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, September 28, 2011

County trials - a mixed story nationwide... and a growing threat

Last weekend's Herts county trials went pretty well by the sounds of it - and congratulations for ex-legends like like Ellah, Jade and Sydney for winning their places in the U18 squad.

Unfortunately the news from some other parts of the country is less good.

Cheshire have apparently abandoned county rugby for girls altogether - which presumably bars any girls in the county from possible divisional selection as well - unless they make themselves available for neighbouring countries. And Northumberland - a county that used to be a hotbed of the game - can just about get a U15 squad together, while at U18 they can get a team out only if pretty much every player in the county shows up - but "boyfriends, parents, apathy and injuries often get in the way".

What is killing girls rugby union in the north? Well, curiously it is not because girls have problems with contact and therefore need to be carefully introduced to the game through some untrialled, ill-thought-out, watered-down U13 game. No - the problem is something first identified on this blog just under three years ago.

Rugby League.  Whatever you may have to say or think about this unsubtle, watered down version of the game  it is not only threatening Union in the north, its beginning to beat it hands down. In the north east six new junior RL teams were formed this year, as well as a girls' performance programme, with two U14s squads - one from Tyne & Wear and the other from County Durham, all linked to a senior ladies team at Peterlee which is taking union players.

At the same time "the union side of rugby in Durham has collapsed at U15 with Darlington MP (women's premier league team hosting the current England captain) unable to field an U15's team, while a new Northumberland rugby league team -  Whitley Bay Barbarians - is in direct competition with the struggling union team at Whitley Bay Rockcliff".

Why is League doing to well? The earlier post covered much of it - a unified sport with money and a clear focus from the top to support the women's game - but the fact is that both tag and the U13 game move much more naturally into League than they do Union. All the things that make Union unique - the game for everyone, the importance of forwards, rucks, mauls, line-outs, proper scrums - are absent from both tag and U13 rugby as they are from League. Look at the basic tactics for tag - this is League, isn't it? And as for U13 rugby - effectively no proper rucks, no real mauls, and when the ball crosses the touchline U13 rugby even restarts with an uncontested scrum - just like rugby league, and certainly not union! Throw in the need for fewer players, more flexible age bands - I am pretty sure that girls can play adult league at 16 - and a game that is based in the north (as opposed to one that barely recognises the existence of a world outside the M25) and its a winning formula that in some parts of England is, well, winning.

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