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, December 29, 2009

Will the Olympic decision changing balance of rugby?

Interesting news that Wales seem to be changing the balance of their season in response to the inclusion of Sevens in the Olympics. Until recently sevens was not a major event over the border - as in England the format did not feature in the nationally organised programme, apart from a "fun" one-off National Sevens at the start of their season (just like we have at the end of ours). However their rugby development officer has organised four new tournaments - two for girls teams and two for adult teams - for this season, in addition to the existing pre-season event.

Elsewhere in some smaller countries there is a debate about whether to concentrate on just sevens (but only Brazil so far seem to have jumped one way or the other), while Scotland - who did not bother entering the last World Cup - surprisingly did send a team to the recent Dubai Sevens, so there are signs that priorities may be changing.

At the moment though, with the Olympics still seven years away, the effect of the decision has been limited. Certainly the RFUW's plans published a few weeks ago included no extra support for sevens beyond the Nationals (which, if the plans remain unchanged, would take place three weeks earlier next season) and it is interesting that - perhaps as a result of RFUW's slow response - a number of unofficial commercial sevens seem to be springing up. Bournemouth Sevens is now a major event (and probably a significant reason for RFUW's decision to move the Nationals) and it will be joined this summer by a four weekend series - the National Sevens Series - the first of which will include (RugbyRocks in London on June 12th) will include a women's event, organised with the support of ScrumQueens (no news yet on the other three).

The series has the blessing of the RFU who will presumably be watching the development closely. With several extra club weekends available from the next women's/girls' season there will be plenty of opportunities to follow the Welsh lead if these tournaments prove to be a success.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Only in America!

Not strictly speaking a rugby story this one, but still something will be of interest and deserves wider circulation especially if you ever wondered why women's and girls' rugby struggles so much to get any proper newspaper or TV coverage.

At the recent BBC Sports Personality awards some viewers may have been disappointed (but probably not surprised) when an unbeaten twice-world champion women's sports team lost out on a major award to a men's team from the same sport who had recently managed to lose not just one game but an entire series, and moreover by a record score. Annoying though that was we are used to stupid behaviour like this from our sports journalists, to the extent that having a women's team nominated at all was a bit of a breakthrough.

However compared to America's sporting media it would appear that the BBC are a model of right-on feminist thinking, because in the US second place in their leading Sportswoman of the Year poll has just gone... to a horse.

Yes - its incredible but true that the combined knowledge of the USA's sporting journalists, when asked to come up with a list of that nation's top female sporting personalities for 2009 only managed to come up with one human (Serena Williams) before blank looks and mutual incomprehension forced to branch out into the animal kingdom and give the runners-up spot to a horse called Zenyatta (and if you want to read more or simply do not believe this two versions of the story are available, one from CBC and another from Women's Rights).

As they say (without a hint of irony) "Only In America" could the sporting exploits of half the population come second to a five year old animal that would not even know which way to run without a jockey on its back - though even then it demonstrably has more brain power than most US sporting journalists.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Emily Scarratt profile

There was an excellent article about Emily Scarratt in the Telegraph a couple of days ago. Unfortunately, as it was Christmas, newspaper sales are not that great so many people may have missed it. If you did then go here.

Newspaper coverage of women's rugby has been, well, variable over the years - sometimes good, sometimes terrible, most of the time invisible. In fact over the years its interesting to note that coverage has tended to get worse - as this growing collection of articles shows. When the game first started in the early 80s most international games at least seemed to get proper match reports, but as it expanded this started to change... perhaps some parts of the men's game felt threatened?

So its to good to see a major newspaper's Chief Sports Writer taking a positive interest in the game. Its interesting - even instructive - to note that rugby isn't his major sport (he started off with Formula One and only seems to have started writing on rugby relatively recently) because - frankly - the biggest problem the game seems to have is the prejudice of the media's rugby "experts" (not all of them, I hasten to add, just most). The comments he makes about the inclusion on someone like Emily among the on-screen "experts" in rugby commentary teams are very true, even if maybe tongue in cheek. It would be rather fun to hear the sharp intakes of breath if it ever happened!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hunting the archives

"Certain gentlemen... were allowed tickets [for internationals at Twickenham] for wives and daughters, etc. ... to view the proceedings, 90 per cent of which 90 per cent of them did not understand or possibly appreciate"
This is how some rugby followers (especially a Mr Towell) looked on women just over 50 years ago (1953 in fact), and an example of some fascinating information about the history of women's rugby that can be found through a service provided by Herts Libraries. If you have a library card you can use several references sources online - free - that are normally unavailable (well, without a significant cost). This includes the text of every copy of the Times ever published - and bunging in the words "women's rugby" does come up with some interesting results.

