Friday, December 22, 2006

Regional 7s: venues required

May 20th has been set aside by RFUW for regional sevens tournaments at all age groups - U14, U17 and senior. However, unlike regional 10s, RFUW are not organising these events centrally - clubs will not be invited by HQ to bid to host an official regional sevens competition.

So the East Region is taking the initiative and calling for clubs to step forward to host competitions. This initiative is aimed at ensuring that at least one event happens for each age group, as well as co-ordinating bids to avoid several clubs competing with each other!

Last season there were four "regional" junior sevens tournaments in England (but no senior events) prior to National Sevens. The junior events - at Worcester, Darlington, Dorking, and Letchworth - excited (in the latter two cases at least) massive interest with clubs undertaking round trips of up to 200 miles to take part. As a result the Dorking and Letchworth events were possibly the largest and second-largest one-day girls rugby events ever. There is clearly massive interest at junior level at least, and probably senior level as well - especially from clubs who see the National Sevens as really a step too far for inexperienced sides.

So the RPM (John Birch) for East Region wants to know whether any clubs be even faintly interested in hosting (or are you already planning to host) a Sevens competition on 20th May. At least one club - Tabard RFC - have already expressed interest in hosting but may be restricted to hosting an event for just one age group.

There is a small extra incentive of a £500 grant for clubs in Hertfordshire willing to run a junior sevens, but the fact of the matter is that demand is such that - so long as there are not too many competing events - you cannot fail to make a reasonable surplus.

A quick Q&A...

Why are you doing this? What gives you/Herts/East the right to decide anything?
Because no-one else is doing anything, and time is running out. If everyone is assuming that someone else will be running a Sevens in east of England (ie. East, East Midlands or Thames Valley - the area that Letchworth's event drew on last year) then there will be no Sevens at all, anywhere.

Is Letchworth planning to run any event?
No. Last year's Herts 7s was a massive success and great fun to run but a key part of that success was - I feel - that the event moves every year and does not belong to one club. Last year was in effect the third year of the competition and each year it has been bigger and better and that is mainly because each succesive host has seen it as a "special" event and been determined to "do it better than it has ever been done before". If it stayed at one club it not be special, would not evolve and grow, and might almost become a chore. If there was absolutely no interest at all from anyone - if there might otherwise be no junior sevens in East Anglia, East Midlands or Thames Valley - then we MIGHT think about doing it again but I really, really would rather not.

Why is there a grant for holding an event in Hertfordshire but no-where else?
There is a £500 grant available from Herts Sports Partnerships (which Letchworth are holding on to) as an extra incentive for a Herts club to run a junior event. Clearly - and by definition! - this money could not go to a club outside the county, and if no-one steps forward that money just goes back to HSP.

What criteria will be used to decide between bids?
No idea - up to East Forum. My main concern at this stage is to try to ensure that there is at least one viable event - if several clubs step forward it would actually be a nice problem to have and if sufficiently geographically separated there is no reason why there need be only one event - in fact demand was such that you could have easily split last year's event at Letchworth in two and had two perfectly viable and enjoyable competitions.

What would be the minimum requirements to host?
Clearly it depends on the number of entries, but I think for the a senior sevens at least two pitches, for juniors (assuming you run U14s and U17s concurrently) at least three.

What help would a host get?
Nothing can be promised (and outside Herts there's no money!), but I think if a club took on the responsibility for running what was recognised as the region's (or wider area's) event they might reasonably expected to receive as much support from other clubs as possible. Certainly I'd be more than happy to give any help I could including passing on any lessons learnt from last year's event.

Is there any closing date?
Not really - but ideally John would like any (even vague) expressions of interest by 15th January so that the idea can be discussed at the next East forum.

Regional 10s: Venues announced

The venue for the RFUW regional 10s tournaments on Saturday 28th April 2007. have been announced. The senior tournament will be Colchester RFC and the U17 event will be at Hemel Hempsted RFC. There is no U14 event.

Officially these are "London North" heats and will be qualifying tournaments for a National 10s tournament, due to take place "in the Midlands" on 12th or 13th May.

