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...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

European Sevens Championship in England in 2011?

A tantalising suggestion that the FIRA European Sevens Championship could be taking place in England this season - the first time any FIRA tournament will have been played anywhere in the UK or Ireland.

Nothing is confirmed yet, but I have been given details of an (unpublished) letter from FIRA to all unions about the 2011 European Sevens tournaments. There are so many nations who play international sevens in Europe - nearly half of all the active rugby nations in the world - that the continent's regional association has to divide the teams into three divisions, which gets quite complicated. In addition the next Sevens World Cup is in 2013, which implies qualification tournaments in 2012, the seedings and organisation for which will be based on the 2011 results.

So, while the "A" and "B" championships (that is the second and third division) will go on more or less as they do normally, the "Top Ten" championship for the, well, top 10 nations is going to be beefed up a bit. In 2009 none of Europe's representative made even the semi-finals, so the aim must be to try to get continent's leading teams as well prepared as possible in 2013.

With this in mind, instead of a single "Top Ten" tournament this spring, there will be two with the championship being awarded to the best nation across both events, using the same points system as the men's sevens circuit. The first tournament will be in Sweden, but the second will "take place during the last round of the [men's sevens] Grand Prix Series". That last round takes place over two weekends in London and Edinburgh at the end of May - so this could just mean that the top ten European sevens teams will be playing in England for the first time.

Who will they be? At the moment its impossible to say as it depends of how many of the Six Nations enter. Ireland and Scotland women have never been particularly interested in Sevens - neither entered the 2009 World Cup (well, Scotland did but then pulled out). England will definitely take part, as will France and Italy and Wales will probably take part.

However, do not take it for granted that the winners will be a Six Nations team - Sevens is a different world. Spain are an awesome sevens formation - European champions last season - while Netherlands, Russia and sevens specialists Portugal cannot be underestimated. In addition - assuming Scotland and Ireland are absent - Germany and Sweden will be pretty competitive.

No guarantees yet, but if it does take place in England it should be a great weekend.

Are things any different in England?

Interesting article here about the state of women's (and girls') rugby in Ireland.

On the face of it, Ireland are one of the great success stories of recent years. Over the past five years the also-rans of Six Nations rugby have become a real force in the game, and must stand a real chance of winning the runner-up spot in next year's tournament.

However, beneath the surface there are concerns and problems with the game, and room for improvement. And what is interesting is the way many of the complaints of the players in the article could come from anywhere in the world - even New Zealand and, dare I say it, England. Indeed it is no exaggeration to say that the statements could have come from just about any sport anywhere.

What is the answer? Who knows - though I would suggest that complaining long and loud whenever and wherever girls' and women's is treated as being less important than men's is probably a start. Things are getting better, as coverage of the last World Cup showed, but there is still a long, long way to go.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Herts newsletter girls' rugby special

The latest edition of "About Herts" - the quarterly county rugby newsletter - features a massive five page section devoted to the success of girls' and women's rugby in the county. Much of it has appeared on Herts blog, but there are previously unpublished match reports from the first round of county games, plus other articles about the success of the game in the county.

Copies will have been sent to the club and may be lying around the clubhouse, but failing that a PDF can be downloaded from here.

Monday, December 20, 2010

News from Black Fern country - a must read!

Its taken me a little time to pick up on this - and a great shame too - because an excellent new blog, devoted to women's rugby, has been launched in New Zealand.

Women's Rugby NZ launched on 8th September, hitting the ground running with an introduction that began with that question everyone asks - how did the Black Ferns manage to win 4 consecutive world cups if they only played 7 test matches in four years between the last two world cups? Later posts cover every aspect of New Zealand women's and girls' rugby from junior and school level all the way to the national team.

But its not just reports and regurgitated press releases - there's interesting and provocative articles like this one, which gets behind the latest NZRFU player statistics and comes up with some worrying conclusions for the future. Then there's also video, reports from Black Ferns about their World Cup experiences, and even news about a new range of rugby kit designed for women (yes - we have heard it before, but maybe this time...?). And the site looks great too!

Why is it so good? I think the answer to that is contained in the author line for many of the articles. Farah Palmer, Melodie Robinson... this isn't some individual's fan's blog from the sidelines - this is being written by people at the centre of the game.

Would be nice if they made their RSS feed a bit easier to find, but other than that rather geeky, technical point its brilliant. So if you DO want to know why the Black Ferns dominate World Rugby, start here!

S'no(w) chance of play for Old Girls

Its official. Wonky has been forced to call off today's long awaited reunion fixture for the Former Legends owing to the small matter of a couple of inches of snow, plus overnight temperatures in double figures. That is minus double figures.

Instead all players and camp followers are invited to a get-together at the White Lion in Baldock tonight, at 7pm - which is probably where just about everyone would have ended up anyway even if the match had taken place.

Attempts will be made to organise another game - maybe around Easter. Although looking back at previous Easters... 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Forget the snow... remember the summer

Because three tries from the World Cup are among the IRB's shortlist of 18 competing for "try of the year" (well "televised try of the year" is we are being entirely honest - hence the lack of any women in any previous shortlists, and the almost certain absence of any next year as well).

Anyway, the three tries (see below) are from Danielle Waterman (v USA), Australia's Cobie-Jane Morgan (Australia v Wales), and Huriana Manuel (New Zealand v Australia). To my mind it is the last of the three that is probably the best - Danielle seems to benefit from some awful American tackling (or the lack thereof), while Cobie-Jane was the third beneficiary of the 20 minutes of Welsh suicide that opened (and, to all intents and purposes, also closed) their World Cup campaign. Well taken though it is, the Welsh defence is a bit of a shambles. Huriana's try is, of the other hand, scored against a well organised defence and is also a true team effort.

However, make your own mind up and then email "Try 12" (or 11, or 10) to Or, if you want to check out the men's tries that are up for the award, go here.

(Thanks to ScrumQueens)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gloucester 10s: Joe invites the world to come and play

Joe has now circulated his invitation to clubs to attend the Gloucestershire Girls’ rugby 10s tournament - and has asked for it to be circulated as widely as possible. So here it is. Tell everyone!

Easter 2010 saw Girls’ rugby teams from around the UK descend upon Harptury College in Gloucestershire for the second annual Gloucester City 10s, a 2 day rugby festival organised and operated by Gloucester Girls Rugby Charitable Trust Fund (GGRCTF). The event was a huge success both on and off the field with approximately 500 girls participating over the weekend, the event managed to attract substantial support from a number of well known sponsors. Regrettably by Summer 2010 the charity was in the process of being wound up and any chance of the annual event continuing seemed unlikely

However the show must go on and with the support of both the Gloucestershire Rugby Football Union and Hartpury College, the event returns in 2011. The competition now under the name of 'Gloucestershire 10s' is being organised by a volunteer management team who now invite entries from interested clubs.

The 2011 event will be held over Easter weekend with an under 15 tournament on Saturday 23 April and an under 18 tournament on Sunday 24 April. Clubs may enter both U15 and U18 teams, and there are up to 16 team places available in each age group. The management team are pleased to announce a new pricing structure for the 2011 event, with the standard entry fee reflecting a reduction of £15 on last years price. This is an open tournament and has the potential to be the largest Girls 10s festival in South West England. Please find attached a copy of tournament invite letter, entry form and rules & regulations documents. If you are interested in entering, please follow the instructions outlined with these documents. If you have difficulty opening the attached files please contact Joe Randall, Event Manager by email (

The tournament management team is keen to hear from businesses or organisations that are interested in getting involved with the tournament. For information on possible sponsorship opportunities please contact a member of the management team using the details below.

It would be appreciated if you could forward this message to any teams clubs you feel might be interested in entering a team.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to get in contact.

Kind regards,

Joe Randall

Sunday, December 12, 2010

County round-up

Results from a few games are still to come in, but there was one clear winner this weekend - the weather.

Hertfordshire game v Kent, which should have been played at Thetford, was moved to Saracens (Eastern Counties did not travel) - but other counties were not so lucky. Other U15 and U18 games in Devon (v Dorset), Hampshire (v Surrey), Lancashire (v Cumbria), North Midlands (v NLD) and Northumberland (v Cheshire) were all cancelled - which is going to make selections for the Divisional trials a bit of a challenge as they will have to be based on a single match last month.