One thing this shows is how incredibly young the game really is. Apart from one, random, and largely unexplained photo from 1922 (right) - all it says is that this was "a photograph taken at Sydney, Australia, which shows an incident in a rugby match played on the Show Grounds between two teams of women" - women's rugby union* is not mentioned again until as recently as 1982, apart from a jokey comment about "women's liberation" in the Times Diary in 1970 when a women's charity game at Maesteg was organised.

The 1982 mention is an example of several items that give intriguing but incomplete information. On February 12th the paper mentioned that in nine days time (on Sunday 21st February) "in France, the University College Ladies rugby team from London is to play what is believed to be the first women's international fixture at the game. They will be playing the ladies of Pontoise". While not an "international", in the sense of being a game between two representative XVs, this quite probably would have been the first time any UK women's team had played anywhere overseas. Did the game take place? What was the result? Who knows - there is no follow-up in any later edition. The following August the inclusion of women's rugby in the first "Gay Games" in San Francisco is briefly mentioned.

Serious coverage does not begin until Christmas Eve the following year when the Women's Rugby Football Union was formed. Tricia Moore from the WRFU was concerned that the Welsh RFU might object to the clash of acronyms (they didn't) and went on to say that "our games tend to be more tactical than men's games, with a good deal less gratuitous violence. But it is still a very aggressive game; we play to exactly the same rules as the men. It is played in a good spirit though, about as ladylike as it could be in the circumstances. We have been told that we are about the same standard as a good 14-year-old schoolboy team".

In March 1985 a 14-team club tournament, won by Welsh team Magor, received some coverage. The presence of a team from North Carolina was mentioned but who the other 12 teams were, or where the tournament took place, again is not considered important. However WRFU now had 29 members and Tricia was complains that expansion of the game was being frustrated. Despite the fact that most players "would like their club to put out a women's team ... committee men tend to be unsure". However, Magor's success did result in their being featured in a half-hour documentary on BBC2 a month later.

Then in April Tricia - clearly thriving in her role as WRFU press officer - achieved a major breakthrough with a big full-page article. The first Great Britain international was still a year away and the number of clubs capable of fielding a full team in the UK was only 24, but its worth a read, both to see how far the game has come in the past 25 years... but also maybe how little some attitudes have changed. This was followed with another article with as many questions as answers:
"The American Barbarians, the women's rugby team, completed a clean sweep of wins on their first tour abroad last night, beating the South of England 20-0 at Sudbury. Candi Orsini at centre had a hand in three of America's first-half tries, scored by Ruth Bernack, Kerri Heffernan, Micky McVann and Karen Keith."
Who were the American Barbarians? Who else did they play? Again we'll probably never know...

After this coverage switches to a separate database called Infotrac that includes lots of newspapers - not just the Times. Take a look at this and you can trace the entire international history of England (well, those bits that the media could be bothered to cover). Did you know, for example, that as late as 1986 (according to Tricia) no woman had ever scored a drop goal? Makes you wonder who it was who first managed the trick...

After a while it can get a bit depressing, though. Roughly once a year an almost identical feature article appears in one paper or another along the lines of "Shock! Women/girls really can play rugby!". Comments in the press after the recent England/New Zealand game are almost identical to those that appeared after the first Great Britain international against France in 1986.

But if you are unhappy with what appears (or does not appear) in the press it always pays to write in and complain. Mary Wane did back in 1953. She was not happy with Mr Towell's comments:
"I feel wary of encroaching on what he obviously regards as a strictly male preserve ... but I rarely miss my Saturday afternoon's rugby ... and I certainly understand nearer 90 per cent than 10 per cent of the game"
Good on you, Mary. I wonder what became of her...

*A women's rugby league game gets at Batley in 1981 also gets a brief mention

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Girls Rugby at Letchworth this Sunday!

In the light of the poor weather conditions tonight and the BBC's forecast that the next time Letchworth will see temperatures above zero is likely to be Monday afternoon (and it will be minus 4 degrees overnight on Saturday(!)), the matches planned for Sunday 20th December have been cancelled.

Our next rugby training will, therefore, be in the New Year on Sunday, January 3rd at Saracens RFC. Provisionally, please meet at the Letchworth club by 11.45am to travel to Sarries by 12.30pm (to be confirmed).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taming the Leopards

Following a frustrating defeat in the away fixture against Middlesax Leopards earlier in the season, Letchworth Saracens U18s were on top form for the return match last Sunday. Similarly, the U15s, who had enjoyed a good away win against Leopards, were again in good try scoring form.