This is the first time there has been official RFUW 10s tournaments, at either regional or national level.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Maggie on top of the world

England and Saracens flanker Margaret Alphonsi was last month named the Women’s Rugby Personality of the Year at the IRB’s awards ceremony, in association with Emirates Airline.

The dynamic 22-year-old was short-listed together with New Zealand fly half Anna Richards and France number eight Delphine Plantet. Alphonsi, who is a rugby development officer for Saracens, played in all of England’s five IRB Rugby World Cup matches this September in Edmonton, Canada, including the 25-17 defeat to New Zealand in the final.

Said Maggie Alphonsi “I am so pleased to have won this award. I have really enjoyed this season, being part of a team that won the Six Nations Grand Slam and finishing as runners-up in the IRB Rugby World Cup final has been terrific, though of course we would have preferred to take the title. This award has certainly capped off a great year.”

She continued, “The whole of the England team worked so hard to get where we are today and it’s a shame that we came so close in the final of the Rugby World Cup and didn’t come away with the prize we desperately wanted.

“Hopefully this award will go some way, for all the members of the squad, towards knowing that what we achieved in Canada has been recognised.

New regulations on abuse by players and officials

Amanda's remarks on her departure about the need to raise standards in the county were echoed today by the issue of new instructions to referees about verbal abuse and the use of obscene and offensive language and gestures by players and match officials.

The new instruction say that the use of obscene and offensive language is contrary to the spirit and ethos of the game as set out in the International Rugby Board’s Playing Charter and the RFU codes of conduct for players and spectators.

The regulatory regime to deal with abuse already exists. RFU Rule 5.12 prohibits any “conduct which is prejudicial to the interests of the Union or the game.” IRB Law 6.A.5 demands that “all players must respect the authority of the referee”. IRB Law 10.4 (k) prohibits “acts contrary to good sportsmanship in the playing enclosure.” That includes any form of verbal abuse and can lead to on field sanction and, in extreme cases, further disciplinary sanctions.

Verbal abuse of opponents carries a recommended disciplinary sanction ranging from a low end of two weeks’ suspension to a maximum of 24 weeks. Verbal abuse of match officials carries a recommended disciplinary sanction ranging from a low end of six weeks’ suspension to a maximum of 24 months. Referees must also always report any unacceptable abuse or offensive language by coaches, spectators or others from the touchline.

RFU Chief Executive RFU, Francis Baron, said, “The Management Board has taken this decision and introduced these steps for all levels of the game from Level 12 through to the Guinness Premiership because it is important that the ethos and culture of the game is maintained. “Although the cases of player to player and player to official abuse are not widespread, they are increasing and that is why these initiatives are being introduced now as a preventative measure.”

RFU Disciplinary Officer, His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, said, “Clearly in a robust game there will be banter but there is a line that cannot be crossed where it becomes gratuitous and offensive abuse. “That is unnecessary and reflects badly on the image of the game, and players must be aware what is and not acceptable. Serious abuse of players and officials is unacceptable and I welcome the RFU Management Board’s strong action to combat this issue.”

East Region are already planning to review and if necessary tighten up their codes of practice for players, officials and spectators ahead of the regional programme in the New Year.

East Region trials: important information

If you have been nominated to attend the regional trials (see the u17 and u14 lists, published below) on 28th January you MUST confirm that you are going to attend by completing this form and returning it to RFUW by 19th January. If you fail to do so you risk not being allowed to trial, despite being nomiated.

More information on the trial process, including dates and venues, appears on the East website.

Regional trialists: U17 (with additions)

The revised and updated list of girls who have been selected to attend trials for the U17 East Region squad, which will be held at Ely RFC on 28th January is now availabel on the RFUW East region website.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A new year's resolution for Herts clubs?

On her last day in her Hertfordshire role Amanda Bate has asked if in the New Year clubs could seek to promote the highest standards of behaviour.

In particular she asks clubs to...

1. Check that everyone working with girls has an up-to-date CRB check.

2. Please while coaching girls rugby can they also be coached in good sportsmanship. In particular she asks coaches and players to ensure that they..
  • take care to tone down their language,
  • try and win through having good rugby skills, not through intimidating the opposition!

