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...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking back

As 2012 comes to an end a few thoughts come to mind.

On the "home front" I came across the team picture from Rochford and its a shock to realise that the triumph of the Letchworth Girls at Rochford Tens is a full six years ago now. All of the "girls" from that day have, needless to say, grown up - two have children of their own. Others are working or coming to the end of their higher education studies. Several still play - most notably Jess Robinson, who played in the Dubai Sevens again a few weeks ago. They were a great bunch and I miss those days, though maybe not when the weather is like this!

Beyond that it is often a shock to see the outcome of stuff that I have written, even (maybe especially) stuff that starts on here. It was, after all, on this blog that the world first heard of Emily Valentine - the first woman in the world to play rugby (that we know of). Her story has spread and spread - its been rewritten and published in Italy and Germany and Sri Lanka and Fiji... and now, in New Zealand, she is a brand! EmVale is a new women's health and sports range, whose name comes from Emily.

Its things like this that make a total amateur blogger and occasional "reporter" (well, that is what the press pass said) feel... well, slight scared to be honest! And rather pleased as well.

There were other personal highlights in 2012 - especially the London Sevens, and meeting and trying to talk to the great Kelly van Harskamp in front of 70,000 very noisy spectators at Twickenham counts as a lifetime moment. And to also get to meet other players as well was amazing. And its really hard to keep the "fan" at bay when you are pretending to be a journalist and ask journalist style questions! But the great news is that it looks like I will get another chance to meet them all, in Amsterdam in May! At last I might get the chance to see Spain play, live - that is worth looking forward to!

Its not all been sweetness and light, though. Returning to matters domestic it must be clear to anyone with eyes to see and half a brain that girls rugby in England is no-where near as strong as it was when Letchworth were playing only 4-5 years ago. The great gamble to putting all of the development eggs in the school sport basket just is not paying off - the statistics of players in schools and school teams entering competitions is up dramatically, but there is no sign at all that even a fraction of these "new" players are staying in the game beyond 13-15 (ie. when the school game stops). The club game in key areas - like the north - is in a pitiful state. Yorkshire cannot raise a county team in both age groups. Something has gone disastrously wrong - and its very upsetting to watch. Hertfordshire continue to do well, compared with the country as a whole, but even in the best organised county attendance at county trials is, from what I hear, down by 60-70%  from the heady days of 2005-06.

It will take about 10 years, probably, before this hits the national team. In the meanwhile (and to end on a positive note) England are truly the best in the world now, certainly at 15s and maybe next year at 7s too. That is really something.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Never complain about the state of the pitch again...

The picture below comes from a women's international between Burundi and Rwanda, played on 15th December, details of which have only just come to light. There is a positive story here about the spread of the game, etc. but I think the main thing to look at is the pitch.

This is, I remind you again, an international. Rwanda will have travelled for quite a long time to get here and presumably this is the best that would be available to the home team. Drowning does seem a real threat in some areas...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Q: In which country is the national women's rugby team fronting their sponsor's poster campaign?

And, moreover, without the prefix "women's"?

Could it be New Zealand, home of the World Champions? No. Australia, then, home of the Sevens World Champions? No. England? Currently home of the best women's rugby team ever? Daft question.

No. It is a country where rugby is not even a major sport. I give you...
Holland (the slogan means "Clean. Strong. Power" apparently).

All sorts of thoughts come to mind here, like...

  • When did you last see (Olympics-related advertising excepted perhaps) any women's sports team promote any product in the UK?
  • Why the heck not? This is, after all, a pretty powerful - and eye-catching - image.
  • Yes, okay, phrases like "posing pout" have been used but even so its still probably one of the most positive images of women in advertising that I have seen for some time. Compare and contrast with how women are being portrayed by people like Asda at the moment...
  • As well as advertising the product (nuclear power, apparently!) this is a brilliant way of advertising the sport as well.
  • "Sponsor of the Netherlands Sevens team" you note - not the "Netherlands women's sevens team". No prefix. That is a level of subliminal recognition that is pretty remarkable.
  • This is a minority sport in Holland. But note the lack of explanation as to who they are. It is roughly the equivalent of a campaign in the UK being fronted by the British women's handball team, so who says you need to be big media stars to be valuable for advertisers?
  • Add in the knowledge that this sponsor only sponsors the women's team - and it was the players themselves who went out and won the deal. Any team that has a sponsor-less shirt should maybe see it as an opportunity.
  • Who is the promotional genius at the heart of the women's rugby set-up in Holland?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The weekend's county festivals cancelled

Breaking news: RFU have cancelled ALL of this weekend's senior and junior festivals due to the weather, flood warnings, and saturated pitches. See here for official statement.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

England poised to be the best in the world - ever

After last nights 16-13 win over New Zealand the England are on the verge of becoming the best in the women's rugby team in the world - ever.

