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, May 23, 2012

Change at the top in Herts

One of the things that has kept Hertfordshire girls and women's rugby ahead of the rest over the years is a body that probably most players will not have heard of. This is may be partly because its name - the Hertfordshire Women's and Girls' Rugby Development Group - is less than catchy, but in practice it has kept the game going with ideas and initiatives that were invariably ahead of everyone else. Even the very idea of a county development group was pretty innovative when it began.

The HWGRDG has done things like create county teams before most other counties, organised things like the Herts 7s, U12 rugby, county-wide development days for players who were not away at Regional, county leagues for developing teams, and next year a county-wide cluster team. If you want to know why Hertfordshire teams do so well, why the county gets a disproportionate number of players into divisional sides, and maybe even why two out of seven of the players in England's first game at London Sevens were from Herts, the Group probably paid a part in it.

The main reason for mentioning this is that the chair - only the second chair the Group has had in nearly 10 years - is leaving. Peter McCullough, who many of you will know through Welwyn, has been in place for about five years and is at last looking to find out if there really is life outside rugby coaching and RFUW politics. He deserves the thanks and best wishes of anyone who has played or been involved with girls' and women's rugby in Herts in the past five years.

He is being replaced by Adrian Pomfret, ex-Hitchin now at Welwyn, who has a tough at to follow - not least the the current worrying trends. The way in which the U13 initiative has turned the U15 player number problem into an out-and-out crisis has been discussed before, as has the failure of the centrally-imposed leagues to create anything other than fewer and fewer clubs with longer and longer journeys to more and more one-sided games. These problems will not be going away soon.

However, the adult game in Hertfordshire also has a problem - indeed there this too is probably a national issue. After two years of repeated hammerings in the Premiership, Old Albanians are reducing from two teams to one and dropping down two leagues to lick their wounds and recover. The problem is that English women's rugby is dominated by a small number of clubs who are streets ahead of anyone else. Spanish international Patricia Garcia told me how she is pleased she chose to play for Lons in the French leagues, instead of coming to England, as it is much more competitive. In France a promoted team really can realistically fight for the title, in England OAs - despite having several international on board - lost 28 games out of 28 in two years, conceding an average of 60-70 points per game.

But it is not just OAs that have suffered in the past year - Hertford's women's team has folded. With the OA 2nd XV going the county has lost two out of eight teams in a year.

Whether this is a reflection of reductions in player numbers is, of course, impossible to say as RFU/RFUW player statistics are hilariously inaccurate (see many previous posts on this). It may be that players are gravitating to bigger clubs, and generally clubs in the south of the county. Saracens are in rude health, for example, and Tabard now have enough for a second side. It is a situation that matches problems in girls game - ambitious players moving to bigger teams, with the result that their older club collapses. In France this is tackled by limiting the number of recently registered players a club can field. No such rules exist in England.

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