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, September 29, 2008

Ex-legend debuts for Sarries

Or should I say "Sarrie".

While many of our current U18s were in action in Crawley and Birmingham, Laura and Ella - our U15 girls - were assisting a slightly more petite version of a famous sporting icon at the North Herts Mini Rugby Festival back at Letchworth.

Sarrie did all the usual dances, handwaving, hugging of small children, and autograph signing - and was surrounded at times by adoring (or annoying?) crowds of young rugby players determined to touch (or tackle) the large dromedary.

Of course Sarrie is not real (sorry if that has shocked many of his followers) and requires some poor sap to wear the large (and very warm - especially on this very sunny September morning) costume. The sap in this case was our own Katie, who did several heroic tours of the ground before retreating to cool down, and in end also gave out the trophies. She resisted all attempts by over-enthusiastic youths to bring her to the ground, and the smile never wavered (though it is sewn on). All in all it was an excellent performance.

From captain to camel - what a difference a year makes!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rugby movie opens in US - future of the game in cinema goers hands

The first attempt at a mainstream US Hollywood film based around rugby - Forever Strong - opened across the US last night and followers of the sport over there will be watching the cinema returns as closely as any of the movie's financial backers.

Rugby is unlikely to breakthrough into the public consciousness in the States purely as a sport - not only because the US men's team will not be winning their World Cup any time soon (ultimately the US sports media is just as sexist as everyone else so regretably their brilliant women's team aren't on the radar), but also because sport in the US is a branch of showbiz in a way that is difficult to comprehend anywhere else. So the way into the hearts and minds of the US public is off the field. 

Not that this film is going to have people flocking to play the sport on its own - but what it will do is open the gates to other movies on a similar theme. There are plenty of good stories that can be told around rugby - and not just as a background to the Nelson Mandela biopic. It has all the strength and power of American Football, but is much more photogenic - you can see the players' faces for starters - and those that play can be much more easily represented as "ordinary Joes" than pro-sports super-millionaires. Its got real potential. And what the US movie industry makes, the world watches.

But at the moment Hollywood is deeply sceptical. In fact they have given Forever Strong one weekend to prove itself. This weekend. Top US periodical Rugby Magazine has sent a plea to every subscriber or anyone else on their mailing lists to drop everything, load up the car with family and friends, and get out there and see the film. 

"The studios in Hollywood have threatened to pull this film nationally after one week", they say, "if we don't have a GREAT opening weekend. They don't believe that rugby has a big enough audience to make this film profitable."

It is not an exageration to say that the future development of rugby as a significant sport in the US - and worldwide - will be decided in 258 cinemas from Alaska to Florida this weekend. That or its back to relying on the IRB to expand the game worldwide... not something they have shown any inclination to do in the past 100+ years.

So please - if you are reading this in the USA - its time for you to do your duty! Get to a movie theatre showing this film any way you can. Guzzle that coke, eat that popcorn, drag along as many people as possible. Rugby needs YOU!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sport funding made easy

More information on Amanda Bate's new venture (as mentioned last week) has come out.

Sport Support will advise and guide sports clubs through the maze of forms and reports that surround (and frequently prevent access to) grants that are supposed to be available to sports clubs and teams like ours.

We've done reasonably well in this area in the past, but much of that has been due to Amanda pointing the way. Often its not so much that the application is daunting (though it frequently is), its more that you are unaware that the grant exists at all, or that you are eligible. Grant making bodies frequently use a specialised branch of the English language where words have subtly different meanings so when you look at it you think "that can't possibly apply to girls' rugby" when it turns out that they are desparate to hand over some cash.

Amanda's new company officially starts on 1st November - but apparently she is taking bookings already (including this club, if they follow my suggestion). A great deal of grant money actually goes unspent, so there is plenty of potential business out there.

Rugby World Cup 2010 to be in London

The RFUW have won the bid to host the 2010 World Cup. The IRB  have announced that the tournament will be held in London, four years after Edmonton staged the event. 

This will be the first time England will have hosted the tournament, which before Edmonton was held in Spain (Barcelona), Netherlands (Amsterdam), Scotland, and south Wales. Women's world cups tend to be restricted to small areas - mostly single cities - rather than touring around a host nation because its cheaper.

At this stage it has not been announced which grounds will be used, but RFUW have said that it "will be staged across West London" which restricts things to a handful of likely candidates, and presumably misses out OAs, which is a pity, but it still means that the entire event will be less than an hour's travel away. No announcement as to whether the final will be at Twickenham - but it is difficult to see how RFU could get away not allowing the game to be played there.

Details about the qualifying process (which the IRB claim that "will ultimately involve 83 national women's teams") will be announced by the end of the year. However, RFUW have also confirmed that the tournament will again be restricted to 12 teams, as at Edmonton in 2006, rather than the 16 that took part in Barcelona in 2002 which makes it all a bit academic.