This is really one for the statistical geeks out there, but since women's test rugby began 30 years ago the "league table" of the most successful teams (that have played 20 tests of more) looks something like this:
In fact the top six have been pretty much unchanged for the past 20 years or so, but if England were to win the current series 3-0 we would see the first significant change for two decades. For the first time ever England would go top. 

England's record would go up to 87.56%, while New Zealand's would fall to 86.72%.

Even if England were to win only 2-1 the gap would close to barely one percentage point, which is pretty remarkable as after the World Cup the gap was nearly 10 points. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

U11 girls rugby - in Holland!

Just had to put up this great picture of Dutch international Mara Moburg coaching some 9-11 year old girls in the Netherlands. Partly because its a great picture (they are all hanging on her every word), partly because U11s in Holland clearly play contact, and partly because it shows again  how international the game really is.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Celebrating 25 years of test rugby in North America

More or less exactly now, but 25 years ago, the first ever women's rugby international to be played outside Europe took place in Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada. USA won 22-3, which was really no surprise as they were way ahead of pretty much everyone and went on to win the first World Cup four years later.

No-one seems to be wanting to celebrate this much, though the US women are at this very moment getting together for their tour of France and Italy so may have other things on their minds.

Anyway, its a even worth marking by someone... so well done to the US and Canadian women!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NZRU - New Zealand women's rugby's worst enemy?

20 years after the NZRU took over the running of the women's game, a remarkable article has appeared highlighting how badly treated the women are ("NZRU must stop treating top Women rugby players as Second Rate"). When rugby tournament have to cut costs it the women's teams that suffer; the Black Ferns will be playing with shirt sponsors next week but thus far it seems none of this money is making its way into the women's game (the entire tour is being funded by the RFU); and it seems the NZRU's funding of women's sevens may even be illegal under the rules of Olympic sport so far is it behind their funding of the men's game.

Yet despite all this the Black Ferns will undoubtedly be the greatest challenge England will face all year. Four times world champions despite their governing body the information detailed in this article shows that they must be the greatest miracle workers in modern sport.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Calling all students and past players!

Not played rugby since the U18s? Or back from university, but without a club? Then there is special festival for you!

19th December is normally the date for the boys students festival, for players who've gone off to Uni and are back for Christmas. However for the first time a senior ladies match has been organised - if there are enough people interested in playing! 

If you are interested contact - by 16th November. It takes some planning so please please let him know if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Women's rugby: the early days

A chance find had revealed a collection of 45 fascinating photos of women's club and international rugby in England and Wales from the mid-1980s. That may be barely 30 years ago, but for women's rugby its almost prehistoric!

The photos - which can be found buried in the Daily Mail's Picture Archive - include...

Several pictures (right) from games involving the Wiverns - the first ever women's rugby team from the US to tour Europe.

A national side in all but name (the USA - and come to that England - had not started playing test rugby in 1985), the Wiverns went undefeated throughout a long tour of the UK and France.

Many of the players went on to be part of the USA team that would win the first World Cup six years later.

A picture (left) from the first ever women's test match to take place in the UK - Great Britain vs France, a year later.

The picture shows France's Maris Gracieux tackling Great Britain's Suzy Hill.

The match took place at Richmond in London on 19th April 1986, France winning 14-8.

If you look carefully you see that the GB team have tape around their arms. This is because apparently the GB shirts only arrived minutes before the kick-off - and were found to be several sizes too big. The players had to tape up the sleeves to stop them flapping around... but the shirts still seem a big baggy!

Various club and university matches from in and around London are also featured (some in some very dodgy kit), one including a very young Carol Isherwood, as well as two pictures of the New Zealand team from the first world cup in 1991 doing a haka - apparently in the middle of a huge open field.

It all makes for a fascinating bit of women's rugby history.

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