The U15s match was an open flowing game in which Letchworth Saracens took the lead and maintained the advantage throughout despite spirited attacks from Leopards which yeilded them 3 tries. The final score was 32-15 to Letchworth Saracens.

The early stages of the U18s match were closely contested with Letchworth Saracens trying to press home their attack while being only too well aware of the attacking potential of the visitors wings. The deadlock was broken when Claire attacked round the side of a scrum 10 metres out to score under the posts. However, the lead was short-lived as Leopards stormed back to score a fine break-away try to level the scores. Letchworth Saracens, though, were in no mood to be thwarted and they staged a succession of attacks which came very close to scoring before Nikki forced her way over to give the home side a 10-5 lead at the break.

The second half was a story of more of the same - Letchworth were playing well throughout the team with every ball being hotly contested and they were rewarded with 3 more tries to end the game victorious by 27-5.

Great team performances by both squads. Well done, girls!


Letchworth Saracens U15s 32 v. 15 Middlesex Leopards U15s

Letchworth Saracens U18s 27 v. 5 Middlesex Leopards U18s


Tries : Melissa, Emily, Lily, Sydney (2)
Conversion : Sydney

Tries : Claire, Nikki, Jess R (2), Chloe
Conversion : Claire

Many thanks to Phil Threlfall for his excellent pics which are presented with some of my own above.

When women's rugby was a top rated TV series (and a bestseller)!

Surprising what you come across, completely by chance, but did you know that there has been a TV series based around the activities of a (fictional) women's rugby team, that it was a ratings hit - and ran for six series as well as spawning a stage play?

Amazing but true - but chance are that you will not have caught up the activities of the Llan women's rugby team as the series has only been shown in Wales... and in Welsh!

Amdani (which roughly translates as "go for it") started out as a novel by Bethan Gwanas in 1997, and within a couple of years moved to TV where the series ran until only a couple of years ago, often appearing in Welsh TV's top 10 programmes.

Quite how much of the series featured rugby, how realistic it was, and how much strayed into other areas of drama, is difficult to say as nothing from the series seem to have found their way onto YouTube. However the newspaper reviews all seemed pretty positive.

And I wonder what effect the series had on the game in Wales? Were any players encouraged to take up the game as a result of seeing the series? Or did it scare people away? Does anyone know?
  • I've just discovered a review with an extract from the book. What do you think?

    "Menna's eyes were like on fire like coal. It was their put in, and they heeled neatly as ever, but when the scrum-half went for the ball, Menna moved like a cat with a rocket under its tail and floored her with a shout before she could get her pass away."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sunday 13th December

This Sunday both U15 and U18 teams have Thames Valley league matches at Saracens RFC which are due to kick off at 2pm. All players are asked to be at Saracens by 12.30pm and, as the changing rooms will not be available until later, to arrive ready to play.

Please meet at Letchworth club at 11.45am to travel down to the games. If you are travelling directly to Saracens, can you please let Potsy or Mike know.

Saracens club can be found at -

Bramley Sports Ground, Green Road, Southgate, London N14

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Congrats to the county girls

Well done everyone who played at county last weekend - the results are now up on the county blog and they show that the U18s won the Notts, Lincs & Derby county title (for the first time?) without conceding a point (and with both Jess and Chloe scoring tries on the way).

The U15s reached the final as well in similar style (Sydney crossing the line a couple of times en route), but this year could not quite get the better of the hosts.
  • If anyone has any photos - and ideally could write a report about the day - please could they let me have some copies for the Herts RFU website. Let's know the whole county how well you did!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

National Cup and leagues: big changes coming (and sooner than you think)

Further details have been released about the future of junior club competitions under the Player Pathway proposals. The document contained no mention about the National Cup, or RFUW's views on junior leagues, but correspondence between several club managers and Twickenham reveal much more information about what is planned - plus the shock news that the changes will start this season!

The National Cup has seemed an untouchable part of the calendar for some time, despite being of little or no interest to most clubs, not least because it has so often featured teams apparently created for the sole purpose of entering the competition (shall we say). It has remained a fixture in the calendar, even when more popular events being discontinued through "lack of interest". But now RFUW say that "there is not enough interest in the Cup Competition", as a result of which big changes are coming... starting this season!