At U15 level, Sussex - another of the counties that have benefited from unsanctioned fixtures - used that extra experience to win a three-way fixture, blowing away Middlesex 43-0 before slipping past Berkshire 24-20. Berkshire recovered to beat Middlesex 17-5.

In the only other result so far published Leicestershire recovered from their mauling by Hertfordshire last month to beat Essex 49-5.

At U18 level Berkshire seem to have come out on top in the same triangular with a 19-10 win over Sussex, who in turn beat Middlesex 27-0. However the result of the day was Hertfordshire 60-0 trashing of Kent.

A couple of results are still awaited, but the main conclusion from this weekend is again how amazingly good our county's girls are. If the London & SE Divisional squads are not packed with Herts girls in the New Year then something will be very wrong!

"Brilliant" Syd try defeats Kent

News from Herts U15 game with Kent where a try from Syd ensured the defeat of Kent today.

A long period of forward play had just resulted in Hertfordshire's first try, when Sydney caught the resulting restart. From there, to quote one spectator, Syd went on a "brilliant ... run down the line from Kent, evading and handing off several to score under the post".

The resulting conversion put Herts 12-7 ahead, which was to be the final score - a truly impressive win over a county that has been playing a series of extra unsanctioned matches in recent weeks. We shall now wait to see who gets to go to the Divisional trials - but at least one Letchworth girls looks a pretty safe bet!

How to deal with an interviewer...

Not really relevant to the usual coverage on this blog, but this cannot be missed. A masterclass from Saracens coach on how to deal with an annoying interviewer. Brilliant.

Dream Team: more details for the 20th

The big game is just over a week away now. Warm-up starts at 7pm, with a kick-off at around 7.30, and sundry seasonal extras.

If all goes well (ie. injuries etc. permitting) the Letchworth team could look something like this (actual positins to be decided - or indeed swapped around during the game)...

Rosie Randall
Carla Kelly
Sasha Acheson
Fern Glenister
Jess Robinson
Steph Crome
Lizell Heather
Hayley Guilder
Natalie Threlfall
Laura "Bubbles" Barnard
Katie Alcock
Nikki Alcock
Chloe Baker
Mel Hobbs
Randy Randfield

Coaches: Wonky and Joe Randall

...which looks a pretty awesome team! Don't miss it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Double blow for schoolgirl rugby in North Herts

Threatened cuts to School Sports Partnerships nationwide have been well covered in the press and on TV in recent weeks - a scheme that has been a very significant effect on introducing girls to rugby in the county (most of the inter-school tournaments would probably have never happened without our local schemes), however news in this week's Comet could result in an even bigger blow, especially in our area.

If the report on Page 2 is correct, North Herts District Council will be withdrawing all funding from Herts Youth Games - presumably from 2012, if not 2011. Even leaving aside the huge irony involved in cancelling support for the biggest local multi-sport event in the same year that the Olympics are taking place less than 40 miles away, this could have a major effect on rugby in schools - especially primary schools.

Herts Youth Games includes tag rugby tournaments for both boys and girls - indeed overall the Games tend to favour girls sport, with significantly more girls events than boys, providing support at just the age when many girls start to give up sport. What is more by having a girls rugby event in a male-dominated sport like rugby it encourages girls to try out a sport that they might never normally consider.

Yes, its tag. Yes, the current HYG is a U11 event which doesn't quite work with current RFUW age bands, but anything that puts rugby balls in the hands of schoolgirls cannot be bad. And every spring just about every primary school in the area puts together a boys AND a girls team, and takes part in at least one - often more than one - tag tournament, with the top girls going into the North Herts team.

The question and worry must be that - without that HYG goal to aim at - will schools bother? And if they do, without the carrot of a girls competition, even if they do will they bother putting together girls teams, or involving girls?

And - of course - it goes without saying that Letchworth Girls would never have come into existence without Herts Youth Games.  HYG works on so many levels - it would be a huge blow if it disappeared.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Gloucester 10s 2011 - now under new management!

A familiar face has taken over the running of one of the best weekends of club rugby.

Joe Randall - coach of our girls team from 2005-2007 (and hopefully to be involved with the Old Girls game) - has taken over the management of the Gloucester 10s tournament.

Gloucester 10s was first played in 2009 as a replacement for the popular (but unaccountably cancelled) RFUW National 10s, which had been a popular event for the previous 2-3 seasons. It has been an even bigger success than the old Nationals, and with Joe in charge promises to be just as great an event this season.

The new season has resulted in some rethinking about its dates, but after some thought next week Joe and Gloucester RFU will be inviting entries to the 2011 tournament, to be held again at Hartpury College on 23rd-24th April (probably U18s on Day 1, and U15s Day 2).

Letchworth took part in the first edition in 2009, but we were unable to go in 2010 as our partners last season - Saracens - did not wish to attend. Hopefully we will have sufficient players on our own this year - it may just be a question of transport.

Return of the Legends

Great news today that the "Old Girls" match on 20th December is now definitely ON!

The game was thrown into doubt last week when the original opponents for the "Legends Reunited" - Welwyn Old Girls - pulled out because they were unable to raise any sort of team. However, great work behind the scenes by Wonky and Amanda Bate has resulted in a replacement team being formed.

This will largely be based around a core of players from Hitchin (so a nice bit of local rivalry!) plus some other players from other local clubs. Kick-off should be at around 7.30, with suitable festive additions to the evening (including warming half-time refreshments).

So - if you want to play (for either side!) - please get back to me or Wonky, and failing that why not come along  and watch and take part in what should be a fun evening!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fixture dates 2011-12

In perhaps the most remarkable symbol of the new world we have joined since the "merger" between RFU and RFUW, the dates for club, county and divisional fixtures for next season have been published - at least six months earlier than RFUW ever managed on their own (indeed it has not been unknown in the past for the structure to not be finalised until after the season had started!).

Club training/matches: Sept 4*, 11*, 18*; Oct 2, 9, 23, 30; Nov 13, 20, 27; Dec 4, 18; Jan 1*, 8, 15, 29; Feb 5, 26; Mar 4, 11 (U15 only), 18, 25(U18 only); Apr 8*, 15 (Easter), 22, 29 (*= training only)

County: Sept 25 (training/development/trials); Oct 16 (match); Nov 6 (match); Dec 11 (match)

Division: Jan 22 (trials); Feb 12 (training), 19 (match); Mar 11 (U18 match); 25 (U15 training); Apr 1 (U15 tournament, U18 match)

Nationals 7s: May 8

Divisional dates will also, obviously, be used for club fixtures and training - but not for league matches as the "Youth Structured Season" booklet also says that "Club and cluster matches should take place on Club Training or Match (CMT) dates only" (ie. the club dates above).

The major things to note are the extra county fixture (but the lack of any training dates); that the number of club weekends is roughly that same, and that the National 7s is at the start of May - which implies a Herts 7s on 29th April... unless RFUW change their minds again!

New season, new structure, new controversy

Well, its not taken long...

Only a few weeks into the new-style girls' season and it has been discovered that some counties are playing fast-and-loose with the new rules, which is resulting in angry letters to RFUW.

What is the problem? Well, you will know that this season RFUW have taken over the management and structure of the county programme, organising all games and dictating when and how many training session there should be. In some areas this was unpopular as the new programme was much shorter than many counties had had in the past, and some counties asked RFUW is they could organise some extra games and training sessions.

The answer was clear - no.

Trouble is that other counties seem to have managed to get around this rule by, basically, ignoring it. So - for example - when Hertfordshire next play on 12th December it will be their second fixture, after two or three training sessions. It will be the same for Eastern Counties, who will be their hosts. However for the third team in the triangular - Kent - it will (according to their own website) be their fourth fixture, after at least four training sessions. They - like Surrey (if their website is correct) - have been playing extra fixtures on their "training" weekends, and organising additional midweek training sessions.

In the past such initiative might have been applauded - but for counties following RFUW's rules this will seem a bit unfair (to put it mildly). And with places in the new divisional squad trials being dependent on county performances... well, having had twice as many games and training sessions is hardly going to be a disadvantage to the players involved.

Clearly this would not have been a problem if RFUW had based their new season on the best county programmes - keeping the popular tournaments that had developed - as the demand for extra fixtures would not have happened, but having made the rules they did it is up to them to enforce them, especially when the breaches are so blatant. After all, if they do nothing (or just issue a weak "tut, tut") next season could be interesting... not to say chaotic...