3. Remind parents of the spectators code of conduct and that can be banned from the touchline, by a ref or the club or the county exec - its not just players or coaches who can be disciplined!

4. Reminded coaches and parents that girls rugby is also about developing the girls as people, and that we want them to be enjoying the game. Coaches need to lead by example. Bad feelings between clubs and coaches will rub off on the players, and that is not a positive.

Amanda concludes by saying that Herts has got really good girls rugby going on. It would be a pity to get a bad reputation for poor behaviour from parents, coaches or players. She will be writing to clubs to ask club refs to remember that girls play to the same laws as reagards discipline as boys.

Regional trials: extra invitations

With all nominations and "wildcards" in and processed, the East Region's coaching and management team have decided that there is room to invite a few extra players.

It was previously decided that all players who had been to the 2005/6 PDAs would automatically be invited to trials. This is now being extended and all members of last season's U14 and U17 squads, whether or not they were nominated previously, will now be invited - so long as they are still qualify as junior players and still playing regularly with an East Region club.

In practice this means that the following six names will be added to the U17 trial list:

From the 2005/6 U17 squad:
COOK, Georgia
KELLY, Carla

From the 2005/6 U14 squad:
WOODHAM, Celestine

Friday, December 15, 2006

Girls have a "fantastic evening" at Saracens

Girls from across the county who desended on Saracens' Bramley Road ground last night had a "fantastic evening" according to Amanda Bate, the county's Rugby Development Officer - who was at her last event before moving "upstairs" to a regional job at RFUW.

From the start of next month Amanda will become the Womens Rugby Development Manager for the east and south-east of England, so we will not lose her entirely. However instead of dealing with one county she will be responsible for about 11 or 12!

Last night girls of all ages demonstarted how successgful Amanda has been in Herts when they took part in an excellent coaching session with players from Saracen's women's team, which included England star Maggie Alphonsi, before everyone repaired inside to take on board a small feast that the Saracens club had laid on.

The evening also allowed the county to express its thanks to the Local Community Network for the support it has given to the county, and individual clubs, over the past season and to show how effective that support has been.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Girls rugby partnership up and running in Welwyn-Hatfield

Welwyn Warriors week just got better! After winning through to the quarter finals of the National Cup, the club has been awarded £1,000 by The Herts Sports Partnership to help the club with its Club/School links programme.

Team Manager Dave Marques was absolutely delighted. ‘This is fantastic news! It means we can really get our Girls Rugby Development programme going. Welwyn Warriors is the most successful team in the County and we intend to make it even better! We couldn’t have achieved this without the help of so many people. Jo Higson Welwyn-Hatfield’s Sports Partnership Manager & Colin Smyth, Sports Development officer from Welwyn-Hatfield Council and Amanda Bate & Pete Engledow from the RFU, they have given us so much help & support, we couldn’t have done it without them! On top of that Gary Peterkin and everyone at Welwyn Rugby club who work so hard to ensure the girls success. When I met with Matt Eames from HSP he is just as enthusiastic as we are!’

The money will be spent providing rugby coaching to girls in years 5 & 6 and 9 & 10. These age groups are the clubs ‘Key targets’ as the WRFU has a scheme in place for years 7 & 8 and Saracens are running a community coaching programme across Welwyn-Hatfield as well, so girls rugby is really getting a huge boost! Some of the money will be spent on extra equipment which will also be a massive help to the girls group. Assistant Team manager Pete McCullough felt it is a vindication of the hard work Welwyn has put in over the last few months. ‘Our U14 girls are the cornerstone of the County team as are the U17 girls. We have 8 U14s and 9 U17 girls going for regional trials in January as well as girls in the England talent development group. This is the club to be at now, it will be even more so after this great funding. Thank you HSP!’! Our partner schools are so fired up for working with us on this, we’re certain we’ll be the biggest & most successful club in the region by 2009 but this isn’t just a ‘one off’ scheme, we intend to keep the school links going on a permanent basis’.

