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...

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Autumn internationals... part 1

And so ends the first part of this autumn's women's internationals... now its time to take a breath before New Zealand arrive. However, before it all gets lost and forgotten in the inevitable fuss and hoopla that will accompany the arrival of the Black Ferns, its worthwhile looking back on the past couple of weeks.

Losing both games on their French tour is not what England would have expected, but it was refreshing to see the management take a risk and leave some big names at home so that the stars of the future could have a taste of the game at the highest level. Having winning as an absolute priority, and always picking the absolute best team available for every game, is all well and good but flirts with disaster as often the entire squad plays, ages, and retires together.

Now England have five new players with international experience who could be in the team for 2018, never mind 2014, which is a huge positive. Hopefully England will continue to allow these five, and other up-and-coming players, to develop their careers over the next year. The only fear might be that we may get a repeat of what seemed to happen after the Sevens squad failed to win its first warm-up tournament in the spring - the panicked jettisoning of the policy of the long build-up to 2013 and the drafting in of established players to ensure that England won every game thereafter. RFUW need to hold their nerve - after all its not the results this season that matter, its the ones in 2014.

And puncturing complacency is not a bad thing - as is seeing England's biggest European rivals turn a corner. Its six or seven years now since the Six Nations was last truly competitive, but the next tournament could be one of the best for some time. France, buoyed up maybe by the success of their men's team, found a consistency and self-belief that was remarkable. Not only did they win all three internationals, in the space of just eight days, but they also took part in a highly competitive Elche Sevens tournament in Spain at the same time (raising the question of why England were not there - after all, their men's team were).

A significant factor in French success was rediscovering players who could kick. The return of Aureile Bailon to the team - absent throughout last season - and the discovery of the remarkable Jessy Trémoulière gave extra strength to any already exciting backline. Trémoulière is, of course, yet another international goal kicker who has converted to the game from another code - when will Unions see that girls need to include kicking in their game from the earliest years? In particular, if English girls do not kick a ball before the age of 13, where will our future international full-backs and fly-halves come from?

The week was about more than England and France, however. Scotland started their season with something that they have seen little of for some years - a win, and a convincing one too, in Amsterdam, by 33-10. Admittedly the Dutch are rather concentrating on Sevens at present, and their best players were all at Elche where they finished runners-up to to the hosts. It was just the result that Spain needed - and had to achieve as they prepare for the IRB Sevens in Dubai (if nothing else it justified their selection).

Perhaps the only country that finished the week with negatives would be Italy. A team that has performed so well in recent Six Nations was beaten with embarrassing ease by a young French team, a result that follows on from their disappointing European Trophy performance. They may struggle to repeat their recent performances in the next Six Nations.

But until then we have the Black Ferns tour, Dubai Sevens - plus international sevens and fifteens tournaments across the globe from the Caribbean to Indo-China. The world's second biggest women's team sport rarely stops these days!

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