I'm not entirely sure where the IRB gets its data from as by my reckoning at least 40 of those alleged 83 nations have never played a 15-a-side international, but of those left three-quarters of them need not bother filling in the entry form. 

As each continent gets at least one entrant, in a 12-team tournament even Europe will probably get only get five places (as it did in 2006). That means that not only will the likes of Russia, Germany, Netherlands, and Spain - who are quite capable at holding their own against most non European nations - have no chance of joining the party, but even one of the Six Nations teams will miss out. 

At Edmonton the IRB had to choose between having a sixth European team, or a third Australiasian team to accompany automatic picks New Zealand and Australia. In the men's game they would at least have a qualifying match between the two - probably home and away - but in the cash-strapped womens game the issue was decided in a committee room in Dublin. In the end they went for Samoa, which meant that Wales (then ranked sixth in Europe thanks to a "Welsh clubs only" selection policy) missed out. 

It should be emphasised, incidentally, that it is the IRB who have got themselves into this bind because it is they who insisted on a 12 team event - not RFUW or any of the other bidders. As I suggested back in June, the effect of this 12 team restriction was probably sufficient on its own to kill off the German and Kazakhstan bids.

Shutting the door on up-and-coming nations in this way is a very short-sighted policy which does nothing for the development of the world game, and come close to making the whole qualification process a wate of time. It creates such a closed shop that you can safely predict exactly who will be coming to west London in 2010:

England, Wales, France, Ireland, Scotland (or Italy)
(No room for Spain, Russia, Germany, Netherlands - all very capable sides - never mind the other up-and-coming nations)

North America: 
Canada, USA 
(waste of time for the new Caribbean nations to even enter)

South Africa 
(no room for Uganda or Kenya, where the fifteen-a-side game is growing)

(unless Japan sort themselves out very quickly [unlikely] no-one else in the region is remotely likely to beat the Kazakhs. China, Hong Kong and Singapore certanly need not worry too much about booking flights.)

New Zealand, Australia, Samoa 
(no hope for Fiji, Tonga, etc.) 

The only question mark might be Scotland, where women's national team - not exactly helped by some attitudes in the SRU - has been spiraling to the ground faster than even their men's side. By next year it is quite possible that even Italy will have overtaken them and at their current rate of progress I wouldn't fancy their chances against Andorra come 2010...

Overall this hardly encouages the game in - say - Russia (magnificent winners of Europe's "second division" in the summer). A 16 nation event would have given developing nations so much more to play for. Okay, they would not have been likely to make a dent on England or New Zealand, but frankly even third-ranked Canada are way behind these two beomoths who will inevitably meet in the final. World Cups are about more than finding out who the winners are - just the prospect of qualifying would have been a real boost to many nations. A 12-nation tournament kills all that. You do wonder if the IRB wants a truly worldwide game... 

Anyway, for those nations that do make it its an exciting prospect. IRB official Bernard Lapasset has said that in awarding it to England, "the tournament would be best positioned to elevate the women's game to new heights" and undoubtedly it will be well run (the RFU and Sports Council, who are pumping £150,000 into the event, will make sure of that). 

It'll be (well it should be) a terrific base on which to build out own game, of course. Its at least one tournament too early for most of you to dream about taking part, but it'll be amazing to watch. It'll be the biggest women's sports event of the year, and one of the biggest this century, so maybe it'll get some passing notice in the media. And it'll all take place in less than two years time - maybe we should start planning now...

Reaction from officialdom can be found in the RFUW's press release.

PS. Please, please, please IRB and RFUW - come up with a tournament format this time that makes sense!! Last time the tournament was almost impossible to follow for anyone without a masters degree in advanced multi-diamentional mathematics! It also didn't work - as the USA and Australia (who had to play each other twice in a week for reasons way too complex to explain) would agree. Hint: 12 teams = four groups of three, or three groups of four... its not difficult!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Playing on

Its very early in the season, but already minds are looking ahead to 2009-10 and especially the question of how to keep those "graduating" out of U18 rugby playing the game.

I know that those of you moving into higher education will be hoping to continue to play at university - indeed the quality of the university team often seems to be as important as the quality of the courses! - but you are likely to still need a "home club" to play and train with when you are not away.

But finding a club to play for is a pretty daunting prospect. There are at least six women's clubs within 20-30 minutes of Letchworth - Hitchin, Shelford, Hertford, Old Albanians, Tabard and Saracens - but which one should you go to? What are they like? Who do you contact? Will they want you to play for them?

Until recently none of these clubs have made any sustained attempt to attract U18 graduates. Some of the most gifted ex-regional players have been invited to some clubs, but by and large the impression is that most club players seem to pack their boots away at 18, never to get them out again because no-one seems to want them. 