In the meanwhile if this season's London Divisional squad is dominated by girls from Surrey, Kent and other counties who have organised unsanctioned fixtures, don't be too surprised.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recognise the work of your club, coaches and team-mates

Entries for the 2010 Comet Sports Awards have opened.

The awards recognise the work and performances of everyone involved in sport in North Herts - coaches, players and teams. So if you think that your club, coaches or team-mate deserves recognition then don't wait for someone else to put in a entry - do it yourself!

This year's categories are:

  • Sports Personality of the Year
  • Team of the Year
  • Service to Sport
  • Coach of the Year
  • Club of the Year
  • Youth Achievement (Boys)
  • Youth Achievement (Girls)
  • Veteran Achievement
  • The Paul Pearce Disability Award
  • Youth Team of the Year
  • School of the Year
  • School Unsung Hero
  • Sporting Photograph

OAs cancel tomorrow's county training session

OAs have announced that, due to frozen pitches, tomorrow's (28th November) joint training session for girls' clubs has had to be cancelled.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Six Nations 2011 - at last we know where and when

The times, dates and venues of the men's Six Nations games have been known for... well, months - practically since the last tournament - but for some reason details about the women's games have been treated as if they were state secrets by all of the countries involved (except Wales). At times you did wonder whether they had decided to avoid repeating the World Cup's problem of a lack of seats by not telling anyone where the Six Nations games would be played.

However, some determined will-not-take-no-for-an-answer work by ScrumQueen's Alison Donnelly has finally broken the resolve of the officials across the British Isles and France and at last we know where England will be attempting to retain their Grand Slam title, and where everyone else will be trying to stop them.

England three home games will - for the first time in many years - be spread across three grounds,  and - even more amazingly - they will be venturing outside the Home Counties (presumably the RFU have convinced the RFUW that civilisation has indeed now extended beyond the M25). Scotland, France and Italy are similarly spreading things about a bit, but Wales are sticking to Bridgend for their games and Ireland are remaining at "lucky" Ashbourne.

As for TV coverage, unconfirmed rumour suggests that Sky are keen to renew their acquaintance with the game and would be delighted to be able to show England's game at Twickenham  - but the snag is that the BBC have the rights to the preceding men's fixture. Sky also often cover England men's A and age-group games, and if they do coverage of the rather more interesting game against France may be possible. On the web Scottish Rugby TV occasionally records some of their women's games, while some French games can be found on the FFR's website (occasionally with a live feed).

However beyond that... nothing (so far as I am aware). It seems the concept of a live web feed for women's rugby - something which not only the USA and Canada can manage, but even a few of the Caribbean islands - currently remains beyond the technical abilities of the Home Nations. For the time being you really do have to be there.

Times, dates, and venues below:
Friday , Feb 4th: France v Scotland (Athis Mons)
Sunday, Feb 6th Wales v England (Bridgend RFC); Italy v Ireland (Rovigo, 14.30)

Friday February 11th: Ireland v France (Ashbourne, 19.30)
Saturday, February 12th: England v Italy (Esher, 16.30)
Sunday, February 13th: Scotland v Wales (West of Scotland Club, 14.00)

Saturday, February 26th: Scotland v Ireland (Lasswade RFC, 14.00)
Sunday, February 27th: England v France (Worcester); Italy v Wales (Viareggio, Tuscany, 14.30)

Sunday, March 13th: England v Scotland (Twickenham); Wales v Ireland (Bridgend RFC); Italy v France (Benevento, 14.30)

Friday, March 18th: Ireland v England (Ashbourne RFC, 19.00)
Saturday, March 19th: France v Wales (Stade Pierre Rajon, Bourgoin-Jallieu, 15.00)
Sunday, March 20th: Scotland v Italy (Meggittland, Edinburgh)

  • And if you think that and England win is a foregone conclusion, then shock results can happen. Earlier today, in the women's sevens tournament at the Asian Games, China - who had hitherto not conceded a point in the tournament, had never lost a game at home, and had only been beaten by Australia since the last World Cup - missed out on gold, losing what sounds like an incredible, incident-filled, final to Kazakhstan. Nothing is certain in sport!

See the world through rugby

Tag RugbyWant travel, play rugby AND make a difference to the lives of children in some of the poorest regions in the world? Then this could be for you.

The Tag Rugby Trust have contacted me. They are a charity that coaches children and develops rugby in countries across the globe -  take a look at our latest tour report from India, a tour which is in progress as we speak.

The TRT have been running tours since 2002 and run at least five similar tours a year, and the number is growing. They are IRB-recognised  and all funds raised go towards building futures for children through rugby. The tours are funded through volunteers who raise money to join the adventure, and work closely with the children as coaches. Apparently many volunteers say that the tour is a life changing experience. The TRT have a website, and photo albums on Picasa, or search for "Tag Rugby Trust" on YouTube.

The 2011 tour dates have just been announced - click here to register an interest.

2011 Tour Dates

Late April – Zambia (Already full!)
Late June/Early July – Uganda
Early July – Zambia
Late October/Early November – India
November – Mexico
Romania – TBC

More information: Tag Rugby Trust, Meadow View, Tannery Lane, Bramley, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 0AB. Telephone: 01483 892894.

Alphonsi is Sportswoman of the Year

Its probably not much consolation for losing the World Cup final, but Maggi Alphonsi's performance in that tournament - aided in no small part by the success of the competition and the way it captured the public imagination - has resulted in her winning the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year award.

Not only is this a terrific honour for Maggie, but it is the first time women's rugby has won such a high profile award. Several of her "opponents" for the award were far more well-known sportswomen from far more "high profile" sports, such as gymnastics, cycling, and the Winter Olympics.

Unfortunately the England team missed out on the team award. However, it is interesting to remember that - while Maggie's win came as a result of a public vote - the team award was made by a panel of "experts" and journalists, which maybe suggests that sports journos who are out of touch with the interests and views of the public?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vote for women's rugby

I am normally a bit reluctant to republish messages and releases from RFUW unedited, but for once I am going to make an exception. So, take it away Keeley...
"The Women’s game of rugby has received some great news and it would be brilliant for Women’s rugby as a sport if we could actually walk away with a winner.
On Sunday it was revealed in the Sunday Times that England Women have been shortlisted for the Sunday Times’ SportsWomen Team of the Year award and Maggie Alphonsi, has also been shortlisted for the SportsWoman of the Year award.
Voting for the team of the year is decided by a panel, but for the SportsWoman of the Year it’s up to the public! As you’ll see from the link below there is some tough competition, but if you want to show your support for Maggie please vote for her at
Voting closes midday on Wednesday November 17th so you’ll have to be quick and the winners will be announced on Monday 22nd November."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

England's top U18s

After yesterday's U20 announcement, today it was the turn of the U18s who will be part of the new Talent Development Group (there will be no U15 group this season, due to the reorganisation). The names can be found on the RFUW website. No-one from Letchworth, but its still worth looking at as it is really interesting to see the geographic spread of players.

16 of the 32 girls come from six clubs, and five are from one club - London Irish (a fact that will result in the odd comment or two I suspect). In addition Aylesbury produce three, while Gloucester, H3, Newquay and Welwyn provide two each - but that does mean that 22 clubs are represented, which is (without checking) pretty good. The appearance of a few clubs that are not normally high on the list of "big names" is also good to see - Furness (Cumbria), Malton & Norton (Yorks.), and Tavistock (Devon) for instance - but most of the clubs are familiar names and chances are that anyone who played for our U18s last year will have played against most of the girls on this list.

This season the route into the TDGs will be via the new divisions, instead of the old regions. It will be interesting to see whether this results in any change to the range of clubs getting girls into the highest level of junior rugby.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

All change for England U20s

After a disappointing season last year, its all change in the England U20 squad. Only eight players from last season survive the cull, and a new coach has been appointed - former Welsh international Amanda Bennett.

It will be the biggest season ever for the national age-group squad, with games against France and Scotland as well as the reappearance of the Nations Cup (presumably in Canada). On the other hand, going by the RFUW press release, the fixture against Wales seems to have been dropped which is a pity (if it is correct) as it is a game with a real history behind it and a good benchmark to measure the progress of both age-group teams.

There are several familiar names - former members of clubs such as Welwyn, Basford and Wimbourne. Check out the RFUW's release for all of the names.

