nations Cup campaign with hard fought USA win

England 15 USA 11

England Women opened their Nations Cup campaign with a hard fought 15-11 victory over the USA on Tuesday night at Appleby College in Ontario, Canada, with only an extra-time try sealing the win. The defending champions and Six Nations title holders banked the victory thanks to tries from skipper Katy McLean, Vice-captain Margaret Alphonsi and Richmond lock Rowena Burnfield, who scored the crucial match winning try in the 87th minute.

The USA pushed England all the way and a try from Victoria Folayan and two penalties from centre Pam Kosanke kept their charge going as they led 11-10 in the dying minutes of the game. In a new look England line-up, which saw Victoria Fleetwood, Laura Keates, Kay Wilson, Jenny Brightmore, Natasha Hunt and Sarah McKenna all making their debuts, England did however dominate much of the match but also squandered several try scoring opportunities.

Street said: “The importance of this tournament was evident in this match with the physicality and pressure from the USA. It is a different challenge to the Six Nations so it is vital for the development of some of our younger and less experienced players. Introducing six new caps to international rugby will bear fruit in the future and we showed great maturity to win the game late on. We will get better as the tournament progresses and we look forward to playing South Africa on Friday.”

With the Eagles kicking off the game Wasps’ Joanne McGilchrist took the ball nicely and McLean kicked well for territory and the backs chased well. Lichfield centre Emily Scarratt hit some great lines in the early stages of the game but the USA backs defended well and their line speed was good to close down a lot of what England were trying to do. Richmond lock Becky Essex also came close to scoring after ten minutes with a great line break but England were unable to score from it.

Fly-half McLean then had the chance to put England’s first points on the board with a 12th minute penalty, but she couldn’t make the score and although fullback Danielle Waterman showed some great feet and creativity heading straight back at the USA on the counter attack again England couldn’t break the USA’s line. England’s patience paid off though and some more impressive footwork by Waterman from England’s 22 and some superb support by wing Fran Matthews saw England finally break the deadlock with McLean scoring in the corner on 24 minutes. McLean, however, couldn’t add the conversion.

America clawed their way back to 5-3 with Pam Kosanke adding a 32nd minute penalty and they could have in fact taken the lead moments later with a second penalty, but to England’s relief the ball went wide. The USA took control of the game in the second-half with their one and only try of the game. Wing Folayan took the ball nicely from a kick and some strong running, where she evaded a handful of tackles, saw her score. Kosanke missed the conversion but the USA took the 8-5 lead on 48 minutes.

England managed to turn the tables on America though with flanker Alphonsi at the heart of the action, scoring England’s second try on her 55th cap, although with McLean missing the conversion England only led 10-8. England’s lead was short-lived though and some careless errors, including being off-side, handed the USA the chance to go ahead with a 56th minute penalty. With Kosanke converting, they did, and led 11-10.

England were far from down and out though and threw everything they had at the USA in attempt to retake the lead. A fired-up Amy Garnett, making her 97th appearance for England, took a quick tap penalty, passing the ball to Claire Allan who battled her way against the Eagles’ defensive line. A superbly placed kick from McLean handed England a lineout in USA’s 22, but again the points didn’t come.

The USA, however, buckled under the pressure with Sarah Chobot showed the yellow card for persistent foul play on 73 minutes leaving England with a one-man advantage. England went close another two times, but again couldn’t break the try line, and McLean also missed a late penalty attempt. The Red Roses didn’t give up though and after a period of sustained pressure which saw several scrums on America’s line, lock Burnfield finally broke through, powering her way over the try-line to score in the last play of the game. With McLean missing the conversion England took the 15-11 victory.

England next play South Africa on Friday at 930pm BST. Nations Cup match action is available at


15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester), 14 Francesca Matthews, (Richmond), 13Emily Scarratt (Lichfield), 12 Alice Richardson, (Richmond), 11 Kay Wilson (Richmond), 10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park) (C), 9 La Toya Mason (Wasps), 1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester), 2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield), 3 Laura Keates (Worcester), 4 Rebecca Essex(Richmond), 5 Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park), 6 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps), 7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) VC, 8 SarahHunter (Lichfield). Replacements: 16 Amy Garnett (Saracens), 17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol), 18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond), 19 Jennifer Brightmore (Worcester), 20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield), 21 SarahMcKenna (Old Albanians), 22 ClaireAllan (Richmond)

Tries: McLean, Alphonsi, Burnfield

Substitutions: Garnett for Fleetwood (50), Hemming for Keates (50), Burnfield for Essex (50), Allan for Wilson (50), Brightmore for McGilchrist (60), Hunt for Mason (50), McKenna for Richardson (77).

