Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Monday, July 16, 2012

A whole new piece of kit

Details of the latest law amendments were published recently. Some, concerning rucks and scrum engagement have already been the subject of much discussion - not to say ridicule in some quarters. However there are a few others that are worthy of comment.

1. GPS. Players can wear GPS equipment during games.This apparently is not in order to ensure that the concussed props know which way to face after half-time, nor is it to ensure that the game can continue on particularly foggy days - apparently it is because some professional clubs now monitor exactly where each player goes during the game. Amazing. The coaches will be using remote control next...

2. Tights. Female players can now wear "cotton blend long tights with single inside leg seam under their shorts and socks". It will be interesting to see how long it will be before such tights appear in equipment catalogues, what funky colours will be on view, and how quickly we will see equipment logos on them.

3. Conversions. Apparently kickers will now have 90 seconds to do their dances, throw grass into the air, say their prayers, smile for the camera, give interviews, sign autographs and generally waste time before they kick the ball. Why? 60 seconds always seemed more than enough.

More seriously, there are some interesting videos for referees (but also good for players) highlighting the things that refs are supposed to be particularly looking for next season.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Great Britain women win World University Championship

The FISU World University Championship for women's rugby sevens has been won by Great Britain for (I think) the first time. A powerful squad packed with internationals breezed to the title with wins over Romania (27-0), Japan (31-5), Spain (24-0); Belgium (26-5); Italy (38-5) and, in the final, hosts France (24-7).

This represented a pretty significant improvement on the last championship in 2010 where GB finished only 7th. The reason for this is that, for the first time, the British unions have taken the tournament seriously and allowed current internationals to take part, as well as releasing England's Susie Appleby to coach the team.

Lead by Emily Scarratt (Leeds Metropolitan), who scored one of their four tries against France, the team included players from universities in England, Scotland and Wales and, as well as Emily, featured players such as Izzy Noel-Smith, Vicky Fleetwood, Sarah McKenna, and Steph Johnston. Vicky and Izzy had also played in 2010, before they became England internationals.

The GB men's team also won their tournament.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sasha completes Legendary bike ride

For those who have not been following it, Sasha Acheson and Poppy Cleall have just completed an amazing charity cycle ride from Land's End to John O'Groats... and back!

One month, over 1700 miles, and over £2000 raised (more than twice their target).

Congratulations girls!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

If this is true, is it fraud?

A few weeks ago I reported a dramatic (but generally unpublicised) rise in player numbers in England, as reported by the RFU to the IRB.

The adult player number rise made sense - it matched the sort of numbers that have been reported by Sport England for some years. However, the rise in junior player numbers was extraordinary - like a 3,000 to 10,000% rise in reported player numbers since 2009, which (even with under-reporting of girls) seemed difficult to believe. However, it is rise that is being used to support the RFUW (and now RFU) policy on the U13 game.

What was not clear was where on earth this data came from as a claim that there are over 129,000 teenage girls playing rugby just does not match with the declining number of teams playing in leagues, etc. In short - wherever this figure comes from it certainly is not (solely) club registrations - it must now include schools as well.

Okay, if that does include schools then - in theory - that is fine. A girl playing regularly at school can learn the game just as much as at a club, and will be quite capable of moving onto divisional play, etc.

However the key here is "regular". Girls who play in just one tournament, based on maybe a handful of PE lessons and no regular programme of inter-school matches - and no club rugby - are not rugby players. To call them so is a nonsense. They had - at best - sampled the game.

But  I hear from a well placed source in one region, that that is what is happening. I am told that junior player numbers in this area are being extrapolated from the "100 or so girls from six schools turning up for ONE school tournament for Year 6 and 7".

For a game's officials to pretend that these are "real" players is at best dangerous self-delusion. Dangerous because it can hide endemic problems within the game, which - in this particular region (a region that was until recently one of the strongest in the country) - seems to be the virtual collapse of the club game at U15 and U18 level. It means that an official, changed with expanding the game, can hit all their "targets" despite what is happening in the real world.

However, if a game is knowingly using this meaningless data to extract grants from government by pretending that the game is dramatically expanding and has many more players than it does then... is that not fraud?

One defence might be that everyone else is doing it - and I am told that Rugby League in the same region is using similar methods to compile its junior player data.  Its not much of a defence, though. And even if it was, it does give a picture of various sports - including rugby union - spending so much time and money coming up with ever more clever (but ultimately meaningless) schemes to increasing player statistics that they do little or nothing to increase the actual numbers of players. Frankly, the people who involved in this sound like a load of bankers.

And its all probably not unrelated to the report last week that pointed out how few people from state schools (as opposed to independent schools) now make it to the top and win, for example, Olympic medals - because most of this grant money is supposed to support and develop talented state school sports people.

I may be wrong, of course - and if anyone has any more evidence one way or another I'd love to see it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Goodbye, RFUW - we are now one game

Today rugby in England became a single, unified, game. Its taken a long time - three or four years since "integration" began. Outwardly we have been one game for a while - England's women players have been playing under the RFU rose for some time - but today the final moves behind the scenes took place. All of the RFUW's staff have now moved to roles within the RFU.

All of the statements today have been positive - RFU Chief Executive Officer Ian Ritchie said: “We are very much looking forward to combining knowledge and resources and to welcoming new colleagues from the RFUW. This is a progressive move to make the Union even more inclusive going forwards, with our ultimate aim to broaden the reach of the game to the widest possible audience. Joining forces with the RFUW will allow us to do that”, while the new RFU Head of Performance (Women's) - ex RFUW MD Nichola Ponsford was also positive - “Of the many positive changes I've seen over the years, integration is certainly a high point. It is a recognition of the hard work and commitment of the organisation’s staff and volunteers, the vision for the game set early on and the commitment shown to overcome all the challenges."

And with reason - the resources potentially available to the women's and girls' game now dwarf anything that it has ever known before. However, it remains potential - and women's and girls' rugby will still have to fight for those funds, and there is always the risk that the demands of the bigger men's professional game will swamp the amateur women's. That, after all, has been the tale in some other countries - from France to New Zealand. Indeed its actually quite hard to think of countries where a merger has been a total positive. Japan probably? Wales possibly? Ireland, perhaps?

By and large the "integration" has gone well - so far - with increased media profile via access to RFU contracts, for example - but there have been negatives, like being swept up in the problem reducing player numbers - an entirely MALE problem - but which has resulted in the U13 game being forced on the girls' game to solve a problem that did not exist. It was a policy brought in just to increase some statistics - to give the impression that player numbers were growing, and it seems from the outside to only make sense as part of something to benefit the whole RFU because surely no-one who knew anything about girls' rugby would have introduced it voluntarily.

However, integration does now mean that all of the petty personal rivalries and personality clashes that can affect a small organisation should no longer be possible. The expertise is there - and the grants too, as a unified games with a single governing body will be a bigger attraction. 

Integration is a risk, but there was no other choice - and  if those who play women's and girls' rugby are willing to fight their corner it will work.

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