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...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

BBC Sport website. An apology. Sort of.

A couple of weeks ago I complained about the BBC Sport website inability to recognise, acknowledge or even  mention England's seventh Grand Slam on the day it happened. Yes - they had done a nice preview (well, BBC News Channel had and website copied it) but for a report on the actual outcome of the game we had to wait until the next day. And then it was basically just a reprint of the RFUW's press release. Publishing the result of such an historic event some 18 hours afterwards does rather bely the idea that the internet is where you get the latest news! Indeed, given 18 hours, "olds" might be a better word...

Overall I may have given the impression at the time that I thought that the BBC Sport website incompetence at this time was because they had something against women's rugby. I must now apologise unreservedly for that because events today show I am wrong.

For today England Women's football team (you know - the weird game where they run round kicking the ball) played an important European Championship qualifier away in Croatia. And won. 6-0. Away. Remind me - when did an England men's team last manage that?

Anyway - although the game finished some time ago - the BBC Sport website have also, thus far, failed to acknowledge the result. At all. Nice preview again (reprint of an FA press release though, I think), but no result.

So, as I say, I apologise for giving the impression that the BBC Sport website was biased against women's rugby. Its not. Its biased against all women's sport.

Girls' rugby: a health report

The RFUW's review of the U13 game, and the U15 and U18 leagues, has yet to report but responses to last week's item do seem to suggest that some people have doubts about the outcomes:
I am not convinced the RFUW survey will help anyone. I think the RFUW have fooled themselves with statistics as to how successful they are. We hear reports that more girls are now playing rugby due to the new U13 format. This is because RFU staff are going into schools and delivering programmes and counting these heads. They are not getting these kids to clubs and clubs are suffering.
The concern is that, while more girls are playing this introductory game at school, very few players are making their way into clubs - and that the club game, and especially the U15 age band, is struggling.

One way to test this - well, the only way - is to look at the number of clubs competing (club registrations mean little - it can often be little more than a statement of intent, the hope that a girls team will be formed - and as for player registrations... ROFL!). Fortunately the leagues have published results, and we can even compare this season with last. Not all teams play in the leagues, obviously, but the major teams probably do.

What is remarkable is the contraction in entries. For 2010/11 there were 9 U15 and 9 U18 leagues, with 54 and 57 clubs entered respectively. This season that had shrunk to 5 U15 and 6 U18 leagues, with 36 and 41 entries - a loss of a third of the U15 teams and a fifth of U18s.

However, that might be understandable. Last season the leagues were starting out and clubs were pretty much blackmailed to enter very early even if they did not know if they could make the games. So the lost teams means that for 2011/12 the leagues will have consolidated down to the strong well-established clubs.

Or you'd hope so. There is, however, one way of testing this. How many games have actually been played? last season, at the time we reviewed the league, 531 matches had been "played", of which 179 had ended in walkovers - just over a third (33.7% to be exact).

So - if in 2011/12 we have reduced the competition down to the strong and reliable then this walkover rate should have fallen. Dramatically.

The trouble is - the scary thing is - it hasn't. Overall 388 games are now recorded as being "played", and 114 have been walkovers - a small reduction (29.3%), but still roughly a third and hardly the sign of a healthy game.

Admittedly its a mixed picture. Some U18 leagues have gone very well - every game so far in London South has been played, and only one game in North U18s resulted in a walkover. But the U15s is a different matter - overall it is worse than last season. 66 out of 182 U15 games have been walkovers - 36%. In Midland U15 the opposition has failed to show up for nearly half the games - 15 out of 32 - and South and London North have been nearly as bad.

The implications of this are very worrying. Indeed. In 2010/11 a third of all games were walkovers, and the result was that a third of clubs failed to register for this season. If that pattern is followed in the future (and there seems no reason why this would not be the case)...

  • In 2012/13 there will be 24 U15 teams and 30 U18 teams in 4 leagues
  • By 2013/14 there will be 16 U15 teams and 23 U18 teams in 3 leagues
  • By 2014/15 there will be 10 U15 teams and 18 U18 teams in 2 or 3 leagues...
Well, you get the idea.

