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...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A weekend at the London Sevens...

The biggest thing since the 2010 World Cup, and the first international women's sevens ever held in England, last weekend's IRB Women's Challenge at the London Sevens was an incredible occasion and experience - especially for the media representatives present (er... me and Alison Donnelly of ScrumQueens).

All the facts and figures are on ScrumQueens, but from what I saw and from discussions with players from many countries a few random thoughts and impressions about international women's rugby...
Kelly van Harskamp - a distracting interviewee (see below)
  • Spain's main players were given a choice between 7s and 15s this season - all bar one chose 7s. No other country is quite as "democratic" - English and French players go and play where their coaches tell them!
  • Spain are a very strong team (not playing in London) but one of their leading players told me that she believed that Spain have perhaps 20 international quality players (7s and 15s combined)
  • French players told me how difficult it as for them as they 7s squad rarely play together - they have yet to develop an "automatic understanding" together... and it showed. They were very disappointed by their 8th in London.
  • Girls rugby is growing in Netherlands. Player numbers are up 15% and some schools are offering the game.
  • An official IRB ranking system based on the men's system should be in place by year end - once all nations have signed off on their acceptance on The List. The status of matches in tournaments will depend of tournament organisers (ie. FIRA, for instance), while for friendlies tests will be tests if both sides agree on the status.
  • A calendar for women's XVs tours for up to 4 years ahead should be agreed this year.
  • Brazil, Argentine, Columbia and Uruguay are very interested in expanding into XVs in the near future - but IRB are trying to ensure that they and other ambitious nations can walk before they run to ensure games are not cancelled etc.
  • Trinidad are similarly hoping to break out of the Caribbean
  • China's rugby sounds like a fragile soufflĂ© - a thin crust of mainly students and elite players, but almost no club structure below it.
  • "New" names to keep an eye on from outside the Usual Suspects - Paula Ishibashi (Brazil); Fan Wenjuan (China); Anna Yakoleva (Kazakhstan); Koletsa Gadu (South Africa). Paula and Anna especially - Anna was an extraordinary glint of sevens gold in a very 15s-y Kaz team. She can do everything - kicking, great handling, runs superb lines, fast, strong - and the loudest voice on the field. You KNOW when Anna is playing!
  • All national coaches (and most national squads!) live up to national stereotypes. Without exception. If you want to party, follow the Brazilians. The happiest team with the wildest supporters are the Dutch (even before their wins). Portugal are fun to be with too. Americans and Canadians are very scientific with all kinds of American football-style Plays. And so on.
  • Most women's teams plays 7s like its 15s. The Dutch are the big exception.
  • Dutch players are all at least 6 inches taller than players from anywhere else - and if they can match their technical ability with a bit more power and strength they could be devastating.
  • England players seem to have a level of media training akin to leading politicians.
  • Dutch star player Kelly van Harskamp has the most amazing deep brown eyes which are incredibly distracting when you are trying to interview her.

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