The RFU's Play On initiative (despite the inept publicity) is designed to try to solve this problem and - perhaps co-incidentally - several of our local women's clubs are taking steps to break down the barriers between the adult and junior games. 

Saracens, for example, have invited all girls playing in our fixture on 5th October to stay on to watch the women's game afterwards and may repeat the successful "open evening" they ran in 2006, but Old Albanians Saints are being even more ambitious. 

You have all been officially invited to join OAs at any of three special training evenings which will be aimed at all U18 players throughout the county (along with their parents and coaches!). The aim is to give players the opportunity to see the club, train with the senior side, get to know everyone, and generally feel that there is an open door at all senior clubs. The evenings will be:
  • Weds 17th December, 7.15pm (OA's training pitch)
  • Weds 28th January, 7.15pm (OA's training pitch)
  • Weds 11th March, 7.15pm (OA's training pitch)
In addition OAs are hoping to visit junior clubs to meet players moving up next year.

Hopefully the other four clubs will follow these examples.

Video highlights: Take two

There are limits to the quality of the video that you can load onto the blog. As you will have seen from the previous post, with a reasonable length of video you either get good quality and a small picture, or a bigger picture and dodgy quality.

What we are trying to do here is see if a shorter video would allow us to have a better quality picture, so the video below just shows the best two tries. Do you think the picture quality is any better?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Try and Try again ....

As usual, the brief match summary I wrote about the U18s game on Sunday detailed all the Letchworth points scorers. It's very easy to look at games that way - to simply look to the scoresheet to summarise the contribution of each of the players - but a look at this short video of the nine Letchworth tries clearly shows that the person who crosses the line has often had an awful lot of help from her teammates along the way .........

So congratulations to Natalie, Jess, Nikki, Hayley & Sasha for scoring the tries and many, many thanks to Carla, Georgie, Eleanor, Rosie, Charlie, Laura & Emily for making it all possible!

50,000 and counting

At just after 20 to nine on Sunday evening the blog had its 50,000th visitor. No idea who they were as they came in via Google and were looking for women's rugby videos so hopefully they found something of interest. They were followed by someone from Hitchin a few minutes later who went on from our site to visit the Basford blog (quite a few people do that).

Compared with the big American sites like Your Scrumhalf Connection I guess 50k is quite small, but for a UK club blog well over 1,000 hits a month isn't bad - and there cannot be many junior rugby teams that have the Twickenham amongst their regular followers ( logs in about once a week)!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Seven "Legends" selected for Sussex tournament

Seven of our girls have been selected for the U18 squad at the first county tournament in Sussex on Sunday - including two U18 debutants - Ellie and Nikki (though Nikki did play for the U14s - and indeed the regional U14s - some years ago). One slight surprise is the inclusion of Natalie who didn't actually trial - clearly her performance yesterday is already the stuff of legend.

Those selected (with shirt number) are:

Laura Watson (4); Emily Vivian (6);  Nicola Alcock (13); Natalie Threlfall (14); Eleanor Morris (16); Charlie Hughes (17); and Jess Robinson (18). 

If you have been selected but are unavailable please contact the county U18 manager (click here to email) as soon as possible (like NOW!).

(Incidentally, on the subject of yesterday Phil has now added his pictures to the Archive which can be viewed as a slideshow or as a list.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wonky's Reign of Terror begins ....

All of Wonky's dire tricks over the last few weeks of 'fitness' training (otherwise known as the 'Reign of Terror') were put to the test today in the first U18s match of the season at Ampthill and the scoreline suggests that it was all worthwhile -

Ampthill 5 Letchworth 49

Confidentially, a number of players suggested that nothing could justify the agonies they had been put through (but the result was welcome, nevertheless!)

Not only does the team have a new head coach but also a new captain (Nikki) and new scrum-half (Jess) and so it was particularly pleasing to see the whole team working so well together throughout the match. Of particular note is that Natalie continued her fine run of form by completing a hat-trick of tries.

As usual we have a few pictures of the action - look carefully for the one player who can be seen playing for both sides .....

Letchworth scorers:

Tries : Natalie (3), Jess (2), Nikki (2), Sasha, Hayley
Conversions : Nikki (2)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrangements for Sunday

This Sunday (21st September) sees the first match of the 2008/9 season which is at Ampthill. With a kick-off scheduled for 1pm we are meeting at the Letchworth club at 11.40am for departure to Ampthill at 11.45am. Anyone travelling directly to Ampthill should meet up with the team at 12.15pm and please make sure Wonky, John or Mike know you are going straight there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A new toy

Apparently online communities are a big thing at the minute - Facebook, Bebo etc. Personally I don't get the them, but I suspect that most of you use them a lot so the latest toy to be added to the blog locker looks like a winner.