Plans to run a three-weekend cup for 2009/10 have been abandoned. Instead a tournament run on a "One Day Competition Format" will take place - when, where and (come to that) how this will take place has yet to be revealed, but more information is promised soon (one or two fixture secretaries will be anxious to hear more I suspect!).

But this is just a one year stop-gap solution. From next season (2010/2011) RFUW "will be working closely with clubs to develop the competitive opportunities for the Youth game, to include Regional leagues, a Cup and Development Cup competition".

So - everything is up for grabs! Not just the National Cup, but also league rugby and - well - everything else as well, whether it is currently run by RFUW or not. It also confirms the Pathway Proposal's direction away from centralised national events and towards a club game run and managed at divisional and CB level.

This does have a number of plus points (at least in theory). With supportive and active CB and Divisional management, leagues, cups and other events can be better tailored and adapted to support local needs rather than having one-size-fits-all slow-to-adapt programmes run from the centre. The big "if", of course, is that "supportive and active CB" bit. We are pretty lucky in Herts in having had exactly that for some time - but this has certainly not always been the case in every county, while there is currently no divisional management layer at all (we have had "regions" for many years, but officially they have only ever existed to run the regional teams - and will be abolished after this season anyway).

It is all a big jump into the unknown - although in all honesty its difficult to see how anything could be much worse than the current set-up. After all, the current record of regions and counties establishing and running events is actually far better than that of RFUW - compare and contrast the moribund National Cup with locally managed competitions like Herts Sevens, the London & SE [Dorking] Sevens, Gloucester 10s, or the South West and Thames Valley leagues. It could just work...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Future shape of junior rugby: join the debate

There is quite a healthy discussion breaking out on the new "Player Pathway" proposals (see earlier post). In the continued absence of RFUW's discussion board this would seem to be the only place where this important and far-reaching document is being discussion - so why not get involved?

Its quite civilised so far, but with several different points of view being expressed - so don't be shy!

In addition the document will also be discussed at the next Herts county meeting in January, so please let Heather or Mike know about any views you may have about the proposals. Or you can contact RFUW direct using the reply form.

This is a very important document that really will affect everyone who plays, at all ages and all levels, so its important that everyone makes their views known.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Herts Rugby Awareness Week

This project, which was designed to raise awareness of club rugby for both boys and girls across Hertfordshire, was the brainchild of two Welwyn RFC players - Rachel McCullough and Oren Blindell. With the support of the RFU, Hertfordshire RFU and the RFUW and funding from 'The Big Spend' through Hertfordshire County Council, the project has been taken into secondary schools across the county in the form of assemblies presented by pupils who are also players at local rugby clubs.

These presentations used a short video specially prepared for the occasion which incorporates, at it's heart, the RFU 'Core Values' DVD as well as some photographs of Hertfordshire boys and girls involved in rugby and a list of clubs in the county as you can see ....

It is really good to see projects like this which promote the boys and girls game equally and involve all the clubs in the county particularly when they are conceived, instigated and run by the youth players themselves. Congratulations to all involved but, of course, most particularly to Oren and Rachel at Welwyn RFC.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

RFUW proposes a whole new world for 2010/11

Its has one of the dullest titles ever, but Recommendations from the Competition Review Group on the RFUW Player Pathway For Implementation Season 2010-11 (click here to see a copy) - issued today for consultation - is one of the most revolutionary, and long awaited, reports to come out of Twickenham for many years. Even if you are not on the "Player Pathway" its worth a look because it will affect every single one of you - and in 99% of cases for the better.

Basically it proposes sweeping away the regional structure, not to mention most of the various unco-ordinated, ad-hoc, "seemed like a good idea at the time" initiatives added in recent years.
In its place is a structure that proposes raising the profile of the county rugby, developing a new divisional level for truly elite players - and putting club rugby back at the heart of things.

The language used is... astonishing, particularly for anyone who has tried to champion club rugby against the regional juggernaut in recent years. It is difficult to read without the a smile, or even near hysterical laughter, for it represents a conversion by the RFUW of biblical proportions. Just look at a few quotes from page three...
  • "Any player wishing to play within the Player Pathway structure should be playing club rugby"
  • "Clarity of message from the RFUW and RFU professional staff and the clubs"
  • "Club rugby is the backbone of the game"
  • "A strong club fixture programme supports the success of the [player development] programme"
  • "Ensuring that there is a more consistent club programme throughout the year that is not disrupted by pathway programmes as much as previously seen."
  • "Fewer players will be involved at the higher levels of the pathway so more players will be available for club rugby on a more regular basis."
Yes, its jaw dropping stuff. This is the RFUW talking - and incidentally it is also clear that much of this comes from all the surveys over the past few years - they have had an effect (O ye of little faith!).