Fullerians is running a similar scheme in SW Herts so across the County girls rugby is getting a higher profile. The WRFU is really driving the game forward and other sports should look to the RFU model for how to take Sport forward in Hertfordshire. Welwyn Warriors is actively seeking new girls to join them and get into rugby so any girls from yr 5 upwards, interested in joining Warriors, pls ring Dave on 0786 676 5411.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Celebrate girls' rugby (Part 2)

Date for your diary: 14th January.

Last year Herts Girls provided the "Guard of Honour" at the start of a Saracens game at Vicarage Road when Saracens dedicated a match to the promotion and celebration of the game in the county. It was a good day and everyone there have an great time, so Sarries are doing it again.

The game is a crucial European game against French side Narbonne, and will kick-off at 3pm.

Tickets will be discounted to £14 for adults and £9 for juniors - but its actually cheaper to order online. The first 20 to arrive on the day will form the Guard.

Celebrate girls' rugby (Part 1): This Thursday!

A reminder that THIS THURSDAY there will be a special evening at Saracens RFC (Bramley Road, Southgate) to celebrate girls rugby in Hertfordshire.

There will be drills and exercises with the Saracens women's team, who will also give a short presentation on what its like to play for (arguably) the strongest women's rugby team in the land, there will also be food, and photographs, and the usual "stuff".

Its not just a "County Squad" event - everyone who plays in the county is invited. It promises to be a fun evening - so don't miss it. The event "kicks of" and 7.30 with the drills and training activities, which go on until around 9 o'clock, and the evening itself is due to finish around 10pm.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A photographic look back at Westcliff

Dozens of pictures of all kinds can now be viewed on this commercial photography site.

Click on Rugby / Westcliff / 2006 / Essex Girls Rugby Festival.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Herts 1:2 in National Cup qualifier

Hertfordshire's best ever year in the National Cup continued today with local clubs taking both qualifying places in the rearranged South East qualifier held at Letchworth.

A last minute withdrawl from Surrey side Cramberley left four teams in the contest - Letchworth, Welwyn, Saracens/Fullerians and last year's South-East League champions Worthing.

Letchworth and Worthing kicked off early in order to get the fixtures through before nightfall, and their performance gave the other Herts sides some useful pointers on how to play the unknown Sussex team. Letchworth dominated up front, which starved Worthing's fast and talented backline of useful ball for most of the game and in the end the host side were probably far more comfortable winners than the 10-7 scoreline suggests, Worthing's only score coming at the end of the game.

Welwyn played the south coast side next - and, with the help fresh legs, strolled to a 48-0 win. Meanwhile the hosts match faced Saracens/Fullerians and recorded a second victory - and again a more comfortable win than 10-5 might suggest, and despite playing with only 14 in the second half owing to one player falling ill.

With two teams going through Letchworth had now qualified but still had to face Welwyn, who need a win to guarantee their place in the next round. The first half was an exciting, closely matched affair with Welwyn edging it 10-5 before going on to stretch their lead against a tiring home team to 34-5 by the end.

Saracens/Fullerians were Welwyns last opponents. Coming out of a narrow loss to Worthing, Saracens performed superbly under the floodlights holding Welwyn to the narrowest wining margin of the day - 17-0.

So on 4th February three Herts teams will be playing in the southern finals of the National Cup - Herts Barbarians U14s, Welwyn U17s, and Letchworth U17s. Can one of them take the next step to national glory? We shall see...

Letchworth 10, Worthing 7
Welwyn 48, Worthing 0
Letchworth 10, Saracens/Fullerians 5
Saracens/Fullerians 10, Worthing 19
Letchworth 5, Welwyn 34
Saracens/Fullerians 0, Welwyn 17

South East Qualifier P W L F A Pts

Photgraphs from some of todays games can be found here

Regional trialists: U14

The cmplete list of girls from Eastern Counties, Essex, and Hertfordshire have been selected to attend the U14 regional trials at Ely RFC on Sunday 28th January is now availabel on the East Region website

County fixture on 17th December cancelled

Unfortunately the proposed county games for 17th December have now had to be cancelled as first Essex and then Eastern Counties have announced that they are unavailable to play us on that date.