Its called "Followers", and a (currently empty) link to it ("Blog Followers"*) can be seen in the right hand column. Once a few people join it I gather that it starts looking like this:
"Following" shows your interest in a blog (you can join anonymously if need be), and adds it to you newsreader in the usual way (if you have one - see the previous article). However it also apparently allows you to find out what blogs other followers are following, and will soon have other online community-type features. And its also controllable from this end by the looks of it (ie. me and Mike can decide who can and who cannot follow).

More info about it here 

*Dull name I know. I did wonder about what to call it but felt that "Followers of Letchworth Girls" sounded a bit creepy. Any better ideas?

Club links

You may have noticed that the links to stories on the main club website (left hand column) seem to have gone a bit wrong of late. Checking into this I discover that they have redesigned the site (very pretty) but as a result have new page addresses for almost everything.

So I've now reset all the links. This does mean that for now all you see is a message saying that the site is being monitored, but (hopefully) once new articles are published the system should start picking them up again. Fingers crossed. It would be so much easier if there was a proper RSS feed* or two, but as a rule rugby rarely seems to be in the forefront when it comes to technological advance (as amply demonstrated by the RFU website).

*What is RSS? Apart from the awful accent this video is a pretty painless introduction to which I would only add that the RSS feeds also work great in iGoogle, which is what I use.

The most important person in your life that you (probably) never met

None of us would be involved with this game without her. This blog would not exist because this team would not exist. You would all be playing - I dunno - netball or hockey or (heaven help us!) soccer every weekend. Or most probably nothing. 

And its not just Letchworth. It is very probable that more girls play rugby in Hertfordshire than any other county in the country - and that is almost entirely down to her.

But chances are that most girls will never have met her, or may have forgotten as she was maybe just another adult RFUW face in a tracksuit. Name might maybe ring a bell - but you will be unclear as to what she did.

The reason I mention all this - and on the very day that at least one girl makes the England U20 trials who would never have touched a ball without her - is to reveal that Amanda Bate, our RFUW regional development officer and fomerly Herts Sports Partnership's rugby officer, is moving on and will be leaving the RFUW next month.

It is hard to know where to begin to describe Amanda's genius and commitment over the past four or five years that I have known her. Always encouraging, helpful, and straight-talking Amanda's drive to support a game she had no family or (for most of the time) club links has been out of this world. It has been never ceasing, never tiring. She knows everyone, can talk to anyone, persuade anyone. If every county had an Amanda then girls rugby would be England's number one sport. If the British Olympic team had Amanda running it we'd have topped the medals table. 

She is without doubt the most effective and above all reliable sports administrator I have ever known (and actually I have known a few). We may have disagreed over this and that from time to time (most especially over this blog), but it is to her undying credit that she never holds a grudge (again unlike most administators!) and the next time we meet its down to business again.

That she only stayed at RFUW for just over a year must say something - I'm not sure what. What I do know is that RFUW are losing the best development manager they have ever had, or will ever have.

The good news, however, is that Amanda will not be dropping out of the game but will continue to act as a volunteer supporting girls rugby in Hertfordshire. The even better news is that she and fellow former WRDM Sam Marshall will be joing forces in a new business called Sport Support. Amanda may be a brilliant adminsitrator, but she is also a world authority on sports grants. What she doesn't know isn't worth knowing, and this new organisation will help clubs find funding for projects, large or small, helping to write applications, set up monitoring and evaluation, etc- all of which takes time and is why so many clubs (like Letchworth) don’t get around to doing it and why so much money goes unspent. It's sure-fire success.

So as she moves out of Twickenham and away from an official role in game, a big thank-you, Amanda, from everyone involved at Letchworth Girls - past, present and future. You have changed the lives of more people that you will ever know. Don't go too far away!

Red roses one step nearer

The TDG may not have wanted them, but maybe England U20s will!

News has come through that Hayley and Sasha - who failed to make the final TDG trial this summer - have been selected for the final England U20 trial, which will take place on 28th September (same day as the county tournament in Sussex).

This is an incredible achievement even if the girls don't get any further. Both of them were amongst the youngest of the trial group, and were up against women who have played adult rugby for up to two years so to make it through to the final fifty at their first attempt is pretty impressive. 

I am hugely proud of both of them, though maybe a bit more for the one who learnt all her rugby at this club (and for the first year with me as the coach as well!). Letchworth haven't produced that many England internationals over the years (at any level) so maybe the club should start finding a bit of wall space for some new framed shirts!

PS - You know I suggested that a certain "former player" might be on the phone to us if her new team didn't have a game one weekend? Guess what! 