Someone remind me - how many teams were there playing in the various very successful "unofficial" leagues - Surrey, and Thames Valley, and South West, and Midlands - before the experts in Twickenham thought they knew best and took it all over? And then decided to "help" the U15 age band by taking a third of its players away?

Its almost as if, embarrassed by the success of the national team, RFUW are determined to torpedo the game below the waterline by killing off junior girls' rugby. In fact I can't think of a better explanation...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

England 7s set marker for World Cup

Jo Watmore scores winning try for England in final
There are times when England's policy on women's sevens is a bit... hard to read. On the one hand we have the Open Trials where the policy appears to be like New Zealand - take talented athletes and teach them to play rugby as a long-term project aimed at 2016. Then, when that team fails to win everything immediately, this changes with more and more seasoned players coming in.

Over the past year each tournament seems to have had more and more players from the Elite Squad, fewer and fewer from the Sevens Squad. There are now only about four players left from the 10 selected 12 months ago, and one of them is Michaela Staniford who, with over 50 England caps, is a bit untypical of the rest!

Anyway - it is now clear, I think, that the policy is to pick the best team England can at all times, and win everything. And you really cannot argue to much with that. Not least when it works as well as it did last night.

The 12-woman squad selected for the Hong Kong Sevens - the second IRB Women's Challenge tournament - included only four players who had played in last year's European Championships, and only seven from the first IRB Challenge in Dubai last November, where England had finished as runners-up. Out when young players like Emily Scott and Sarah McKenna, and in came Elite players like Rachel Burford and Alice Richardson. With 10 "Elite" players in all, England clearly meant business.

England breezed through the pool - as they would have been expected to, facing China and Japan. The former is pouring money and resources into sevens rugby, but their target is 2016 - this is just a stepping stone on the way. The latter are Asia's third best team and, despite a lot of investment as well, are unlikely to make the World Cup next year. England scored 69 points, conceding just one try to China.

This gave England a semi-final against Canada this morning (you have to wonder who the incompetent genius behind the seeding for this tournament was, incidentally, as this was not the only occasion where match scheduling - and come to that team transport arrangements - raised eyebrows). Canada had not lost a game for over a year, and had five major titles to their name - but England won by 22-12. Then in the final England beat World Champions Australia, as they had in Dubai, this time 15-10 (ScrumQueens match report).

Its now pretty clear that England have beginning to target sevens in a way that they never have before. In May England will host their first ever international women's sevens tournament - the IRB Challenge at the London Sevens, after which it will be the European Series and World Cup qualifier, and then next year the new IRB Women's Series.

What will be interesting to see is what effect this all has on the England XVs team. French attempts to play 15s and 7s at the same time has not been a success, and when England tried it in 2009 the result was their only failure to record a Grand Slam in the past seven years.

  • Overall a great 7s for England... and also Australia, and Spain - plate winners again having come with seconds on making the semi-finals. Truly criminal that they will not be in London!!! China also well after their pasting from England, thumping Russia (who had beaten Netherlands) and pushing Spain all the way.
  • USA will be happy with the semi-final, and World Cup hosts Russia will also take some positives from this weekend.
  • Canada, on the other hand, have had a wake-up call - they are no invincible after all. Japan will be disappointed, but for Netherlands it was close to a disaster. Two weeks in South Africa preparing, and from four games they could only beat Hong Kong....

Friday, March 23, 2012

U13s: What's the verdict?

The continued success of England at international level is not unrelated to the numbers and quality of the young players coming through to the national team. At least half-a-dozen of the current elite squad could still play U20 rugby, and star players like Emily Scarratt are still at university - the age and place that, ten years ago or so, most England players started playing.

Girls rugby at clubs around the country has therefore made a huge contribution to England's success, bringing girls into the game, and developing their talent before they move on to greater things (a fact that is often ignored, even in some individual player biographies). England's success is based on the club system, and one of the best pieces of advice with any system is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Tinkering around should be done with care, and for a very good reason.

