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Monday, October 10, 2011

England back at Esher again for Black Ferns games

England have confirmed the dates and venues for the visit of New Zealand in November... but have again wasted an opportunity to spread the game to a wider audience.

It is great that the first game in the series - at Twickenham on November 26th  will be screened live on Sky Sports, following the men's Barbarians v Australia fixture (a game that is tactlessly (and inaccurately) being marketed by the RFU as the "only international this Autumn" - not least because Barbarians games are not test matches, whereas the women's game they are choosing to ignore is).

However, the other two tests will both be at - Esher RFC (again) on November 29th and December 3rd and will not be televised by anyone, and presumably not webcast either as neither RFU nor RFUW seem to have arrived in the 21st century yet. The best we might hope for is some highlights. I wouldn't hold your breath on that, however

This is unlike, say, the USA, Canada or even the Cayman Islands, all of whose unions almost routinely webcast their internationals. Doesn't Twickenham find it just slightly embarrassing that tiny little Unions in some of the remotest parts of the world can manage this new technology thing just fine, but England - richest union in the world, with 2.5 million players (allegedly) - can't? What exactly is the problem?

Its not as if Esher is in the middle of no-where - and indeed that is the other problem. The RFUW have not exactly pushed the boundaries and used this tour to spread the game, have they? Esher is less than 10 miles from Twickenham and firmly within the M25. So anyone in South West London gets to see all three internationals on their doorstep, while the rest of the country (for the second and third tests) will have to put up with a match report and photograph on ScrumQueens.

When England travel to New Zealand in 18 months time or so, will all their games be in Wellington? No - I would be amazed if they were all on the same island.

England are also going to France for a couple of games next month... and are they both their games in Paris? No! In fact, in a move akin to the RFUW playing the Black Fern games in Newcastle or Manchester, the French "Autumn tests" will be played in the south of France with an "uncapped friendly" in Marseilles on 2nd November and a "full on" test in Aix-en-Provence on the 5th.

France will also be playing Italy the previous week (29th October) in Nice...well over 100 miles away from Marsailles in south-east France. In addition, France's three home Six Nations games will be played in Calais, Clermont Ferrand (central France), and Pau (south west). Add in their international venues in the past couple of years and most Frenchwomen will have had at least one international nearby (within 50-100 miles at worst) in the past 2-3 years.

Time was when England were almost as adventurous - they made it all the way to Leeds in 1997! - but the last time England travelled further north than St Albans was when they found their way to the remote outpost of civilisation that is Northampton in 2001.

When last questioned on this policy a few years ago, RFUW claimed it was not their fault and blamed international regulations about airports and hotels. So for those of you in Newcastle and Manchester who thought you had airports and hotels you'd better check they are really there. And if they are then clearly they are not remotely as good as those to be found in Clermont Ferrand and Pau.

  • One other confirmed Autumn International will be Scotland's visit to Netherlands on 6th November, probably in Amsterdam. Considering recent Scottish form it could be a very close game indeed... Wales and Ireland have no games currently announced.

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