It'll be good to see her (and Hayley, who is back from Liverpool. Apparently she heard the above news on the coach and disturbed the slumbers of her fellow passengers a bit) but it is confirmed that her games with us will be few as Suffolk Sabres sound like going ahead - they have entered the Not The RFUW National 10s, for example.

In fact the latter is now really the Anglo-Welsh 10s as two or three more Welsh sides are now in the tournament. So you'll all be playing for your country next spring!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rugby and women's sport gets their own MPs

Government is important to our game - not only because it is (one way or another) the source of a sizable amount of the funding that girls and women's rugby receives - but also because it can make things happen by applying pressure in the right areas. There's nothing that concentrates the mind of sports adminsitrators more than Members of Parliament taking an interest in what they are doing. 

And now - as well as our own Oliver Heald (who has dropped in to see us on a couple of occasions) - there are two other MPs who will be paying particular interest in girls' rugby over the next year. 

Mark Lancaster, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North East will be the "MP for rugby union" this season, "examining the work of the RFU and RFUW in depth this season". He has attended the Nations Cup last month and had a meeting with Rosie Williams, and is planning to attend some future RFUW events as well as his local community coaching team. He'll also probably drop in on the odd RFU event as well.

Mark, who was elected in 2005, seems more a cricket and soccer man, but has begun to take an interest in rugby over the past year - asking a minister how many people play the game, for example - and he does occasionally drop in on his local rugby events, such as the (men's) Olney 7s. How much he knows about girls and women's rugby at grassroots level is debatable, so if you want to drop him a line to educate him about the problems and challenges of your game as you see them why not write to him here.

Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley (which somewhere near Manchester, apparently), will also be interested to hear from anyone as she will be shadowing the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, who have been mentioned on this blog before (lots of excellent, well researched, reports that no-one ever seems to read). 

Barbara was also elected in 2005 and has been pretty active in Parliament championing both girls and youth sport - demanding to know, for example, what the government is doing to increase the number of girls playing sport, how many girls take part in sport, and the importance of competitive sport in schools. She does seem very well informed about girls and women's sport in general - but maybe less about challenges specific to rugby union (she's a bit of a rugby league fan). If you want to educate her about the game you can drop her a line here.

All this is part of a scheme run by Sport England which links 16 MPs with sports or sporting bodies that they have chosen themselves - so they should be genuinely interested in any information they receive.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Future looks good for girls rugby in Herts

Around 90 girls aged from 11-18 turned up at Welwyn today for the county trials - the largest turnout since 2005 (when we had around the same numbers, but from just two age groups) - a reassuring recovery from last year when, at U18 level at least, numbers fell to worrying levels. We can be pretty confident that girls' rugby will continue to florish in the county. 

At club level things remain less stable. Players numbers at individual clubs rise and fall - teams strong one year can all but vanish twelve months later and it is challenge to understand why. Maybe once a team is established it becomes hard for new players to break in? Maybe teams based on men's clubs spreads girls around too thinly - but what alternative is there? Getting clubs to work together is amazingly hard as rivalries, particularly between neighbouring clubs, can be very strong and the lack of trust difficult to overcome. Whatever the problem is, the overall strength of girls rugby at county level shows that if we could only find a way to create stable clubs then the game would explode!

Further good news is that Herts 7s has a venue, not just for this season but next season too. The fifth Herts girls sevens, and the sixth Herts girls rugby festival, will be at Old Albanians this season, and next one will be in Bishops Stortford. The reason why this season will see the fifth and sixth festivals is that the first ever festival, which took place Hemel in June 2004, was a tag rugby tournament. Only in the following year did it become contact sevens.

Letchworth will have had teams at all six festivals - a record we share with... actually I'm not sure as most of the clubs that were at Hemel (such as Hemel, Cheshunt, Stevenage and Hitchin) did not keep going (though Stevenage have since reformed - for the third time!). Katie, Carla and Hayley are therefore possibly unique in having played at every one of the five festivals played to date.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

County trials: timings etc.

You should all know by now, but just in case...
  • Meeting at the club at 12.40, aiming for a 12.50 departure. 
  • Registration at Welwyn is 1.30 for a 2.00 start. Don't arrive before 1.00!
  • Finish around about 4.00.
U18s will be on the main pitch (opposite the club house), U15s on the pitch alongside, and U12s on the pitch round the corner.

Needless to say it will be a good idea to arrive ready to play!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Equality 1.01: why women have as many rights in rugby as men

Last Sunday the blog reported the expulsion of Canterbury's women's team from its home ground.

The result of this was a reply which, I think, expresses beautifully the views of many in rugby and explains why they behave as they do. If you ever have to defend your game chances are that a version of this will come up (or will be in the back of the mind of those opposing you). At first glance the argument seems almost reasonable - but... well, read on...
Its an interesting point - however I'd like to look at the word equality as in my view in cuts both ways.