But it doesn't stop there - it really doesn't. The aim is that every county (or, to be precise, ever "CB") will have squads and each RFU Division will run a county championship programme. Selectors will work to centralised criteria and be trained!!

The best players from the Divisional CB championships will be selected for the four new Divisional squads, which will replace the current 11 Regions. As a result the number of players lost by clubs in the second half of the season will be dramatically reduced - only 120 girls will play divisional rugby in each age band, instead of over 600 as at present - which should allow the club game to continue little affected instead of being decimated as it currently is (in fact it is only the "superclubs" who are likely to continue to suffer - which is no bad thing!).

In addition there will only be five divisional weekends (and only four for U15s), instead of the eight regional weekends that we have now. Divisions will instead have evening programmes - and on Monday evenings, a day chosen to avoid clashes with club nights! Success at divisional level will lead players on to national "elite" programmes, like the current TDGs and national squads.

However every silver lining must also have a potential cloud and there is one more proposal slipped in at the end which may result in mixed feelings, and which you may wish to comment on. It is a proposal that the women's/girls' seasons should end at the same time as the men's/boys' - so that would mean the National 7s at the start of May instead of the end. This would have a far reaching effect on several popular end-of-season events - like Worthing 10s, Dorking 7s, and Herts 7s - all of which would either have to take place after the nationals - or would have to move forward into April. This may require some concerted lobbying...

So, in summary, to compare and contrast how this will affect your game...

This season there are:
  • 18 club weekends between September and April - plus five more in May leading up to the National 7s at the end of May
  • 6 county weekends
  • 8 regional weekends - when normal club rugby is all but impossible
Next season this will be replaced with:
  • 23 club weekends from September to April (with National 7s at the start of May)
  • 5 county weekends
  • 5 divisional weekends (4 for U15s) - when club rugby should be possible (so that is potentially 28 club weekends)
Responses to the proposals are invited by the RFUW - see this reply form. They should reach RFUW by 25th January.

Complaining works

Good article on women's rugby in The Times today - and an educational introduction...
"It was pointed out to me earlier this week, in wincingly powerful terms, that Rolling Maul has never featured an item on women's rugby. This is not strictly true but as the lady who accosted me had a war-like look in her eye I was not inclined to argue."
So whoever it was who accosted Steve Jones, the Times' rugby correspondent, well done - and let's all follow her example! As he admits...
"But I also felt guilty. The glorious victory recently by England over New Zealand at Twickenham deserved around 50 times the coverage it received."
Shame it took the anonymous lady to make Mr Jones act on that guilt, especially when he can say that...
"Luckily, I managed to catch all the game, which came soon after the England-New Zealand men's match. That game had been dull and boring but the women's teams of England and New Zealand produced a classic. It had far more passion and adventure than the men's game even though it was played in worse conditions."
Still, better late than never - and what he does say is pretty positive and shows a depth of knowledge of the women's game that is impressive...
"England were quite magnificent. Catherine Spencer, the England captain and No.8, was unbelievably good and the performance of Maggie Alphonsi on the flank for England almost defied belief. After the game, we came across a couple of the Kiwi players nudging themselves as Alphonsi walked past. Their admiration was obvious.

"The victory did wonders for the profile of the rugby World Cup that takes place in England next year. Even though New Zealand may well start as favourites, Spencer and her team know that they can do it too.

"If England to win the World Cup, it will seal a dynamic phase in women's rugby. I can still recall the first women's match I ever saw and the astonishing performance of Emma Mitchell, the England scrum half.

"To my shame, when Emma shaped to pass I expected it to be some kind of dribble which died after about three metres. When she sent the ball whizzing like a missile into the next county, I suddenly realised that perceptions of the women's game which I held then needed drastic revision.

"This was a golden period in terms of expansion which has continued headlong ever since. Mitchell and the likes of Jill Burns, arguably (and she will hate this) the mother of English rugby, provided then and now such wonderful role models, and it is always good to encounter that same fervency and dedication in their successors.

"If you have never caught England or had contact with the players - and I am sure it is the same with the women of the other home nations - then you will be amazed at the passion, the work ethic and the technical expertise of the squads. Spencer is merely embellishing a glorious line, one which may well lead to England becoming champions of the world.

"And the whole process has sent out the most clear message. Rugby is a game of two equal parts and two equal sexes."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Herts Sevens moves to Tring in 2010

It has just been announced that this season's Herts Sevens will take place at Tring RFC on 16th May.