Our apologies about the uncertainty that this has caused, and leaving this announcement until today - but right up until a few hours ago a game against one or the other still seemed possible.

Once we are through January and know where we stand with the regional squad we hope to revive the county programme.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Last minute withdrawl complicates U17 National Cup

The last minute withdrawl of Cramberleigh from has resulted in some changes to tomorrow afternoon's National Cup round at Letchworth. The good news is that we are at least guaranteed at least one Hertfordshire team getting into the semi finals as three of the four sides competing for two places will now be from Herts.

The revised draw for the round has now been published on the Letchworth blog.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Extra county U17 fixture (?)

Vicky has asked is it would be possible to organise an extra county fixture on Sunday 17th December, joining Essex who are hosting Kent on that date. At this stage its probably just an U17 venture unless Simon wishes to enter his U14s as well.

The major barrier to this - a planned game betwen Welwyn and Letchworth - has now been removed as Welwyn have cancelled the fixture.

However this is obviously very short notice and an extra game beyond the dates agreed at the start of the season and so players will not have been asked to keep the date free. So if anyone is unavailable because families have booked a day's Christmas shopping or a trip to the grandparents or whatever that is understandable. The county would not want to ask your to disrupt your Christmas arrangements, not least because we do not want lots of unhappy parents (and grandparents!).

This fixture will also not affect selections for the regional trials for any counties (Essex, Eastern Counties, or Herts), because these will have already been selected and announced this coming weekend.

Equally clubs had been told that this was a club date, and so it would be unfair and unreasonable to ask them to cancel anything they may have arranged for this date.

Mainly because of all this uncertainty it is likely that the entire squad will not be available so we need to know as soon as possible - really by the weekend at the latest - who will be.

Could you please therefore let Vicky know ( if you or county squad girls at your club are available for 17th December. If we do not receive a positive reply from any player - either directly or via their club - by this Sunday (10th) we will assume they are unavailable.

This deadline is being set so that Vicky has time to find players to fill in any key gaps that may occour if she is a few players short, but also to give clubs at least a week's firm notice of what definately is (or is not) happening.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Girls rugby represented on county Elite Athlete Support Programme

Ten athletes - including rugby's representative Megan Williams from Welwyn - will receive individual nutrition consultations, physiotherapy assessments, individual and small group training sessions with a strength and conditioning coach and performance lifestyle advice. The programme has a value of approximately £800 per athlete but will be free of charge for the athletes.

The programme is a joint venture between the Herts Sports Partnership, University of Hertfordshire and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

The athletes are aged between 14 and 17 years of age and have either been selected to represent England, are part of a national development squad or have competed in national competitions. All training sessions take place at the £15m state of the art Hertfordshire Sports Village.

The programme was officially launched by Lisa Wooding (Hockey Bronze medallist in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, 2006) on the 20th November. Following the launch, the athletes were given advice by Dawn Airton (Athlete Support Manager for the English Institute of Sport and ex-England Rugby player) and Lisa on managing their time to juggle their busy training schedules, education commitments and a social life with a “Performance Lifestyle” workshop.

The English Institute of Sport fully endorse the programme and have been very supportive of the scheme. Dawn Airton says: “Its great to see a programme that will support athletes on their pathway to World Class success. This programme fully embraces the principles of the EIS by providing talented athletes in Hertfordshire with sports science services that aims to make a difference to their performance.”

Fiona Castree from the Herts Sports Partnership says: “this is a fantastic opportunity for these athletes to receive top class support services to help them reach their full potential in their chosen sport.”

“We are very fortunate to have been able to form a partnership with the University of Hertfordshire and Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to set up this new programme.”

Nick Brooking, Director of Sport at the University of Hertfordshire says: “We are delighted to be able to contribute expertise to this programme which provides a valuable first step for these genuinely talented young people towards the national level programmes and schemes that are also run here.”

Simon Gardner, Senior Development Manager, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority says: “The Authority is very pleased to be able to support these talented athletes in their training. I look forward to following their progress representing their country at future international sporting events such as the London 2012 Olympics.”