Are there any womens teams that have contributed equally to the purchase of any of their clubs playing facilities, the club house, indeed any of the basic infrastructure? (and grants at competitive rates because they are made in the name of the women's section don't count).

I appreciate that NOW most do - but we are talking at most the last twenty years.

Even then, very few women's sections make a significant dent in the running costs of the club, most aim for not costing the club anything and many to their credit participate in fund raising etc - but whether we like it or not, none of us could stand up on our own.

If you want to understand the attitude of many administrators, these basic facts can help steer you.

It might not be politically or morally correct - but if you want to apply equality in its purest form, we are no where near equal and I doubt we will be.
In summary the main argument (let's call it the Argument Based on History - ABH) is that, over many years, rugby clubs have been built and created and run and paid for over the years by men - its therefore not unreasonable then men's teams get priority over women's teams who have only been around for a few years. In addition women members are a small percentage of a total club membership (the Argument Based on Numbers - ABN), so contribute proportionately less, and so again it is not unreasonable for men's teams get priority.

There are two main replies to this. The first might be described as the Standard Feminist Response to almost any argument based on history. And it goes something like this:
Without women - without wives and mothers and girlfriends - working away in the background - either at the club (in the kitchens, or washing the kit, or fundraising, or whatever) or in the home (looking after the children, cooking, cleaning, etc.) - the men would not have been able to play rugby, or create the rugby clubs, in the first place. The fact that this contribution has been largely invisible or unrewarded (in any financial sense) does not mean that it was not essential.
As arguments go the SFR a bit political and has a tendency to raise eyebrows, but its has a lot of truth in it and should not be forgotten.

However, a rather more penetrating reply goes something like this. The ABH is understandable if we think of generations of son and fathers and grandfathers building a club only to have women come in right at the end and demand equal access. 

But hang on a minute - what about a man who moves to new town and joins the club. Would it be reasonable to stop him from using all the club facilities, and playing on the 1st XV pitch - after all prior to his joining the club he and his family would never have made any contribution to it?

Okay, the reply might be, but it balances out. Chances are that he or his family will have contributed to other clubs over the years.

Fine - but what about people who have never done that - people who have moved from other countries - maybe countries with no rugby tradition at all. Would it be reasonable to discriminate against members of a family new to this country is they wanted to join a club? 

Obviously not - it would be immoral even be illegal to do so as it would clearly be racist. 

In which case, why is it not equally wrong and sexist to discriminate against women on this basis?

If that is not enough, then a further knock-down is to point out that many of the girls and women wanting to play will be the sisters and daughters and grandaughters of rugby players who have built clubs. Men have daughters as well as sons!

As for the ABN - the fact that a club has fewer women members is irrelevent. A club will have a small number of ginger haired players and blue-eyed players and members of ethnic minorities, but they have full access - so should women.

In short both the ABH and ABN, applied to any other group, would be seen as out-and-out racism (and probably illegal in every country on the planet). That anyone could see these sorts of arguments as reasonable because the victims are women shows not only how far rugby, but also the world in general, has to go.

But the fact is that this is almost certainly the thinking in the back of the mind of every rugby administrator who questions the right of his club's, or county's, or country's female players to have equal access to the same facilities and resources as the men. To return to Canterbury, where this began. The members of that club's women's 1st XV are playing at the highest level that they can - they are the best players their club possesses - and they deserve the right to access the same level of facility as their male counterparts and fellow club members. No more and no less.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Worcester to defend Tens title

Looks like the final piece is in place for the (Not the RFUW) National 10s with the news that the reigning U18 champions will be defending their title. Its great to see them taking part - no national tournament could be complete without them, and also we still need to beat them!

They will be joined by a second Welsh side - Cardiff Quins (who are, incidentally desparate for fixtures - - which raises interesting tour possibilities), so we are pretty near the limit now... assuming everyone pays up!

And my apologies to Drybrook, U15 National Champions (and finalists the previous year). In my defence I have to say that the publication of the results from girls (or, come to that, women's) competitions has always been a bit hit-and-miss. Even when reports are published one of the features/delights of the RFU/RFUW's website is the way that stories from years ago seem to keep appearing at the top of the headline list while more recent stories vanish after a day or so never to appear again. Last time I checked there was a report from the National Sevens on the top page... National Sevens 2006 that is! You'd be hard pressed to find a list of English women's and girls' tournament winners anywhere (although the one on the Worcester blog is fairly comprehensive!).

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A rose by any other name...

Yet more on the Tens...

My apologies that a tournament that is six months off is tending to dominate the headlines a bit, but there are so many interesting developments on an almost daily basis that it is pretty hard to resist.

So, to begin with, there are yet more entries - the 13th registration for the U18s has come in (Drybrook... no, I've never heard of them either!) while there are 10 entries now for the U15s... and another four clubs who have expressed a strong interest. 