The only major difficulty with the existing system was the drop-out of girls from around the age of 9 who did not want to play mixed rugby, a situation made worse when U15 rugby came in as there was no longer anywhere that 11-year old girls wanting to play rugby could go.

Then a year ago, out of the blue, RFUW came up with a solution - the introduction of U13 rugby - a type of game designed to encourage secondary schools to offer the game.  The aim was that more schools would offer this simpler game, and player numbers would therefore increase (thereby saving the RFU's grants from Sport England). However, it was a huge gamble as the new age band cut across the existing U15 club age band - where player numbers were already a problem. Intense lobbying against the change from clubs was all but ignored

So, a year on, what effect has it had?

Well, on one level it may have succeeded. Certainly the entry for the London North Schools tournament in Bishops Stortford last week was larger than ever before, with some 50 or so teams competing in the U13 and U15 competitions (with Hertfordshire schools dominating the winners' podium). Quite what the situation has been around the country is anyone's guess as such information is all but impossible to obtain.

The trouble is that, while schools can be useful in introducing the game, with an overcrowded PE curriculum, and increasing pressure from academic subjects, the days when a sport could rely on schools to provide their new young players are long gone. In all sports now it is the clubs where the next generation of stars can be found - and unless these schoolgirls are making it through to club rugby then the rise of players will have no effect on the game as a whole.

And this is the problem. The new system is totally dependent on whether schools in an area are willing to offer girls rugby (given a multitude of alternative sports), and - just as important - whether a club has good links with those schools. Where the two come together it seems to be working - several of the successful Herts schools were from North Herts and Stevenage, and as Hitchin have had strong links with these schools for years, they are benefiting. However, where few schools take up the game well established girls clubs like Saracens are now struggling. Similarly schools offering U13 rugby where there are no clubs will mean that sporting girls will go to other sports, the effect of the new game being wasted.

As far as clubs like Saracens are concerned the new U13 system does nothing solve the problem of keeping girls in the sport, made worse by girls being unable to start playing club rugby until they are 13. If anything it has made things worse.

The result is that Saracens are reporting that they may have a tiny handful of U15s next season, and barely a dozen U18s (if that). Other traditionally major clubs - clubs that have produced some of the current young England players (Rochford for example) - are also reported to be in the same position. Elsewhere other developments, like some local county RFUs taking over running the girls game, has been disastrous with  the collapse of county "cluster" teams (never mind girls club rugby). On this one at least Hertfordshire - which has always gone its own way - remains immune... for the time being.

Overall, therefore, it seems (from admittedly little available evidence) that both sides may have been right. The new game has been more popular in schools, RFU can claim that player numbers are up and keep its grant money BUT for clubs - the training ground for the England team of 2020 and beyond - unless they are lucky to have connections with schools offering new game, it is killing girls' rugby.

The good news is that the RFUW are reviewing the effect of the new game... the bad news is that the review  has already collected all its feedback it wants (was your club asked?) and will be making a decision next month. There will also be reporting on U15 and U18 leagues, which continue to have the problems many predicted when they were introduced.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

England make history... but fail to impress BBC Sport website

Seventh successive title, six Grand Slam in seven years, and the first team to ever win a Six Nations without conceding a try. By any stretch of the imagination England's 2012 Six Nations campaign has been pretty impressive.

But not impressive enough for the editors of the BBC Sport's rugby union website. Take a look - as things stand there is nothing at all. Not a word, not a photograph. Nothing whatsoever.

Coverage of the England women's challenge for the Six Nations has been pretty good on TV this year - up to this week there has been plenty of mentions and highlights, especially when John Inverdale has been involved.

But clearly the amount of room on the web available is much more constrained and limited than time on TV, and given with a choice of covering a truly remarkable and unique news story happening today, or a detailed review of games that happened 22 years ago well its pretty obvious where the BBC web site should concentrate its efforts...
  • A news report in England's triumph did eventually appear on the BBC Sport Website... the following day, some 18 hours or so after the game finished. No reports from any games involving any other the UK's other teams have appeared (that I can find). Comprehensive reports on all the men's internationals appeared within minutes of the end of each game. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A women's Heineken Cup?