Nominate a volunteer for county awards

Amanda Bate writes:

Above is the link to the nomination form and details of the categories for YOU, YES YOU, to nominate a volunteer for an award.

In girls rugby, I would like to see Clive nominated and I will be nominating him, but others can as well to strengthen the case, but John Birch could do with recognition, and Luke, and what about the youngsters in your club who have coaching/refs awards and are putting them into practice?

Dave Marques is a great administrator for girls rugby at Welwyn, Vicki Hopcroft for Tabard, Chris Fishlock has been coaching in girls rugby for a long time, Jacky Shutler seems to be a shaker and mover for youth at you can see the list is endless and those I have mentioned are just the people who sprung to my mind...

Last year at the awards rugby did very well, lets clean up again with the awards in 2007!

Please pass this onto your club execs, and please take action, don't leave it up to someone else! and more than one person can nominate the same volunteer. "

Monday, December 04, 2006

Herts County rugby: options for the future

With the Westcliff tournament now over, the main representative focus now turns to regional rugby. Hopefully we'll still be able to offer something at county level for those juniors that do not make regional squad (ie. most of them!) - certainly something like last season's inter-county sevens tournament, perhaps.

But this is also a good chance to take stock and look at where we are and where the county programme should go in the future.

At U14 level the county programme is a lifeline for many girls as it often provides the only opportunity they get to play competitive full sized rugby. Hopefully this will get better in the future, but at present there seems little dispute about the purpose and organisation of the U14 programme.

At U17 level its a different matter mainly because we in Herts we are being so sucecssful - both on the field in terms of results (yesterday's "blip" against Essex aside!), but also in terms of attracting players.

Amanda Bate, our "leader" (whatever her real title may be!) is shortly to move on to greater things in the RFUW and as a parting present she has gathered together some questions that have been floating around recently which are very pertenant to the question of What Happens Next. Taking this as an opportunity her ideas have been expanded below to include some of the other views that have been expressed or discussed informally of late.

In the end there are no "right" answers here. The county programme is a curious thing in some respects as it has more evolved that been created by the centre, and maybe as a result RFUW give little guidance on these matters. So at the minute its up to us - up to you. Be you players, coaches, parents, or adminsitrators its YOUR programme. What sort of animal should it be?

You can add your views to this blog and start an open discussion here, or maybe talk about it at your club and send a representative to the next meeting, or exchange views by email. Up to you. But the main thing is to make your views known. And also maybe consider how fortunate we are to be in a position to ask these questions - to have so many options is a sign of strength.

And you may have ideas and views above and beyond what appears here. If so - lets hear them!

1. What is the county team for?

As is mentioned above, at U14 level this is currently very clear - but at U17s it is less so. Is it an elite programme, or a development initiative. Can it be both? or are the two aims incompatible?

Amanda thinks it can do both as it develops girls who want to go far, and it is also a place for the best players in the county. What do you think? Can one programme/squad achieve both aims? Regional rugby is now seen as an "elite" programme - what should the priority be at county level?

2. Is it about winning, or taking part?

This is related to the above, so once that is decided, what do should the philosophy of the U17 programme be? Much the same as this year - a squad coached and managed to win? Or (as with the U14s, and come to that most counties other than maybe Herts and Essex!) an emphasis on participation, on strenghening the base by giving higher quality playing opportunities for girls of the right standard?

Is "playing to win" appropriate for this level (both considering the age of those taking part, but also the position of county rugby in the RFUW's development scheme)? Is concenbtraing on development only popular outside of Herts and Essex because other counties' have low numbers at club level?

3. 1st and 2nd XVs - or separate County and Barbarian/Development squads?

Amanda asks whether we run a separate Barbarians/development side in future and if so whether it should have its own kit, management, etc. - and, as numbers grow, its own selection policy?

Or do we follow the pattern from the boys' junior game and merge the county and Barbarians so as to have a much bigger county squad from which two teams - a 1st and 2nd XV - are selected for each tournament or fixture?

Arguments for the current pattern include the fact that it fits in the regional programme, and that (returning to the first question) it allows the County Squad to be an elite programme while the Barbarians concentrate on development. Would a larger squad be more difficult to manage and risk diluting the quality of the team? Would it restrict the opportunities for new players who appear on the scene after county trials but can now join the Barbarians?