This has all attracted the attention of RFUW who have now written to to demand that it not be called the National 10s because "this is misleading to the competitors and will only cause confusion". RFUW have said often enough that they will not be running such an event themselves (because of "lack of interest") so its a bit difficult to work out what this confusion could be. Anyone entering the event can hardly be unaware of its non-RFUW status - but to placate Twickenham it looks like being called the "All Nation 10s" or maybe "Not the RFUW National 10s" (which is what we've all be calling it, unofficially, anyway!). 

As if such semantics mattered  - "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Fact is that - however you look at it this promises to be the be a hugely successful event - and quite possibly the biggest girls' club tournament ever

Incidentally, so far Letchworth have entered every tens tournament that has been announced - except for one (the Caldy 10s), and that only because it is on the same weekend as Worthing 10s. You should all be experts in this form of the game by next April... if you aren't already!

County day on Sunday

To confirm that this Sunday is a County Day for all age groups (including U12s) at Welwyn. Registration is from 1.30 for a 2.00 start - but please don't arrive before 1.00!

For the U15s and U18s this is officially a "trial". However, unlike previous seasons (certainly previous U18s seasons) this will not result in the creation of a "county squad" that will then represent the county at all fixtures and festivals. This season the aim is to be much more inclusive. A 1st XV will be picked for the first festival, in Sussex on 28th September, but this will not necessarily be the same XV that will be picked for subsequent festivals - indeed coaches will be trying to give as many players as possible the chance to play for the county.

In addition - if there are enough players attending the trial - there will also be 2nd XVs, so everyone who puts themselves forward (and shows the commitment to attend later training sessions) should get some tournament experience in the green of Hertfordshire.

There will also be a U12 session on Sunday, and a similar programme of training and fixtures for the youngest age group is also planned.

The only requirement is you MUST bring a registration form signed by a parent!!! If you have not had a form yet please ask for one on Thursday.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The late, late news...

Good news from the Guilder household.  After the best part of a month struggling they have finally managed to get online again.

Even better news. One of the first things they have discovered was a three-week old email saying that Hayley has been selected for the regional TDGs.

As club management is not told anything about the success of their players at trials, and as no-one bothered to ring her up to find out why she missed the first session on 2nd September, and as written comfirmations were not sent out, this all came as an understandable shock. 

It was even more of a surprise as I am not sure that anyone has ever heard of "regional TDGs" before - indeed at first glance we all thought it was the national squad and it was only careful reading that indicated it was something else. And its not East Region either but "London North", which is one of the eight RFU regions rather than the 11 RFUW regions.

Hayley - and Sasha - also both went to the England U20 trials last Saturday (hence H's absence from training on Sunday). Sounds like it was tough and news on selections from that will come out in the next week or so. We can only hope that GuilderNet manages to stay on-line with a bit more reliability in future!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Rugby still has a long way to go

This story comes from New Zealand but it could have happened anywhere - and probably does. Its almost routine - except in this case (also available in video) the victims did not just roll over and accept it. They complained, and moreover complained to the local paper, who in turn passed it on so that it made the national news, so that the club were forced to defend themselves - and thus illustrate perfectly the problems women's rugby faces.

Canterbury are one of the leading sides in New Zealand women's rugby, and a part of the larger Canterbury club that you will see on TV from time to time. Their home ground is the same Rugby Park... or was until they were suddenly turfed out to play all their games on a nearby public park. Apparently the ground was being overused and needed to be rested.

Except that on the very day the women were given their marching orders the club's colts team were given permission to play on the hallowed turf - moreover a friendly fixture, which is, of course, far more important than the women's national league games.

What is interesting is the explanation given by the club's spokesman - Hamish Riach - because he can clearly see nothing wrong in throwing out the women's team while allowing the men's 1st XV... and 2nd XV... and colts... and who know's?... to play on. "Other teams have had to move as well", he says, without actually saying which ones (the Under 12s maybe? Not many others left really!).

Hamish just doesn't get it - and here he is like, I would suggest, 90% of the game's administrators. Clearly, to Hamish his club's adult women's team is of less importance than the men's teenage colts - and he does not see anything wrong in this. The only reason presumably is that the women may be top of the national league, but they do not contribute to development of the men's team - and men's rugby is all that matters. Its very like the Scottish RFU's reason for withdrawing their women's sevens entry for the world cup (because the women's team do not contribute to the their "primary asset" - the men's team). You wonder if there is any aspect of the word "equality" that they understand.

Which is not to say that rugby is uniquely guilty - when professional soccer clubs make savings its invariably the women who are first to be shown the door, for example - but such behaviour tends to be exceptional in most other mainstream sports, whereas in rugby it seems to be the norm. Things like the RFU's Play On campaign material would be seen as massive gaffs anywhere else, but in rugby no-one even seems to understand that it is a problem (they certainly don't see it as important enough to reply to correspondence on the subject).