While looking for something else, I happened across the fact that a couple of senior women's rugby officials in France have responsibility for a  "Coupe d'Europe Clubs".

A European Club Cup? For women's rugby teams? Like the men's Heineken Cup? Apparently so - and digging around a bit more I also found that it has already happened - twice - in 2007/8 and 2008/9. In both cases the winners were French because, although it was organised by FIRA - the European rugby federation - only teams from France and Spain took part... and the results were a shade one-sided.

What a shame! Obviously anything on the size and scale of the Heineken would be financially and practically impossible for a amateur sport, but something like the FIRA European Championship for national teams, played at one location would surely be possible? Play it in the south of France over, say, the May Day week and you'd get good crowds to. Anything that brought together the champion clubs from England and France, plus some other nations, would be fascinating. Wasps women v Perpignan? Lons v Saracens?

And it not that unrealistic. Women's hockey - also an amateur sport, and no more high profile nor wealthy than rugby - has a European Cup every year for clubs. So does women's football (also largely amateur). So why not rugby? Anyone ever thought of asking Heineken?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Englands seventh Six Nations title now inevitable

Short of the Irish doing something amazing next week.

Ireland are pretty good, but England are now so far ahead of the rest of the Six Nations that the tournament now needs some sort of handicap system. In addition France and Ireland have now pulled so far ahead of Wales, Scotland and Italy that most games are becoming pretty predictable.

England have yet to concede a try, and have point difference of +132 from four games. At the other end Scotland have yet to score a point, Italy have only one try, and both have points differences in excess of -100.

What can you do? France tried probably the only available tactic - slow down the game as much as possible, keep the score down, and hope something happens. Trouble is that once England have gone 10-0 up that had rather failed and the French were chasing a game they could never win.

Next weekend Ireland - who are pretty much a match for France - will no doubt try the alternative of throwing the ball around and attacking (because that is what Ireland do). Its unlikely to make much difference, and may result in a larger defeat.

Its down to many things, including years of investment in an elite system that has brought through players like Scarratt and Fleetwood (that this has damaged the grass roots is another argument), and a match schedule that is as identical to the professional men's team. France lost today partly because of experience at this level - England's youngest players had cap totals in double figures, France had players of the same age in only their second or third game. That makes a difference.

There comes a point where the rest of the Six Nations have to decided whether they are going to follow England and organise overseas tours and comparable talent spotting systems - or give up and produce a trophy for finishing second. With Wales abandoning their U15 programme this year it looks like they, at least, have opted for the latter.

England U20s hammered in Paris

No details yet, but England U20s have just lost 50-0 to France in Paris - but a country mile the worst ever result for an England age group team, and close to the worst ever for any English women's team. Even more astonishing when you remember that England U20s (with some differences in personnel) beat everyone in the world last year.

Needless to say the French coach was delighted: "They have had a big game. They kept their shape and did not get cocky despite the score quickly swelling. There is heart in this team. They wear the jersey with pride. It is a pleasure to coach. Our next deadline is in April- a mini tour of England with two games."

RFUW's match report:

England Women Under 20s experienced a tough learning curve today (Sunday) with their French counter parts running in eight tries in a 50-0 victory at the Suzan Lenglen Stadium in Paris.

England, fielding a young side with 12 players in the 22 making their England U20s bow, struggled against a much more experienced French outfit who could boast ten players with U20s and international sevens experience in their starting XV.
French No. 8 Sophie Pin was in formidable form, while the likes of Camille Cabalou and Aissetou Diallo causing England several headaches all over the park.

England U20s Head Coach Amanda Bennett said: “France were an extremely athletic and powerful side. They had lots of pace, executed their off-loading with precision and their support work was outstanding. They made it extremely hard for us to defend but the players have learned so much today about international rugby and that will only benefit them in the long term.

“Round two against France will come in April on our turf and we are already relishing the opportunity to play them again. We know we have to make some big improvements in terms of our physicality and also developing a much more powerful game. We have also got to be more effective at our line-outs and scrums. Our attitude however was good and the team never gave up. Despite the score they kept their heads up and kept digging until the very end.”