Its great news for the game in the county. This will be the sixth Herts Girls' Sevens (or seventh Herts Girls rugby festival, depending on what you count!) and the great thing about the tournament is that - not only has it been a huge success, growing (almost) every year - but it uniquely moves around the county, encouraging the game to develop and grow.

This will be the first time that the tournament has been to the west of Hertfordshire since the first festival in 2004 - which was a tag tournament held at Hemel Hempsted. This evolved into a proper Sevens in 2005 when clubs mainly from Hertfordshire and Essex competed at Cheshunt, with our U14 team only losing in the final to a combined team from Welwyn and Saracens.

In 2006 we hosted the Sevens, with the number of entries doubling. Clubs came from as far away as Nottinghamshire (I think I am right in saying that Emily Scarratt played for Paviors) and east Norfolk, and we even had TV coverage (see if you can spot some of the current U18s from several local clubs, all looking very young!).

By 2007 at Welwyn the tournament had become a key date on the national fixture list - effectively a "warm-up" for the National Sevens, and as such this tournament attracted teams from even further afield, including then national champions Worcester.

In 2008 the competition moved to Tabard - the first club (then) without a girls team to host the tournament. Unfortunately the RFUW decided, at the last minute, to organise a junior equivalent of the Super Fours on the same day as Herts 7s which pulled key players from several clubs and reduced the number of entries slightly - but the tournament was a great success again - and we reached the U18 final for the first time, losing to the combined Basildon and Rochford team from Essex. And last year Old Albanians were the hosts of the biggest tournament yet - with a U12 competition for the first time.

And so to Tring in May- a day that will be a highlight of the season, and quite special for one person in particular, because only one player not only played at Hemel in 2004, but also at Cheshunt, Letchworth, Welwyn, Tabard, and Old Albanians - and will be playing at Tring. Step forward Nikki Alcock - the only player to play at every Herts Girls' rugby festival!

IRB launch free strength and conditioning guide

The IRB have launched a free Strength and Conditioning resource on their expanding Rugby Ready system. It covers things like Health and Safety and exercise instruction, and builds on an impressive set of videos and guides that covers everything from warm-ups and cool-downs to every phase of play.

And its all free!

Phil's Caption competition No. 1

One of the most treasured items on this blog has always been the occasional caption competitions supplied by Phil Threlfall. Well, having been absent from the matchday touchline for the last 2 months, Phil and his camera were back on Sunday and he has sent 3 offerings for your consideration ...

"A familiar face makes a welcome return, even if a little intent!"

"Natalie tries out an alternative ‘spot the ball’ competition!"

"Raindrops keep falling on your head, that’s never gonna stop the Ref complaining..”

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, can you come up with better captions than Mr. T? Let's be hearing them!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sydney makes it five!

From our South African correspondant

Sunday's planned U15s Thames Valley league match against Bucks Jesters could not be played as the visitors had only six players. However, as Letchworth Saracens were blessed with 10, an 8 a side friendly match was arranged so that all the players got a full game ... with the magnificent weather, it certainly was not a day to have players shivering on the sidelines!

Actually, the first half started with reasonably good weather and great rugby conditions. Letchworth Saracens had a rather bumpy start and fell behind as the Jesters no. 10 scored consecutive tries and our very own Sydney, who had sportingly volunteered to play for Jesters, added a further three unanswered tries. Then a bout of more typical British weather sent torrential rain to try to further dampen the spirits of the girls ... but neither side let that interfere with the match! Furthermore, the home side would not give up and with Ellah's positive captaincy pulling her team together they fought back. After two attempts and multiple phases, Letchworth Saracens were rewarded when their hooker crossed the line to open their account. With their spirits high, the home side took the game to the visitors.

The second half was played under somewhat drier skies and two different girls played for the Jesters. Letchworth Saracens kept fighting to close the gap in the scoreline with Sydney scoring two tries and new recruit Florence running in the first try of her career with a brilliant line to receive a well waited pass from the centre. However, Jesters then responded with two more tries to make the game safe. All in all a very enjoyable game for all.


Letchworth Saracens 30 v. 58 Bucks Jesters

No Laughing Matter ....

It was 11.30 pm on Saturday night that I drove out to collect Nikki from a party and found that there had been rather a lot of rain - in places the A505 was underwater. Quite a lot of water, actually - above the Mondeo's headlights in a few places. Nevertheless, when Simon rang on Sunday morning to query the state of our pitches, I confidentally told him that they would be alright ... though I did drive to the club to make sure. Indeed, at 10am, the pitches were in a good condition with no standing water on them and the surface was (relatively) firm. Certainly a lot better than the car park which was, as usual, sporting several wide and rather deep puddles!