  • Late news... England will still be playing Wales it seems, but only as a training fixture. Odd...

County weekend round-up

All of the weekend's county results have now been published - and some even more remarkable scores are included.


First, congratulations for Hertfordshire - the senior women's team - who completed a clean sweep for the county with a 30-7 win over Leicestershire. Only Essex did better with a 32-5 win over Sussex, and that with a side packed with familiar names from the days of the great U18 rivalry between the counties - India Harvey and Emily Scott were both among the Essex try scorers. Pity the two counties are not due to meet - would be great to watch.

In other games Lancashire also followed on from their juniors with a 30-7 win over Yorkshire to complete the hat-trick for the red rose - clearly Yorkshire's old U18 girls have not made it into the senior ranks in the same way that those in Herts and Essex have. Devon's women also completed a clean sweep over their Cornish rivals, 27-19. And Hampshire will be very disappointed by their 20-0 defeat to Kent - especially when they could not score even when had a two-player advantage near the end of the game. But the less happy news is that, just like their U15s, Warwickshire could not raise a women's team to play East Midlands.

  • Cheshire 15, North Midlands 22
  • Cumbria 17, Northumberland 7
  • NLD 21, Staffordshire 24

Results unpublished on Sunday now reveal that...
  • Gloucestershire were the winners in a three cornered set of fixtures involving Berkshire and Oxfordshire - moreover without conceding a try with a 27-0 win over Berkshire, and a 37-0 win over Oxon.
  • Cheshire beat North Midlands 32-12
So, based on the first round of games, the leading counties at U18 level are Dorset & Wilts, Gloucestershire, East Midlands, Surrey, and Hertfordshire. Will we get a better (if unofficial) idea about who the Champion County is after next month's round of games?


The headline result with the U15s is the amazing 99-0 win for North Midlands over Cheshire - though the fact that Cheshire would appeared to have only fielded 10 players may have been an important factor. Dorset & Wilts were almost as impressive in their 52-0 win over Somerset.

  • Berkshire were winners of a triangular also involving Gloucestershire and and Oxfordshire
  • Kent completed a disappointing weekend for Hampshire with a 26-0 win
  • Northumberland beat Cumbria 20-14.
The leading U15 counties so far would therefore seem to be... North Midlands, Dorset & Wilts, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey, and Devon.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Sydney scores two as Hertfordshire sweep opposition aside

Hertfordshire were overwhelmingly dominant in their county games, at both age groups, yesterday. The U18s destroyed hosts Leicestershire 78-0, scoring 14 tries in the 70 minute game (see the Herts blog for details), while the U15s swept to a convincing win in a three-way tournament beating Leicestershire 32-5 (six tries, two for Syd, one for Florrie) and then Notts, Lincs and Derbys 20-5 (these games were "only" 35 minutes, so the scoring was almost as one sided as in the U18 game).

Results of (most) of the county games are now appearing on the Rugby Roundup website (look under "Competitions" and then "Under 15" or "Under 18") - which is a great breakthrough, presumably coming from the merger with the RFU. Though the website suffers from some seriously annoying pop-up adverts, once you have waded through it all you will find full team lists and scorer information for most of the games.

Looking through these results a few highlights stand out. Lancashire U15s - not historically the strongest of counties - destroyed Yorkshire 61-0... in Yorkshire, a truly astonishing result considering that Yorkshire was a Region on its own until this season, though maybe we saw a foretaste of this with the significant improvement by Lancashire teams at the National 7s back in May.

Elsewhere in the U15s Surrey thrashed Sussex 44-0, and Devon were almost as dominant in Cornwall, wining 48-12. but other games were closer. Its good to see former East Region colleagues Essex rebuilding  as they beat Middlesex 19-10, and the same applies to Eastern Counties - in deep trouble last season - who ran East Midlands close losing only 20-12. On the other hand it is worrying to see that the Staffordshire/ Warwickshire CB were unable to raise a side - not an area that you normally think of as being weak.

In the U18s (in the games were results have been published) East Midlands almost matched Herts with a 70-0 win over Eastern Counties, and Dorset and Wilts blew Somerset away by 78-5. Other games were rather closer, but Devons U18s achieved the double with a 26-10 win over Cornwall, as did Lancashire with a 17-10 win over Yorkshire. Joe Randall's old county - Gloucestershire - had few problems beating Oxfordshire 37-0, Hampshire sneaked home 12-7 against Kent. Staffs & Warwicks did get an U18 side out, but they lost 26-20 to NLD, and finally (and perhaps a surprise result) Oxfordshire beat Berkshire 21-5.

One thing you may notice is how counties with strong U15 team also tend to have strong U18 teams, which presumably reflects the strength of the game at club level in each county (okay, county coaches may help - but  even the most brilliant of coaches would be hard pressed to make silk purses out of sows ears in only two or three training sessions!). When you think about where the big clubs are - the Lancashire U15 and Oxfordshire U18 results aside (surely Berkshire is is mainly Reading, for heaven's sake!) - there are no huge surprises. We know its good in Devon (Exeter Saracens, to name but one excellent club down there), and that the (unfortunately former) Gloucester Girls Rugby Trust did amazing things in that county. Dorset will be drawing on Wimboune, amongst others, and Surrey will presumably have the likes of London Irish behind their success.

However, the overall message that comes from - admittedly only just the first round of results - is how amazingly strong the game in Hertfordshire is. So, if you trialled for the county squad but didn't get in, don't have hard feelings - you were trying to get into one of the best county squads in England!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The time has come...

The time has come to tie down exactly who can and will play in the historic Old Letchworth/Legends Reunited v Old Welwyn match, to be played at Letchworth on the evening of Monday 20th December. The ground is agreed, the club are signed up - its all ready (apparently). All we need is YOU.

So - please can you confirm whether or not you can play on that evening. If you would like to play, but are still unsure of your availability, then please let me know that as well - a lack of reply by (let's say) 20th (at the very latest) will be taken as meaning that you cannot play. That would give us plenty of time to wind things down if it turned out that we did not have enough of you willing to play (a possibility which, it has to be said, seems unlikely based on initial responses). It will also allow us to decide whether we'll be playing 7s, 10s or a full 15-a-side game.

In addition, if you know of anyone who has not received this message but would still like to play, please pass the invitation on. The only qualifications are to be aged 18 years or more on the day, and to have worn the Black and Amber as a junior. In theory this means that well over 100 of you are qualified, so we really should be able to get a team together.

Anyway.... the main thing is that its going to be fun, the bar will be open afterwards, and all you need do to make it happen is hit this email link. Now.

Remembering Letchworth's fallen

If you are not going to Hertford on Sunday (see below) please try to come to the club at 12.45 - the end of the junior boys' training - for a special presentation for Remembrance Sunday.

You may have noticed in the clubhouse a small wooden plaque listing the players and club members who fell during the Second World War. Its a simple memorial, like many you see, but for most people they are just names. The war ended 65 years ago this year - a long time, even for their families, to remember the people behind these names.

So this Sunday promises to be very special. To mark the 65th anniversary one of the club's oldest and most distinguished members - Gordon Collinson - will be giving a brief presentation about the real people behind these names, many of whom he knew.

It'll be a fairly short event - 15-20 minutes perhaps - but an important one. Please come along if you can.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

County development day

Even if you are not playing for the county this weekend, there is still a great opportunity for you to have a game.

The county RFU are organising a series of development days designed to give girls who are not in the county squads as much game time as possible on County days. The next day will be at Hertford this Sunday and girls from both age groups are invited.

Players should arrive at Hertford after 12 o'clock - changing facilities may be available, but you should come ready just in case. After a group warm up/training session players will be grouped into teams to play a game or games from about 1pm, with the day finishing at 2 - 2.30pm.

These days are always great fun, and well worth attending - particularly if you are new to the game.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Getting ready for the game: expert advice

Scrumqueens has just published an excellent article, written by Sports scientist Tessa Morris (pic left) and Scotland women's rugby international Lynsey Douglas (right) detailing how players can make themselves as prepared as possible for a match.

Its gives advice on diet and liquid intake before, during, and after a game that will maximise your fitness and performance on the day, as well as helping you recover afterwards.