After an early missed penalty for centre Cabalou, France put their first points on the board with a eighth minute penalty and then had another chance at goal on 13 minutes but Cabalou’s kick this time went astray.

17 minutes in and a French line-out in England’s 22 saw powerful No. 8 Pin make a great break. Despite her power she was pulled down just short of the try-line but prop Arkya Ait Lahbib was in support and she muscled her way over to score. Cabalou converted and then added a second penalty moments later to hand France a 13-0 lead.

Nearing the half hour mark, some good work by France at the breakdown saw Pin in the thick of it before the ball was moved out-wide, with four great offloads ending up with wing Diallo showing her speed to sprint past England fullback Georgia Peedle.
Cabalou couldn’t make the conversion but soon France had established a 23-0 lead when an error by England saw Lauriane Lissar pick up a loose ball and run in for a soft try. Diallo then rounded off the second-half with her second touchdown just before the break when some missed tackles by England saw the wing side step her way through England’s defence and charge 60 metres up-field to score. With Cabalou making the conversion France went into half time with a healthy 30-0 lead.

In the second half, the one way traffic continued for France with some immediate pressure on England’s try-line. England held firm but it came at a cost with prop Catherine Pugh taking a heavy knock and leaving the field while fellow front rower Mica Evans was also out of action for some time. France made the most of their advantage and in the end fly-half Julie Billes cut a good line to score near the posts.

On form centre Cabalou then added to her tally with her first try with Billes and Pin at the heart of the action before an offload to Cabalou, who finished off the move with a try on the right wing. The fly-half couldn’t add the conversion but with France already 40-0 up it did not matter much.

As France entered the final period of the match, England rallied hard to keep their rivals at bay but they couldn’t stop the onslaught and instead France ran in a further two tries, courtesy of Morgane Peyronnet and Audrey Boniface, making the final score 50-0.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Most watched women's rugby video?

This one is a bit unusual. A music video that features women's rugby, and by clocking up over 4,000 hits in four days it is probably the most popular women's rugby video ever!

Even though it is a music video it features proper women's rugby - played by real players, not models or actors. Okay, its a German band - the players are from leading German club side St. Pauli - but even so its rather noteworthy.

Some real effort and expense has also gone into the video - its not just some random training game put to music. The song seems to be the usual thing with the singer confused about her feelings towards her partner - and so the players are labelled "Me" and "You" ("Ich" and "Du) to illustrate her internal battle.

The Alin Coen Band are not exactly at the centre of German music, but have made the charts in the past and may do so again. If they do German women's rugby can only benefit.

TWO live women's Six Nations games this weekend!

As well as France v England live on Sky on Sunday, the IRFU have just announced that Ireland v Scotland will be webcast live tomorrow night, from 7.30pm. This is remarkable turnaround of support for the women's game, and probably has quite a lot to do with the wall of bad press that collapsed on the union following the Pau debacle.

It is also very probable that the IRFU have been encouraged to respond to the way that news about the last Ireland international using the #wrugby tag "trended" on Twitter in Ireland.

Either way, the only international this weekend that does not seem to be available to armchair viewers is Wales v Italy - despite BBC cameras being there for the preceding men's game.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

IRB announce seedings and draw for Hong Kong

Unusually the IRB have announced and explain their seedings for the IRB Women's Challenge, to be played in Hong Kong at the end of the month - in tournaments its normally possible to work out what the likely seedings were, but this is the first time I can remember its being made so clear.

The seedings are:

  1. Canada
  2. England
  3. Australia
  4. USA
  5. Spain 
  6. Netherlands
  7. Brazil
  8. China
  9. Russia
  10. Japan
  11. Hong Kong
  12. Tunisia
This all gives the following groups:

A: Canada, Brazil, Russia
B: England, China, Japan
C: Australia, Netherlands, Hong Kong
D: USA, Spain, Tunisia

Having three-team groups really builds the pressure as there is no margin for error, and nothing for coming second in the pool. Group winners will pay for the Cup, runners up for the Plate, and third places for the Bowl. While Canada and England have great draws that will given them semi-final places, there will be titanic battles elsewhere. Australia v Netherlands and USA v Spain - which are the opening games of the tournament - are going to be huge games with the losers severally disappointed as they will miss-out on playing for the cup. Brazil v Russia will also be massive as both will want to avoid playing in the third tier.