The rest of the morning was dry with a moderate wind so all looked to be set fair for the first Thames Valley league games to be played at Letchworth. Our visitors on Sunday were Bucks Jesters who we had played - and lost to - at Chesham a few weeks ago in truly awful wind and rain (see "Soaking Sunday"). It will be no surprise to anyone (certainly not to anyone who was there or has looked at the pictures below) that the wind and rain returned just in time for the matches to start ...... so again the games were played in conditions more appropriate for water polo than rugby.

A shortage of Bucks Jesters props meant that the U18s game had to be played with uncontested scrums throughout. The first half of the match was a keenly contested, evenly balanced affair with Jesters taking an early lead through an unconverted try and Letchworth Saracens responding with a neat backs move that put Chloe over near the posts and an 80 metre breakaway try down the left wing by Claire who also converted both of them. With the score at 14-5 in the home teams favour, and the conditions worsening by the minute, the visitors responded magnificently to keep the home defence under pressure and force errors in the slippery conditions. The pressure told and Jesters hacked the ball through to score two more tries before half time and turn round leading by 14-19.

The second half saw Letchworth Saracens raise their game but, in trying to exert pressure on the Jesters defence, a few errors occured which cost them dear when Jesters broke away to score 3 more tries before the final whistle.

Jesters were rightly proud of their 14-40 victory but for the home side it was No Laughing Matter ...!

Letchworth Saracens U18s 14 v. 40 Bucks Jesters U18s
Tries : Chloe, Claire
Conversions : Claire (2)

Girls' rugby... on the Pakistan border

We hear nothing but bad news from some parts of the world, and at the moment no more so than in lands surrounding Pakistan. They sound like a continual war zone, with life especially hard for teenage girls and young women who - from what we hear - do not have the freedoms we take for granted.

This is therefore a remarkable story - the story of Saliah, a Muslim schoolgirl from Kashmir, who is captain of the Indian national team. She and Saba - a year junior to her - have been chosen to attend a major IRB development course in India, with Saliah aiming for a career in the game.

Well worth a look at, the article gives a positive look at life from a place that we hear few positive stories.

Monday, November 23, 2009

IRB launch World Cup 2010

The IRB today "launched" the 2010 World Cup, including a dedicated website (

All games up to the semi-finals will take place at the University of Surrey's new (indeed so new its still being built) Surrey Sports Park in Guildford. The semi-finals, third place game, and final will be at The Stoop.

Unexpectedly the IRB have decided on a far simpler and easier to follow format than any of their previous tournaments - for the first time all teams in each pool will play each other! Unfortunately this clarity only goes so far because, by insisting on a 12 team tournament, the IRB have painted themselves into a potentially complex corner when it comes to deciding who will qualify for the semi-finals.

The three pool winners and "best runner-up" will meet in the semi-finals on 1st September. It is not exactly clear how the "best runner-up" will be decided if (as is entirely possible) more than one team finishes on the same number of points - but the final round of pool games promise to be incredibly exciting, not to say wildly confusing!

In the semi-finals the best runner-up will then meet the pool winner with the best record. As a result it is quite possible that a semi-final may be a repeat of an earlier pool game. It is even possible that England and New Zealand could meet in a semi-final (though that is something that the organisers will be desperate to avoid!).

England open their campaign on 20th August against Ireland. They then play Kazakhstan on 24th, and finish against the USA on the 28th. New Zealand will play South Africa, Australia and Wales on the same dates. Full fixture information can be found here.

Sky journalist says "women's rugby offers men's game lessons"

An excellent article from a Sky sports journalist about Saturday's international has appeared on Scrum Queens.

Well worth a read!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

England: Number 1 in the world?

Men's rugby has had official international rankings now for years. A fiendishly complex statistical calculation is used, but the result is something that supposedly removes all argument about who is better than who. It also arguably adds an extra spice to games, an extra encouragement to play internationals in order to move up the table. It cannot do any harm to a sport if you can show that your national team is in the top 10 or 20 in the world.

Women's rugby has no such ranking. There are all kinds of arguments why this would be, like there being fewer games, but many of the teams in the men's ranking hardly have a full fixture programme so the real reason is probably more a lack of interest or effort on the part of the IRB.