Admittedly, with most games being on Sundays, I suspect that the requirements may be quite challenging for some...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rolling substitutions to trial in student rugby

Some ex-Legends could find themselves testing what could be one of the most significant changes to the game for years. After a trial in the men's county championship last season, "rolling substitutions" will be introduced into BUCS inter-university rugby this season - both men's and women's. This is a very controversial development - some people seeing the idea as being a major contribution to player welfare, while others say it will change the game forever.

Rolling players on and off is not uncommon in junior rugby - especially friendly games - but whereas that is normally just a means of making sure everyone gets a game, rolling subs at a higher level becomes a coaching tactic. The basic idea is that - if a player is substituted - they will no longer out of the game - they will be able to go back on again.

Trouble is that, as well as being used to rest players, this might mean that key players could be brought on for key set-pieces - penalties, line-outs, scrums etc. - and then taken off again. To try to counter this teams are not being complete freedom to "roll" players on and off whenever they wish - instead they will be limited to 12 "interchanges" in a game. In practice, where this has been tried (and it is used in Rugby League, apparently), it has been the front row that has benefited - props in particular being rolled on and off to keep them fresh and fit.

Whether the rule change will be extended to the wider game, or whether there will be a wider trial, will be decided after the end of the university and county seasons in April.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New IRB Player Welfare database

A bit specialised and technical this, but if anyone is including rugby as an option in their GCSE or A-level studies (or even beyond) it could be worth looking at.

The system brings together all of the main IRB regulations on equipment, performance assisting drugs, injury prevention and reporting, and other welfare matters. If you want to run a tournament, for example, all of the main rules and advice are here in one place.

By and large there is nothing new here, but its well laid out and does bring lots of different things together in one place, making everything much easier to find. Especially if you have some sort of assignment to write. Go to to find out more.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Herts 7s saved - and girls' season extended into May.

Great news today. Thanks to the hard work of Peter McCullough and others at county, the RFUW have given the go ahead for Herts Sevens to be played after the "official" end of the season at the end of April.

The seventh edition of what has now become the biggest girls sevens tournament in the UK - and possibly anywhere else - will now take place on Sunday 6th May, probably at Hertford. What is more it will now be "officially" endorsed by the RFUW, and will be played a week before the National Sevens - which will also now be in May (14th May, venue to be confirmed), which makes much more sense than the mad idea of holding the event over Easter, as was previously intended.

With Herts Sevens now being played as an "official" event, over a Bank Holiday weekend, at the end of the season, and just a week before the Nationals, interest in the competition promises to be enormous! Don't miss it!!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Good news for ex-Legends and other distant followers of the team. After loads of hard work from existing players, managers, and the wider club - encouraged by Amanda Bate - Sydney tells me that the girls section now has not only a permanent coach but, even more importantly, a solid core of around 20 players, mainly at U15 level. It is a rate of growth that matches - even possibly exceeds - that of 2004, and being mainly at U15s gives the team a great base to build on for the next four years or more.

The U15s play their first game, at home, on Sunday - kick-off at c1pm. If you are around, why not come along and watch (and cheer on) the "new" Letchworth Girls?

Jade scores as U18 league begins

Congratulations to Jade Cooper, currently guesting for Saracens, who scored in what sounds like an overwhelming victory over Luton in their opening U18 league fixture. As results go it was not unexpected - Saracens are, as we know, an experienced side while this would be Luton's first season.

However, the size of the win does again question the idea of trying to get all teams - large and small, experienced and complete beginners - into the same, competitive, structure. Teams have to begin somewhere, obviously, and it is good to challenge a team against higher ranked opposition. However in the past - when the core of a season would be based around friendly fixtures - opposition could be selected and allowances made, especially if it was clear that games were one sided. But in a league you have no choice who you play and, with points and position at stake, not much room to manoeuvre over playing conditions either.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

School rugby - discrimination against forwards?

Occasionally I get to see rugby in schools and - as rule - most players seem to be able to pass and run, but tackling, rucking, mauling and, above all, scrummaging is normally pretty awful. This has always seemed a bit odd as all of these largely forward skills are dead easy to teach, great fun, and require little natural skill, ie. to perform at least adequately you do not need to be, say, a naturally fast runner, or even particularly strong - you just need reasonable technique and an ability to be in the right place at the right time.

Over time I had put these deficiencies down to the inescapable problem that the classes I get for rugby are invariably composed of boys, with all the obvious limitations that implies. However, today I happened across some Level Descriptions for rugby and I think I may have been wrong.

These descriptions will vary slightly from school to school, so if you are doing PE for GCSE or beyond you might want to check out yours, but what is stunningly obvious was that - whoever produced the basis behind these descriptions - you can bet your life he (definitely a "he" I think) was a back.

Take a typical Level 4 description. This will probably include lots of stuff about "passing accurately" and "using footwork to beat a defender" - all very important back skills - but of the important stuff for forwards you probably will be limited to a passing "be able to ruck and maul in a practice situation". Level 5 probably won't be much better - lots of things about spin passes that would allow a back to impress, very little about rucking or scrummaging that would give a forward a chance to score points. Frankly looking at the descriptions I saw today I can think of a few U18 regional level forwards who would struggle to reach a Level 5, while the average club-level backs would sail to a Level 8 with no problems.

In short, if you ever wonder why your school rugby consists of endless, endless passing drills, or why rucks are a mess, why nothing gets beyond second phase, and why no-one can scrummage properly, this would seem to be the answer. And if you are a forward (especially a front row!) getting lower scores than you expect - you now know why.

Monday, October 11, 2010

England lose to New Zealand - again

England's women's rugby team lost to World Champions New Zealand at the weekend, in the first of two test matches.

You didn't even know that they were on tour? Well, the 44-6 defeat was suffered by the "other" England team - the England Women's rugby league XIII who are in the middle of a post-season tour to New Zealand, who are World Champions in this code as well as our own.

For the rugby league girls the fact that they were unable to record a win in their warm-up game against a regional side - Counties Manukau - was perhaps a warning about what to expect in the test series. Still, they have a chance to put things right in the second test later this week.

Unfortunately our women's union team have rather longer to wait before they can gain revenge for that amazing world cup final last month. Sky TV and the RFU were so impressed and excited by that game - and the tournament as a whole - that a last minute attempts was made to try to get the Black Ferns back to England again for an Autumn test to be played as a "double header" with the men's test next month. Unfortunately, as ScrumQueens reports, it has proved impossible to arrange at such short notice. Trouble is that this is still an amateur sport - you have to consider things like employers, who had already been amazingly generous this year before you start worrying about sport-related costs that the professional game need not concern itself with.

Still, there are some serious positives to come out of this - not the least of which is that Sky were a major instigator of the idea. When a major national broadcaster is chomping at the bit wanting more you know that you are on the verge of something really special. Would it be too much to expect them to maybe show some of the Six Nations - live - next year. The game against France could be worth showing, at the very least

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

U20 "tri-nations" for 2011

England and Wales will have a new partner in U20 rugby this spring with news from north of the border that Scotland are setting up an age group squad, and will be playing both of the other home nations. Whether these games will be tallied together to make an official "Tri-Nations", or whether we will just have do it unofficially, has yet to be revealed.

England and Wales have been playing age group internationals against each other since 2003 - and, unlike the senior side - this has not been one-way traffic. Wales beat England at U19 level in 2004 and  2005 (when they also drew the return), and also won earlier this year at the new U20 age band. England, on the other hand, won three U19 games between 2003 and 2007 and have since added three wins at U20s. That Wales seniors have so far failed to build on their junior success (apart from that one game in 2009) is one of the slight puzzles of international rugby - is it a superior coaching regime in England, or a failure of the Welsh to bring their juniors through?

Now Scotland join the party - and it will be very interesting to see how they get on. We have all seen how the Welsh reforms of their junior structure resulted in significant improvements at regional level, so the success of their U20 team has really been no great surprise - but the Scots are an unknown quantity as there is not nearly as much cross-border rugby north:south as there has been east:west. These games will be fascinating to watch (though you suspect that Anglo-Welsh experience may give them an advantage at the start).

Its an exciting prospect. Perhaps the next step would be to get the French to join in on a regular basis, and maybe the Irish too. A European U20 championship perhaps?

And, of course, its something that all junior players can aspire to take part in. The new divisional structure will - at U18s - feed into the U20 squad trials, which is why country rugby is so important. A hart on the shirt this winter could be the first step to a red rose next!