USA v England - judge for yourself

Video from last night's USA v England is now available at (check the videos on the right of the screen). It is bitty and annoyingly it freezes at exactly the same points that live feed did, so you can relive what live viewers lived! Even so, you can judge for yourself how harsh (or not) my review of the game was.

One final puzzle, though. Will some coach explain to me what the thinking is behind the deep kick down the middle of the field? Kick to touch I understand, but what the heck is this all about? All it does is give away possession to the opposition, while also allowing them to run back at you. England's first try - and arguably USA's too - came possession kicked away in this way. USA even adopted this tactic in the dying seconds, kicking the ball away when holding onto it made way more sense.

Similarly what is it with deep sevens-style restarts - again allowing the opposition to gain possession unmolested and then run it back?

The agony and ecstasy

England won their opening game in the Nations Cup at around 1am (ie. a few minutes ago) but the real victors were the USA. In the lead until the dying final play of the game, the USA matched the England team all the way.

It was abundantly clear who had done their homework for this game - and it was not Gary Street. England came out and attempted to play their forward-based game that steamrollered them to yet another 6 Nations earlier in the year - and hit a brick wall. Indeed more than that - a brick wall that bit back.

Suddenly Plan A did not work - and the result was less than impressive as there did not seem to be much of a Plan B. Okay, in that opening period England were playing into an annoying breeze, but even so it took them well into the latter part of the first half before a weaving run from Nollie Waterman lead to a move that finally broke the deadlock, captain McLean touching down.

For a period the USA were rattled, but their nerve held - and a penalty near the end of the half saw them go in only 5-3 down. It was all on the half-time talks now, and the USA clearly won that battle as well, coming out with their tails up and going ahead with a try shortly after the restart.

After this it all gets a bit confusing as the video feed from Canada started to break down - possibly under the strain of some 500 or more viewers. An unseen England try put the favourites ahead, but that was soon followed by a penalty to the USA that took the score to 11-10... which is where it stayed for an agonising final period. Agonising for internet viewers as the feed struggled to cope with the strain, as well as the players. The USA won possession, but a lack of experience showed as they were unable to run the clock down - deciding to kick deep, and thus give away possession.

England roared back and with barely a minute on the clock England had a penalty by the far touchline. Katy opted for the kick... and missed. From the 22 USA regain possession, and again kicked... seconds too early. A line out from what was the final play of the game, the ball worked to the far side, and England ruck 5m out.... and the feed failed AGAIN!!

Five minutes of agony for those at home. Rumours of a USA win flooded the discussions, but nothing official from the ground. Breathless wait - then the score flashed up. USA 11, England 15. Somehow England had pulled the game around. Somehow.

So its a win, but not deserved. England were predictable, unimaginative, and just not up for the game. USA had clearly planned for this with precision, were totally up for it, knew England's moves better than many England players did and so nearly pulled off the shock of the decade.

The good news is that - at last - England have been put through the ringer. They need games like this, and will emerge a better team - we hope. They better had, as if the USA can do this to them heaven alone knows what the Black Ferns will do!

Earlier Canada beat South Africa 52-17. I think we know who will be in the final.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Nations Cup to be streamed... and it will be live!

Good news - you will be able to watch the Nations Cup, which starts this evening. Unfortunately not live - as there are "technical problems" at the ground - but the Rugby Canada will have full match recordings of all games posted at within an hour or so of the end of the second fixture each day.

In theory this means that we may be able to access recordings from around about midnight our time. If you "Join the Crowd" at the site it should send you an email when the recordings become available.

It make be possible that later rounds will be live. In the meantime you will be able to follow a blow-by-blow account via YSC and the Scrumhalf Connection's Tweets (well worth it, especially if they do go live, as you can talk back to the commentary team!).

England v Black Ferns. A wish list.

  1. Use three different grounds. Spread it around. We know its cheaper to use the same ground more than once, but it does not help 95% of the country who cannot easily get to Esher, or wherever.
  2. Don't play all the games within or near to the M25. There is a world beyond London and if you want to spread the game across the country, give everyone else a chance to join in.
  3. If any games are not on TV then get them steamed on the Internet. Ask YSC if you do not know how.
  4. In fact, even if they are on TV, get them streamed anyway.
  5. Let the Irish, Welsh or French RFUs give New Zealand a game as well, at one end or other of the week they are here maybe. Let's use this to try to build the game outside just England - seems silly to drag the Ferns all this way and not let them play another team. Not Scotland though... they don't make rugby scoreboards big enough...
  6. Three games in 8 days is silly. Can we have a more sensible programme for 2012?
  7. Can England drop in on Australia as well when they go south in 2013? They managed it in 2005...
That's it for now...