So it is interesting to see that a rugby enthusiast/statistician in France has now stepped in to the breach and produced a detailed ranking for all women's international teams - the first ever produced by anyone. The methodology is complex, and may be debatable at the margins, but the result is interesting and - considering we have a Frenchman giving an English team top billing! - unbiased. After yesterday's games the top ten are...
  • 1 England 3963 points
  • 2 New Zealand 3928
  • 3 France 3625
  • 4 Canada 3612
  • 5 Wales 3449
  • 6 United States 3387
  • 7 Ireland 3340
  • 8 Scotland 3231
  • 9 Australia 3028
  • 10 Spain 2840
It is also interestingly the rankings are close (but not quite identical) to the IRB's seeding for the World Cup.

While on the subject of the World Cup, were you planning to got to the final in September? If so it may be an idea to ensure you get tickets early. The RFU have now confirmed that the crowd was over 12,500 for a friendly fixture on a cold, wet winter's evening yesterday at Twickenham. Quite how many there will be for the World Cup Final on a warm summer's afternoon next September can only be guessed, but its worth bearing in mind that the absolute capacity of The Stoop is barely a thousand or so more than yesterday's crowd. You have been warned!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A perfect taster for the World Cup

As many of you will have seen, England gained revenge for their defeat in the first test last weekend by beating New Zealand 10-3 this afternoon in front of 12,000 spectators - possibly the largest crowd to ever watch an international in England. Meanwhile on the other side of the Channel the third and fourth ranked teams in 2006 - France and Canada - completed their series, with the home nation also coming back from a first test defeat to beat Canada 22-0.

These results seem to have set things up perfectly for next year's tournament, showing that no-one is invincible. Details about venues and formats are due to be released next week, but I am sure I heard one of the commentators let slip that the pool and ranking games will be at the University of Surrey in Guildford, with the final at The Stoop. We already know that there will be games on August 20th, 24th, 28th, and September 1st, with the final on September 5th.

Between now and then all nations are due to play in a range of tournaments and warm-up games - including the Six Nations which is due to start on the weekend of the 6th February. England are likely to be playing their home games at Esher.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Cup draw announced

The draw for next year's World Cup has been released by the IRB:

Pool A: New Zealand, Wales, Australia, South Africa
Pool B: England, USA, Ireland, Kazakhstan
Pool C: France, Canada, Scotland, Sweden

So - England will take on the USA, Ireland and Kazakhstan for a place in the final stages?

Well, no. Possibly not. Crucially the actual format for the tournament has not yet been published, but whatever the IRB come up with it can safely be assumed that it will be nothing like as simple as that. Despite one or two media organisations leaping to this conclusion (such as the BBC - though it is nice to see them acknowledge that the game exists after all!), no IRB-organised world cup has ever been that simple. In fact, if the same format as 2006 world cup is used then it would mean that the teams that England will definately not play would be USA, Ireland and Kazakhstan!

So at this stage information about which pool any team has been drawn is actually pretty meaningless - what is rather more important is what this tells us about seedings, which appear to be:

1. New Zealand; 2. England; 3. France; 4. Canada; 5. USA; 6. Wales
7. Australia; 8. Ireland; 9. Scotland; 10. Sweden; 11. Kazakhstan; 12. South Africa

No team from the bottom half of the seeds has ever beaten a team in the top half - so it looks a tough draw for Australia and Ireland.

England international records tumble at Esher

  • Worst defeat suffered by any England Women's XV at home - ever
  • Worst defeat by any England Women's XV this century
  • Second worst defeat suffered by any England Women's XV ever
New Zealand did not beat England A last night - they destroyed them. England A 3, New Zealand 48... if you can bear to watch you'll find an X-rated three minutes or so here.

Okay, not England's 1st XV, nor really New Zealand's second team (the touring party is only 26 or so strong, so a fair few players from Saturday played again) - but an indication of the scary depth of talent that the Black Ferns have. After all, the England team were hardly novices - there were a fair few players out there with 1st XV experience, and as a team England A would be a match for most 1st XVs from the rest of the world (probably only behind the likes of Wales, Canada, France and maybe Ireland and the USA).

The second test between the Black Ferns and England is on Saturday - live on Sky. If the visitors play like this again you may need to watch from behind the sofa!

Monday, November 16, 2009

More photos from Sunday's U15 game

Over 50 more pictures from Sunday's U15 game against Ampthill/Bedford have been loaded onto the "Letchworth Rugby Club 1st Team phptos's" (sic) Facebook page.

To take a look (and to tag yourself and your friends!) go here.

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