(Or, alternatively, if anyone has family ties that give them the right to march behind the Saltire, there is still time to register for the Scotland trials).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Former coach gets down 'n' dirty!

Former Letchworth Girls coach Simon Hill was caught on New Zealand TV yesterday. Despite attempts to hide  behind a name change and some seriously heavy dark glasses, the former Letchworth 1st XV prop - who guided the girls through one of the most successful seasons (expanding vocabularies on the way) - is clearly recognisable as he makes waves (well, gardens anyway) in the Belfast area of Canterbury.

Catch the report here (though I suspect you need to be quick) - it starts about 30 seconds in after a brief bit about their earthquake. Simon gets a good five minutes or so and its good to hear his voice again, though much calmer than I remember it on the days when he used to prowl the touchline at Legends Lane. However, some delightful children do hove into view at one point leaving the viewer to imagine what Simon's choice of words must have been to them once the cameras had stopped rolling...

Monday, October 04, 2010

Relive the rivalry!

Amanda Bate is working to help get Letchworth Girls back to where it used to be (and belongs!) and has come up with a great idea to create publicity, raise funds, and generally show off to all and sundry what a great game this is.

It will be the Ultimate Challenge... the chance to relive Hertfordshire's greatest rugby rivalry... none other than...

Letchworth Legends Reunited v Old Welwyn

Yes, anyone who has ever pulled on the black and amber of the First Garden City is invited to squeeze into those old shirts again and take on the former players of the Second Garden City.

It is proposed that the game take place under the new Letchworth floodlights (they have finally replaced that 40w bulb!) on 20th December, with food and drink a-plenty afterwards (plus before, and maybe even during, if needed!).

Invites via Facebook have been sent to those whose Facebook details are known - please reply if you have had one. If you haven't then please let me know if you are interested asap - and tell anyone else you know as well!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Familiar face in short-list for IRB "Rugby Photo of the Year"

If you have played in any girls' rugby tournament - from Herts 7s and National 7s to county and regional tournaments - chances are she has taken your photograph. You'd probably recognise her face too, though chances are the name Lissy Tomlinson (from RugbyMatters) may be unfamiliar.

However, it may become slightly better known shortly as Lissy - who specialises in women's and girls' rugby - has been shortlisted for the IRB's annual "Rugby Photo of the Year" competiton with this photo (right) of Maggie Alphonsi ("England's Magnificent Flying Machine") brushing aside Ireland's Niamh Briggs at the World Cup last month.

If it wins the picture will appear on the cover of next year's IRB Yearbook, which will be a big thing for women's rugby in general, not just Lissy. However she's up against some stiff competition.

In fact three of the the six pictures in the running for the title feature women's rugby.

Australian photographer Michael Paler 'Semi's Delight' (left) records the joy felt by Australia's Lindsay Morgan and Danielle Meskell as they celebrate reaching the semi final of the World Cup following their 62-0 victory over South Africa.

However, the third picture is from completely the other end of the world of women's rugby. Richard Lane's picture "Bengal Khuki" shows a group of girls playing Rugby at an orphanage outside Kolkata, which he took last April during a charity trip to India to coach rugby to children.

The other three photos include a remarkable picture of Sale Sharks and Harlequins playing rugby in what appears to be a blizzard, South Africa men's sevens team preparing a match at the Emirates Sevens, and a close up of a player's hand as he makes a desperate attempt to touch the ball down in a match in South Africa.

The winner will be announced in early November.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Behind the scenes at the World Cup

Ripples from the World Cup continue to drift out, and the latest is pretty good. It captures the work behind the scenes that most people never saw, as well as being a great reminder of the wonderful atmosphere - especially in the first three rounds at Guildford. Watch it to remember those days if you went, or to see what you missed if you didn't!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What is the referee playing at?

An oft heard cry, especially at the World Cup when referees came in for a lot of criticism, especially in the final.

Truth is that the referees were doing what they were told - applying the laws and (more importantly) the latest "interpretations" from the IRB about how to apply these laws. These interpretations are much discussed, and have a big impact on the game - definitely at the professional level at least, but also at the lower levels too, especially if you get to play representative rugby - but we mere mortals rarely get to see them. The referees seem to keep them to themselves.

So it is really interesting to see this article where Paddy O'Brien, the head of the IRB's referees board, discusses some of the main interpretations for 2010. Its well worth a read because not only will you have a better understanding about what is going on when you watch professional games, but also much of the advice about what referees are looking for will make you a better player at every level - and much less likely to get "pinged" at some crucial moment in an important game. Well worth a look.

And if you are interested in this sort of thing - as a coach, referee or player - then The Huddle is a forum well worth looking at. And if you don't understand something about the game, or want to know how to improve why not drop them a question?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Four for the county

News reaches me that the county trials were well attended this year, and that competition for places in the squads was fierce (perhaps more than it has ever been, due to the new arrangements). Some very talented girls, including some with years of experience in mini/midi rugby, failed to get in - but four of our girls did!

So congratulations to Sydney, Ellah, Lily and Florrie who will all be pulling on the green of Hertfordshire this autumn. Good luck for the matches on 7th November (away to Leicestershire) and 12th December (three-way against Eastern Counties and Kent, in Eastern Counties) - and let's see if we can't get some of you into the Divisional squad in the New Year!

This also goes to show what a great core of strong players we have at Letchworth. With stars like these we'll have Letchworth Girls back in the national top 10 in no time!

  • And well done to Jade too, who made the U18s (sorry about missing you out earlier - my "contact" failed to mention it)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The great experiment begins

After a few weeks training the first part of the New Model Season for girls' rugby starts this weekend with county trials taking place across the country on Sunday. For clubs in Hertfordshire these trials will be at Welwyn, starting at 1pm.

This will be the first time that every county has had its trial on the same day - indeed in some parts of the country this may be the first time that a county has had trials, partly because we have now moved to RFU counties which results in some name changes. There were also no "early" trials anywhere this season, not least because all of the "traditional" tournaments - like the early season Sussex event - have also disappeared.

This year the county season is much shorter - and the trials are much more important. There will almost certainly be no 'A' or "Development" squad, and so no opportunities to make a name for yourself on the field over the next two or three months. If you do not get into the squad this weekend it is unlikely that you will get a second chance - and that matters because county rugby will be the route to the four new Divisional squads, and then next summer's TDGs.

Its a tough call for anyone with any ambitions beyond club rugby - and almost impossible for girls new to the game or even a new age group - but that is the what the RFUW have decided and we have to make the best of it.

However, this pales into insignificance beside what comes next. The following weekend the new club leagues are supposed to begin - "supposed" because we (and the RFUW) simply do not know how many of the clubs entered in the leagues will actually make their games, a problem made worse because RFUW will (quite reasonably) only allow affiliated clubs to take part, and the latest published list had a significant number of missing names!

There is one big surprise in the rules - and it has the potential to invite all kinds of dispute and gamesmanship (or, if you prefer, blatant cheating). To try to "ensure that girls get as much rugby as possible" RFUW will allow clubs to borrow players from other clubs - to quote the rules...
"A player can only be borrowed to help fulfil a fixture, for example to make up playing numbers or to cover a position specific. Players cannot be borrowed to enhance a teams playing ability at the expense of players within your own team or to gain a bonus point."
It was a necessary thing to do - but it is also a huge hostage to fortune. Quite how on earth RFUW intend to police that final, rather important, sentence is anyone's guess as the rules are silent on the point. What is more, given RFUW's lamentable record on dealing with the blatant cherry-picking of players by teams that made a complete mockery of the old National Cup, it must be a bit of a concern. Hopefully they have learnt from that and will not allow the more silverware obsessed clubs to ruin this competition as well.

Because this has to work. Deeply unpopular initiative though it is - I have yet to speak to any club coach who thought it was a good idea - this is only game in town now so it has to work. And no doubt it will, on paper. League games played, there will be league champions, and they will all play off for the new National Cup. There will be a National Champion, and pats on the back, photographs, and congratulations all round. What might have happened if RFUW had just left things alone we will never, unfortunately, know.

Girls' online sports magazine launched

Sportsister - the women's sports magazine - has launched a dedicated "mini-site" for girls.

Sportsister has been going for some years now, and provides regular coverage of women's rugby along with a huge range of other sports, as well as general fitness advice and competitions. It is mainly an online magazine, but also publishes an occasional printed magazine.