England to play New Zealand in annual series

A confrontation that will become a  regular sight
over the next three years
Fantastic news, just announced by the RFU. England and New Zealand will play three back-to-back tests in each of three series in 2011, 2012 and 2013, resulting in NINE games between the world’s top two ranked teams!

The announcement follows England's plan, announced last year, to play more tests and home and away over the next three years.

The first series will be in England this autumn, followed by a similar series - also in England - in 2012. England will then travel south in June 2013 to play New Zealand on their home turf - which will be England's first visit (and New Zealand's first home test, Australia aside) since 2005.

The series come as the result of an agreement signed yesterday by the RFU and the NZRU, no doubt driven by the possibility of attracting crowds similar to that at the World Cup Final at the Stoop last year. That resulted in an attempt to get the Black Ferns to return again last autumn, an attempt that fell through only at the last minute mainly due to problems at England's end, though the parlous financial state of NZRU will not have helped (and it is significant that England will be doing most of the "big lifting" in this by hosting the first two series).

This autumn's tests will be on November 26th, November 29th and December 3rd. All venues and kick off times will be confirmed in due course.

A few quotes from the RFU Press Release:

Rosie Williams: “We are really excited about this announcement. It is the first time that we have had a three year commitment to play New Zealand and this will do wonders from both a playing and profile perspective. This agreement is the icing on the cake for us. We now have regular tests against the current World Champions, as well against the USA and Canada in the Nations Cup, and of course Europe’s best in the Women’s RBS 6 Nations. We could not have delivered this significant improvement to our competition programme without the support of our colleagues at the RFU. This agreement is a testament to how serious women’s rugby is now being taken in England.”

Neil Sorensen (NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby): “This is a huge step forward for us and the Black Ferns. We have been working for a number of years to find meaningful opportunities and opponents for the Black Ferns and we are grateful to the RFU for making this possible. To know that we are going to see the world’s two top women’s rugby teams in action for nine internationals over the next three years is really exciting. It will be hugely beneficial for both teams as they prepare for the Women’s Rugby World Cup. We have not only achieved a regular programme against quality opposition but we have also been able to create a fantastic touring opportunity for these teams funded in large part by the RFU which demonstrates the respect that is held for our world champions.”

Monday, August 01, 2011

Nations Cup: And now its the grown ups turn

Just over a week after the end of the U20 Nations Cup in California, the senior tournament kicks off tomorrow in Ontario.

The same four nations - Canada, USA, England and South Africa - will be taking part, and (short of surprise results of earth-shattering dimensions) we will see the same result with England winning. England have never lost a game, though USA finished within three points in 2008. The only matter of debate will be who they will beat in the final. Canada were runners up in 2008, USA in 2009, but with the Canadian camp hit by the pay-to-play protests any home advantage will probably be lost, givin1g us an England v USA final.

Three years out from the next World Cup it is a time for rebuilding for everyone, with around a third of players new to international rugby (except England, where most will have played at the Six Nations or European Championship) - facts that make the teams even more unpredictable, and England's win all the more certain.

Unfortunately it seems that there will be no live video of games this time - which is a pity - but YSC will be giving a running commentary by Twitter. England's team for their opening game is:

15 Danielle Waterman (Worcester)
14 Francesca Matthews (Richmond)
13 Emily Scarratt (Lichfield)
12 Alice Richardson (Richmond)
11 Kay Wilson (Richmond)
10 Katy McLean (Darlington Mowden Park) (C)
9 La Toya Mason (Wasps)
1 Rochelle Clark (Worcester)
2 Victoria Fleetwood (Lichfield)
3 Laura Keates (Worcester)
4 Rebecca Essex(Richmond)
5 Tamara Taylor(Darlington Mowden Park)
6 Joanna McGilchrist (Wasps)
7 Margaret Alphonsi (Saracens) VC
8 SarahHunter (Lichfield)

16 Amy Garnett (Saracens)
17 Sophie Hemming (Bristol)
18 Rowena Burnfield (Richmond)
19 Jennifer Brightmore (Worcester)
20 Natasha Hunt (Lichfield)
21 SarahMcKenna (Old Albanians)
22 ClaireAllan (Richmond)

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