In fact, other than England and Canada, this is pretty tough to call, but if Kelly van Harskamp is back for the Dutch (and she was hinting that she might be) I think they could edge Australia, while I think Spain - who really have something to prove after being sidelined for London - will beat USA.

That would give us Canada v Netherlands and England v Spain in the Cup semis (fascinating battles), Russia v Australia and China v USA in the Plate (rather predictable!), and Brazil v Japan and Hong Kong v Tunisia in the Bowl.

We may have to get used to lots of Canada v England finals this year!

Familiar names - and a Legend - line up for Division

Former Legend Sasha Acheson lines up for London and South East seniors at the weekend in their bid to win the second women's Divisional Championship. Sasha and her team-mates have already seen off the South West, and this weekend meet the North in Sheffield.

It has to be said that - for a tournament that is the nearest thing to New Zealand's NPC, and which should offer a level of rugby only one step below the national squad - the RFU/RFUW don't exactly make much of a fuss about this tournament. Indeed, if it was not for the efforts of someone at L&SE, who occasionally puts press releases out, we might never know it was happening at all. How hard is it to publish previews and match reports? I'm sure if we could have reliable coverage from the centre then ScrumQueens for one would pick the tournament up.

We often complain about the lack of press coverage women's rugby receives, but in the end even the most supportive media can only publish what they know about!

Full L&SE Team

Scotland return to women's sevens after 15 years

Entries are growing for the fifth major women's rugby Sevens tournaments - Amsterdam Sevens.

The other four this year are USA Sevens in Las Vegas, plus the three IRB tournaments in Dubai, Hong Kong and the new London event. Amsterdam will be the final leg.

Canada are (needless to say) the current champions, and this year they will face (amongst others) the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia, England, Scotland, USA, and France - almost all of the world's major teams, plus the return of Scotland to women's international sevens for the first time for 15 years.

The tournament will be on June 15th and 16th.

An invitation to play for England

RFUW are opening up their national sevens trials to everyone.

Last year 85 women took part in the trials at Surrey Sports Park in Guildford, and the squad eventually selected included eight players with no previous experience of playing rugby in England. England then went on to win the European Sevens, and finish runners-up in Dubai.

Admittedly this seems to have been achieved by drafting in quite a few players from outside the official sevens squad - RFUW did seem to hit the panic button pretty hard when the new squad failed to achieve immediate success - but hopefully this time they may allow the squad to learn and grow. Although in the year that decides qualification for the Sevens World Cup...

Anyway, anyone interested has until 13th April to apply to take part in the trials. To submit your application go to

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Rugby League club to be formed in Letchworth

A new rugby league team is being set up, and will be based in Letchworth. The team - North Herts Crusaders - will play at Legends Lane throughout the summer.

At this stage there is no mention of a women's team, but as the ONLY rugby league team in the area (the next nearest is Hemel) if anyone wanted to play some summer rugby then the Crusaders would seem to be the place to go. Furthermore, of course, women's rugby league can be played by anyone over 16 - so many "junior" union girls could join forces with ex-Legends, friends, and any other players in the Hertfordshire or neighbouring counties.

In short, everyone, if some of you did want to get everyone back together this would seem to be a great opportunity.

You can contact NHC via their website, above.

Reminder: France v England LIVE next weekend

With Ireland thumping Wales 36-0 yesterday, the Six Nations is building to a terrific climax this year. England, France and Ireland are all still in the running and the tournament will now go down to the final weekend, even possibly the final game.

Both of England's remaining games will be available to watch, live. Next weekend's crucial game in Paris will be broadcast on Sky Sports 2 Red Button, kick off 12.45pm GMT, and their final game against Ireland on 17th will be shown on

England remain favourites to win their seventh Grand Slam, but must obviously win both of these games. If they slip up in either case then France or Ireland could sneak in and take the title. If France were to win next Saturday then only Wales on 18th March would stand between them and their first title for eight years.