The new girls' page is "aimed at young women and girls with an interest in sport" and initially brings together articles and features aimed at or about junior sport. However, they are looking for feedback and views on how to develop the site - if you have any ideas contact

Sunday, September 19, 2010

When satire is just too close to the truth

The fallout from the IRB's decision to fine the Australian women's team who dared to come with 20m of the Black Ferns while they were performing their haka during the World Cup last month continues. Various writers have been complaining about the advantage that all this gives to New Zealand teams - maybe the time has come to end the haka?

The IRB's chief executive Mike Miller has responded by saying that it should continue as it is "a traditional part of the game. It would be a shame if people said: 'Let's do away with it' or felt the need to do some response that took away from the dignity and power of it."

However, so confused have the IRB's "rules" become about how opposition teams should behave that a "joke" news item from the satirical East Terrace website, published on Friday, was yesterday taken as real IRB advice by New Zealand television.

In their defence its not hard to see why - see if you can spot the difference between the real IRB advice on what teams can do when faced by the haka, and the "fake".
Quote 1: "Firstly, don't march within ten metres. Secondly, please don't turn your back on the Haka, this is must unsporting. We recommend not staring too aggressively either, we don't want any un-called for confrontation. Please don't do any kind of warm up or physical activity either, this is not called for at all and will cause offence."
Quote 2: "If [opposition teams] want to develop something - not a response, not a war dance, a traditional sporting or cultural way of engendering that team spirit for a match - great. They should be able to and we should create the space to do it."
Tricky isn't it? The first seems a bit unhelpful - what one earth can teams do? On other hand, the second is pretty bizarre too - could the IRB really be suggesting that teams develop their own piece of street theatre? A Morris Dance by England maybe, a bit of Riverdance by the Irish? Maybe France could wheel on a model guillotine? 

Follow the links above to work out the answer...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Does women's rugby need rule changes?

Interesting article today on Scrumqueens by Sunday Times journalist Stephen Jones, who has (uniquely?) been to every Women's world cup since the first in 1991. The article mainly looks at how much better the women's game has become - even since 2006 - but highlights one continuing problem. Kicking.

Even the best kickers, Jones says, do not kick the ball (either from hand, or as a place kick) nearly as far as the average man. As a result infringements that would be punished with three points in the men's game go unpunished as the women kickers cannot take full advantage of the penalties. This encourages teams to kill the ball far more in women's rugby (I think he may have been thinking about New Zealand here!).

Jones then comes up with some suggestions for rule changes that would apply just to women's (and therefore also girls') rugby, including allowing a penalty to be taken from anywhere that is the same distance from the posts as the offence - ie. the penalty could be moved from the touchline to in front of the posts if it was in kickable range, or from the centre of the field to near the touchline if the aim was to hit touch and gain ground.

Interesting ideas - but would they be workable? How would referees and coaches adjust? And if this is a problem in women's rugby, then the same problem must also occur in junior boy's rugby - should they have the same rule changes? What do you think? I can't say that I agree - to have women's rugby played to different rules (even relatively minor difference) would, I think, cause more problems than it would solve.

Kicking is a problem nonetheless. This is partly because girls very rarely kick - and are not really encouraged to try - partly because coaches are taught to coach boys who would kick all day if you let them! This is probably because girls at school tend to play games like netball and hockey (games with no kicking) whereas boys tend to play football. However, the main problem is that women are simply smaller (on average) than men, and simply cannot kick as hard (its all about the speed of your foot when it hits the ball, which is partly related to the length of your leg - think circles and radiuses and 2πr and stuff - see, maths can apply to the real world!). In other words if a man and a woman had the same amount of muscle, the man would kick harder.

Some sports change the equipment for women, and the RFUW have occasionally tried a smaller ball (size 4.5), but while this may improve handling it could actually make kicking even harder - surprisingly a lighter ball will probably not go as far (its all to do with impetus and aerodynamics - we're into physics now!).

So is there a solution - assuming that there is a real problem? Well, the fact is that New Zealand did get three yellow cards in the final, which would have made a difference to the result if England could have been able to take advantage of them. Would the answer be to simply be that women's (and girls'?) rugby is more strictly refereed? How would that go down with players...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to the real world: the season ahead

So - the World Cup is over and its back to reality.

The new season is a new beginning at Letchworth as all of the girls who set up the club have gone, as have most of the adults. Its going to be a season of rebuilding but, on the plus side, we have more or less the same number of girls that the section stared with in 2003 - so we know what can be done.

The good news is that, thanks to Amanda Bate - who helped get girls rugby going in the county - we look like we will be playing with Old Albanians his season, which means that we will now have a full season of fixtures to look forward to.

This is also a great time to bring new players into the team. Not only has women's rugby never been so popular and so talked about, but at Letchworth new players will not be held back, having to force their way into an existing team. So bring along your friends - there has never been a better time to play rugby!

In the meanwhile, the first big date is the county trials - and they are only two weeks away. Everyone who played last season should be able to get into one of the squads, which (with the new structure) have never been more important.

The most important breakthrough yet?

England flanker and (arguably) the player of the world cup, Maggi Alphonsi, will be joining the Sky Sports commentary team for their coverage of the English Premiership this season. This is a huge breakthrough for both Maggi, and women's rugby in general.

While TV coverage of women's sport will often include a female summariser, it is almost unheard of for a woman to be given such a role in men's sport. For a major sports broadcaster to recognise that a leading female rugby player can be as knowledgeable as a male is a huge vote of confidence in both the player and the game she plays (though it seems amazing to have to say that in the second decade 21st century!).

The appointment is apparently in recognition not only Maggi's knowledge and on-field experience, but also the easy and natural style she showed in front of the cameras during the tournament. However, as well as being good for Maggi, the result will be that the women's game as whole will benefit. Maggi will become a face recognised well beyond followers of women's rugby, which in turn means that when she plays she will generate an interest beyond existing supporters. And at last girls will have a female hero that they can look up to.

In addition every time she appears on screen it will send the message that rugby is no longer just a men's game, and that the country's leading rugby broadcaster takes the women's game seriously.

  • One of the other great personalities of the tournament - Catherine Spencer - was also interviewed by Sky about getting back to "normal" after the World Cup. Its well worth watching.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A team to beat the Black Ferns?

In the follow-up to the World Cup various World XVs have been published and discussed - teams made up from the best players in the World Cup.

This is all very interesting - and great fun - but the problem is that the teams picked have no-one to play, at least not until Mars takes up the game. Perhaps more realistic might be whether it is possible to come up with a team that will beat New Zealand - a Rest of the World XV to play the best in the world?

It has been done before. Back in 1990 there was a World Rugby Festival in Canterbury - a few months before the first proper World Cup. It featured USA, Netherlands, USSR and New Zealand and, after the main tournament, a XV chosen from the other three sides played the winner (New Zealand). New Zealand won (12-4), needless to say - apart from anything else they were used to playing together, which the World XV were not.

Maybe the time has come for a repeat. If so, and based on World Cup performances, who could the world outside the Land of the Long White Cloud put together to take on their four-time champions?

1.  Rochelle Clark (England)
Impressive performances throughout the tournament - at the heart of England's impressive pack