There is an answer, of course, and that is to do as the Canterbury Women have done. Complain. Make a fuss. Use the media. Embarrass those in charge. Force them to account for their behaviour. Its clear whose side the TV station are on - and if called to account often enough eventually the Hamishes of the game may begin to realise that the world has moved on, and that a club's women's 1st XV is just slightly more important than the boys' colts.

(Thanks to Your Scrumhalf Connection for highlighting this news item)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Half of National 10s places taken already! (UPDATE)

More news from the not the RFUW National 10s... over a third (in fact nearly half) over a half of the 16 places in each tournament have gone already (that's four more, in one event or the other, since this afternoon!). The U18 event also now has an "international" character with the inclusion of the Welsh Dragons.

Registrations so far are...

  • Burfield
  • Ellingham & Wimborne
  • Gloucester
  • Letchworth
  • Newquay Hornets
  • Oakmedians
  • Reading
  • Welwyn
  • Worthing
  • Worcester
  • Burfield
  • Ellingham & Wimborne
  • Evesham
  • Exeter Saracens
  • Gloucester
  • Letchworth
  • Newquay Hornets
  • Oakmedians
  • Welsh Dragons
  • Worthing

It promises to be the highlight of the season. It also might well be the largest weekend of girls' club rugby to take place anywhere. Ever. Unless anyone knows better?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Regional fixtures announced

Details of the fixtures for regional youth teams have been released. 

Interestingly the proposal to link the U18 regional programme to the adult programme (where they have a three match national "league" followed by a final, but no festival) seems to have been dropped. This was proposed because there were concerns that the U18 festival consists of a series of short games when the main point of regional rugby was to give girls more "proper" rugby.

However there were objections to the proposal from players who enjoy the festival and also from parents and coaches who would have had to run a programme with different age group teams playing in different places. RFUW do listen sometimes, it seems.

Anyway - East's fixtures have been added to our fixture list (basically any of you make it through are off to Yorkshire again), while the full national list appears on the Herts blog.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Another new "ladies" rugby site launches

Hot on the heels of Ladies Rugby (mentioned below) my attention has been drawn to another new site launched to fill the gaping chasm that is media coverage of women's rugby.

UK Ladies Rugby confusingly also has the title "Ladies Rugby" as its masthead, but was obviously beaten to the URL by the earlier site. Leaving aside the touching inability to spell the word "England" at the top of the screen (like I should talk about spelling...) it is, I think, a rather better designed offering and includes several resources that are (so far as I am aware) unavailable elsewhere - including a geographic database of English women's clubs, organised by name and by county.

It is just adult clubs (and moreover English ones, despite the site's name), but other than that its very impressive with details of addresses and leagues. I can't spot any obvious clubs missing from the list (Saracens is put in the London list, before anyone says anything). Maybe the editors could now add in the girls teams too?

A little lacking in news content - so stick to Women's Rugby Review for now (and a certain other blog perhaps...). I'll add them to our press release list, though. And the site has a sponsor or two, which is impressive.

All in all its good stuff. One might ask why independent sites such as these should need to appear in order to give access to basic background information and news that you'd think should be easily available "elsewhere", but then "elsewhere" is due for a relaunch (soon we are told... admittedly some time ago) so maybe things will improve. One passing matter of note, though - why "Ladies" again? I really really thought this was terribly un-PC, especially in sport. Maybe I am mistaken...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What makes a good captain?

A question that many have asked, and which Total Flanker today answered in his inimitable style.

You might care to look through this article and think how accurately it describes Letchworth Girls' captains, past or present. However, I was particularly struck by the last line:

"For all of the above reasons scrum halves often make very good captains."

Many a true word... (etc.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Rising up the charts

A new record high for the blog - we're now at 22 in the UK chart, a rise of two places on last month (a small rise numerically, but only one blog above us did any better - the higher you are the slower you rise). The rise was mainly at the expense of blogs on motor sport and football and puts us within only two places of the BBC's Sports Editor's blog.

Outside the top 100 I see that Swaffham Girls' seem to be on Wikio for the first time - which is good. Unfortunately they are currently classified as "other" rather than "sport" (as are Basford, curiously) so quite where either rank in comparision is difficult to say at the minute. However, you can get an idea by looking at all blogs on any subject (where sport comes well behind politics and technology - the highest placed rugby blog, 11th in sport, comes 481st overall). We come in at 888th, Basford 4,610th and Swaffham 4,813th. For their first month in the chart for the Norfolk girls that's a pretty impressive start (there are well over 13,000 blogs listed).

No sign of Worcester in the chart yet. Maybe next month?

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