Meanwhile, next weekend Ireland play Scotland and should not only win but significantly improve their points total - which is, after three games, already the best they have ever achieved. A win in Esher on the 17th could give them the championship for the first time. Ireland's performance this year has already put them well ahead of their rivals in the race the qualify for the World Cup.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Third IRB women's sevens confirmed for London

Hardly a surprise this as its been trailed unofficially for months, but the London Sevens on May 12-13 will include a women's event for the first time.

The teams selected to play have been a cause of some comment...

Australia, England, Portugal, Netherlands, Russia, France, Canada, USA, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, South Africa.

So... no Spain (no 2 in Europe) in Europe's main women's sevens - instead we have Portugal (no 6), Netherlands (no 3), Russia (no 4) and France (no 5). Does someone high up in women's rugby not like the Spanish or something (remembering the shabby way they were treated in the Six Nations as well)?

In practice, it looks like the IRB have a core list of six teams - Australia, England, Canada, USA, Brazil, China - with second tier of Netherlands, Russia, Spain and South Africa, which gets us quite close to the 12 for the first official series next season.

Quiet year for England U20s

The new England U20 squad has been announced for their first game, away in Paris next weekend, along with the fixtures - and it promises to be the quietest season for the age group team for sometime.

Only two Hertfordshire names make the team - Georgia Peedle and Mica Evans - which is a bit low (though with one or two Herts names fast-tracked into the senior squad, perhaps not a real concern). In fact, geographically at least, the squad is rather more balanced than the heavily South-West biased team of last year.

Overall the team look like having only five games in 2012, and against only two opponents. As the proposed European U20 tournament fell through due to the astonishing short-sighted attitudes of the Welsh and Scots, England will instead play France three times (in France on March 11th, and in England at Moulton College on 4th and 7th April). After that, as there is no U20 Nations Cup this year (again, why? What madness is this... etc.), England will instead play host to the USA for a two test series, also at Moulton College, in July.

And that is it. For the first time since the world began (or, 2002 at least) England will not play Wales. Indeed Wales seem to have no age group tests planned for this season at all, while Scotland's much trumpeted age group development policy has similarly fizzled out after a single season. I think Canada have plans to meet the USA later in the year, but other than that women's age group rugby seems to be going backwards at considerable speed.

Meanwhile, England's names for the future are:

15        Georgia Peedle           (Saracens, Hertfordshire, London & South East)
14        Rachel Jones(Lichfield, Staffordshire, Midlands)
13        Hannah Edwards        (Wasps, Middlesex,London & South East)      
12        Louise Dennis           (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West)
11        Rebecca Hughes (Bristol, Somerset, South West)
10        Lauren Cattell (Chesham, Buckinghamshire, South West, Moulton College)
9          Fiona  Davidson       (Richmond, Surrey, London & South East) Captain  
1          Mica Evans (Saracens, Hertfordshire, London & South East)        
2          Emily Hatherall        (Worcester, Gloucestershire, South West)        
3          Catherine Pugh  (Rochford Hundred, Essex, London & South East)    
4          Ellen Gattlin            (Saracens, Essex, London & South East)        
5          Abbie Scott   (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks,           Northumberland, North)  
6          Fiona Fletcher (Lichfield, Staffordshire, Midlands) Vice-Captain    
7          Megan Oaten(Bristol, Gloucestershire, South West)  
8          Katie Turnbull (Thornbury, Gloucestershire, South West, Hartpury College)

16        Charlotte Notman          (Penryn, Cornwall, South West)
17        Amy Needham (Paviors, Notts, Lincs & Derbys, Midlands, Moulton College)
18        Courtney Gill      (Plymouth Albion, Devon, South West, Hartpury College)
19        Carys Williams      (Lichfield, Staffordshire, Midlands, Moulton College)
20        Bianca Blackburn (Gloucester, Gloucestershire, South West, Hartpury College)
21        Megan Goddard (Hartpury, Gloucestershire, South West, Hartpury College)
22        Sian McGuinness (Tyldesley, Lancashire, North)

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