2. Laetitia Salles (France)
Ever-present as French hooker in two World Cups, a lynchpin of the most successful element of the French team (the maul) - and moreover scorer of two tries in the 2010 tournament.
3. Jamie Burke (USA)
US captain, hugely experienced, put in several impressive performances - especially in the final game against Ireland.
4. Tamara Taylor (England)
5. Jo McGilchrist (England)
The England second row partnership - peerless, even in comparison with the Black Ferns - especially McGilchrist who had an amazing tournament.
6. Heather Fisher (England)
Missed the final owing to injury - probably the most significant absence as prior to the final Heather had had an excellent World Cup.
7. Maggi Alphonsi (England)
Is any explanation needed?
8. Debby Hodgkinson (Australia)
We knew she was a good Sevens player, we didn't know she was a brilliant 15s star as well - and moreover one that got better and better as the tournament went on. Was fantastic against England.
9. Frida Ryberg (Sweden)
Tricky choice this one, but - with her pack under unbelievable pressure in every game - Frida never failed to get the ball away (a heck of an achievement), and speed of pass would be important against the Ferns. 
10. Katy McLean (England)
At no position is there greater competition, and - although Katy did not have an outstanding final - her kicking from hand was still far better than any competitor. And if there were any doubts about her goal kicking then there alternatives below...
11. Nicole Beck (Australia)
Is there even the slightest doubt about this? An 80% plus goal kicker, she flies like the wind with ball in hand, can side-step like a dream, and as for the tackling...
12. Sharni Williams (Australia)
A crowd favourite - and with justification. Give her half a yard and you are dead. A scarily good centre.
13. Lucy Millard (Scotland)
A nugget of pure gold in a very average team. Amazing feet - always a threat with the ball - coupled with super defence.
14. Heather Moyse (Canada)
A sporting superstar. Strong, fast, clinical. You do not get to be the leading try scorer in two consecutive World Cups without being very good indeed.
15. Danielle Waterman (England)
Produced more gasps from the crowd in the final than any other player. Seems so small, but has a hand-off that would stop a charging rhino. She can also tackle like a runaway train, and run like the wind. What more do you want?
16. Catrin Edwards (Wales)
17. Amy Garnett (England)
18. Joy Neville (Ireland)
19. Marie Alice Yahe (France)
20. Christy Riggenberg (USA)
21. Cobi-Jane Morgan (Australia)
22. Kat Merchant (England)

Other players who would join a touring party to New Zealand would include:
Stéphanie Loyer (France), Kelly Russell (Canada), Catherine Spencer (England), Mel Berry (Wales), Zandle Nojoko (South Africa), Fiona Pocock (England), Charlotte Barras (England), Nimah Briggs (Ireland).

Sunday, September 05, 2010

World Cup: where next?

Where next indeed. An announcement for the venue of the next World Cup was due in May... then delayed until this week... and now there will be no announcement until next year.

Its not just that this year's tournament has taken the bar to a whole new level - it seems that the IRB just were not completely happy with any of the bids from USA, Kazakhstan and Samoa (New Zealand withdrew). In fact they have reopened bidding, so any Union can now bid to host the event.

At this stage it looks like the bid will be for a 12-team event - but while USA seemed the best bet to host, it seems that where it will be is anyone's guess now - but presumably not Europe

World Cup in review

Phew - of the 30 games in the 2010 World Cup, I have saw 14 - live - and every country at least once, so more than that. So, how was the sixth Women's Rugby World Cup?

For those who were lucky enough to get into see the whole tournament it has been amazing. The weather has bee just about perfect (Day 2 was very windy, but that was the day I missed so I can't really comment). The festival feel of the pool stages at the Surrey Sports Park really had to be experienced to be believed. Players and fans from all eight countries mixing together with great spirit, and all living up to their national stereotypes. The dignified and friendly Swedes, coping stoically with their teams defeats; the LOUD, brash Americans; the happy Irish (invariably to be found dominating the bar); the passionate French with flags and song - they were all there and it was heaven to be in the middle of it all.

Its also pretty clear that the one major criticism of the tournament is that the organisers totally failed to realise what a draw it would have - and that these spectators would be flooding in from all over Europe and beyond. Perhaps they were just looking at previous tournaments, but in England, with so many expat populations in and around London, it was blindingly obvious that 2,500 seats per day would not be enough.

On the field the standards were high, if varied. New Zealand and England were playing on another level throughout, and in many respects it was the games played by the other teams that were far more interesting. So what were the best games? Curiously on all of the pool days they were games that TV did not show!

Day 1 - Sweden v France. This is going to be a bit of a massacre I said as we went over to Pitch 2 for this match. Boy was I wrong! France were dreadful, Sweden inventive and determined, and for a few glorious minutes a sensation seemed possible. In the end France staggered across the line - just - but it was a great start from the tournaments least heralded team.

Day 2 - Ireland v USA. I didn't see it, but it sounds like it was a great game with Ireland playing out of their skins. Really sorry to have missed it. Wales v South Africa ran it a close second.

Day 3 - Canada v France. Some debate about this as England v USA was also good - but in that game it was obvious who would win, but for the former game it was not. Admittedly Canada and France did not give us a feast of high quality rugby, and the referee did her best to stop any flow, but the sheer tension felt by both teams and all spectators was really something.

Semi-finals - England v Australia. Have to go with this one as it was the tightest game - well other than South Africa v Kazakhstan, but that game suffered from being a bit of an ill disciplined scrap, England and Australia was full of skill and pace

Finals - England v New Zealand. An amazing game of rugby, not that pretty, but so exciting - you could not take your eyes off it for a second - but see elsewhere! However it is clear that USA v Canada ran it close for sheer excitement.

Player of the tournament - for me, only one player in it - Nicole Beck. I know the official award went elsewhere, but that was simply wrong. Clearly Maggi Alphonsi ran Nicole close, but we know about Maggi - she has been playing for years. Nicole only started playing contact rugby two years ago! The most reliable kicker, she can also score fantastic tries, and as for her tackling... need anyone say more?

Most watchable player - slightly different this - not just sheer skill, just the player I loved to watch. And again just one clear winner - Uli! Ulrika Andersson-Hall. Graceful, exciting, talented, a leader - nay a talisman. Great hands, great boot, and (from what I was told) a really nice person as well. Also has a great fan club, especially noticeable today. Only downside is that today was also her last ever international. Shame!

World Cup: And the difference was...?

Up front - they were superbly matched. Nothing given or taken

But it really was the backs. Every time New Zealand's back line got the ball they looked dangerous - lethal. They always looked like they might score. England - particularly in the first half - way too flat, too slow, not running onto the ball enough.

That improved noticeably after half-time - but still did not match New Zealand, who were able to snuff out almost every England passing move.

Discipline - and poor kicking - nearly cost New Zealand - they really lost their rag with the referee, who will have done wonders for trans-Tasman relations.

But its a New Zealand win. Signing off from The Stoop before the batteries die...

World Cup Final: Its here at last!

Five minutes to go, and the teams are walking onto the field. Huge noise. Ground a good 90% full.

So - how did the first half go. Awful start for England with Black Fern kick-off being fumbled. That gave them a base from which they dominated play for much of the half.

However, repeated penalties cost New Zealand dear - and caused much frustration, as well as two yellow cards. That England did not - or could not - take advantage of this was significant. That New Zealand scored with only 14 on the field was also ominous.

The good points, for England, is that New Zealand kicking remains poor. Okay, conversion kicked, but two other penalties missed - and more to the point there is considerable reluctance among the New Zealand team to take the penalties. Of course, if you can score tries with 14 players who needs kickers?

For England the main area of concern is the back line. Its so flat, no-one is running onto the ball, the passing is laboured, slow, and obvious. Small wonder that they are not breaking through, the odd run by Nolli Waterman and Kat Merchant notwithstanding.

Anyway - in one minute they are out again. Its 7-0 (bookmaker right again), and all to play for.

Right - 11 minutes left now, and its 13-10 to New Zealand. Try from Barras on the right after massive pressure following yellow for Ferns captain Ruscoe, excellent conversion, by Black Ferns soon ahead againw with a penalty from Brazier.

The noise is incredible, the atmosphere amazing, the England defence remarkable. But now its change round with all the subs - what differnce will this make?

10 minutes to go England on their own 10m line. Now into NZ half. Ruck. NZ win ball. chipped over top by Ruscoe, the excellent return ny Mc Lean... you cannot hope to keep up with this!

8 minutes. Line out England 22. England take line and drive forward. Breaks out to Scarratt, but loses ball. Now on England 5m... but England win a penalty!

7 minutes to go. Line out England 22. Taken, but Beale tackled into touch.

6 minutes NZ lineout, same place. Passed left - but thump! Stopped by Maggi! Still found its way to left wing, but knock on.

5 minutes. Scrum. England 22. Tackled into touch.

4 minutes. As above! In the same place now for two minutes... England put in - down the line. WAterman hands off - amazing power. Like hitting a wall.

3 minutes. 13252 - biggest EVER women's international crowd. Richardson down - stop the clock. No replacements left... could this be crucial? It'll be a scrum about 18m into England half. Richardson off on stretcher. England down to 14...

2 minutes. Ball in NZ hands on far side. Ruck. Penalty to NZ - off feet. Brazier going to the points, will waste time even if she misses.

1 minute. Falls short, England attack out of defence - but knock-on. Scrum 5m. Fi Pocok on bench in tears.

Time. 13-10. New Zealand are World Champions again.

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