On the other hand the alternative side asks whether this is selling the Barbarians short? Given the "scratch" nature of yesterday's side, and the similarly impressive performance of 12 months ago, there are more players capable of playing at county level in Hertfordshire than the squad of 25. Would a larger squad - fielding two fifteens - be better able to bring on this talent and produce a second string that capable of beating many other counties? Might one year we finish a tournament with a Herts 1:2?

What is best for girls on the fringes - maybe just good enough to get into the county squad by not the starting XV? Are they be better served by training with the elite, or would they be better making a name for themselves as part of a county squad's 2nd XV.

Are players slighly lower down the ladder better served in a separate Barbarian squad? Or would a single squad make it easier for players develop and move between sides? Are the girls better served with players able to "relax" and concentrate on training knowing which team they are in from the start, or by having to constantly compete for places in the 1st and 2nd team?

Would a larger squad allow county rugby to continue throughout the year - ie. even if 15 girls were lost to region from a 40 or 45 player squad, enough would be left to make a viable squad.

[PS - Late additional information. Worcestershire appear to have a U17 squad of 46, with six coaches, drawn from three clubs]

Click here to make your views know!

Senior regional news

While the regions' juniors were busy knocking lumps off each other at Westcliff, their elders were keeping busy.

Over 30 players turned up for the first senior women's trial, switched at less than 48 hours notice to Letchworth RFC. Despite the short notice apparently everyone expected turned up, the play was of a very high standard, and all in all the day went very well.

The turnout may seem low by as you will have seen earlier there were three teams of East Region women out in the middle east playing the the Dubai Sevens. Saracens II had an early finish, but both Saracens I and the unofficial East Region team made it to the final day.

Saracens went out to eventual winners Greater Little Rock USA 12-7 in the Trophy semi-finals, but East made it through to the Plate Final were they lost 5-0 to Arabian Gulf RFU - the "national team" for the host region (though almost entirely composed of ex-pts by the look of things).

All of these players - and a few more - will be at the second senior trial on 28th January at King's School, Ely. The junior trials are also the same day, but at Ely RFC.

New award scheme for community clubs

This month sees the launch of one of our new recognition schemes; the ''President's XV Awards''.
The President's XV Award scheme seeks to identify and reward best practice in community rugby clubs with 45 projects receiving recognition for making an outstanding contribution to the development of grassroots rugby.

There are 15 categories that have been specially selected by the RFU President, Bob Rogers, that clubs can nominate themselves for. Reflecting the four themes of Community Rugby; More People, Better Places, Access for All and Enjoyment, all rugby clubs within England are eligible to nominate projects, as long as they have been run in a voluntary capacity by the club within the past 12 months. The closing date for nomination forms is the 1st February 2007.

Rugby World, the world's biggest selling rugby magazine, will be the official media partner of the President's XV scheme and will highlight the best of the bunch in their pages this season.

The winning club in each of the 15 award categories will receive £500, with two highly commended projects in each category each receiving £100 for their club. The winners, judged by a Panel including the RFU President, will be announced during April, with a booklet providing case studies of the fifteen winning, and two highly commended, projects in each category will be published and distributed to the game in May.

We want to receive as many nominations from clubs as we possibly can; if you can advertise this new awards scheme to all the clubs in your area, directing them towards the volunteering section of the RFU website (; that would be great. If you want any more information on the President’s XV scheme, contact Carly Jackson ( on 0208 831 6742.

What brings players into the game? What drives them away?

The goplayrugby pilot is researching player drop out and return. We want thousands of people to take part nationally from both inside and outside rugby to give us quantitative information. This will provide a valuable data, alongside more detailed face-to-face research, to create a picture of how best to recruit players that will inform volunteers and executive staff. A very short (seven question) and simple on-line survey has been created with incentives for completion:

Win Tickets! Clubs will be using the build up to the Rugby World Cup to recruit more players, especially adults, to grassroots rugby. We need your help to research why players leave and what will bring them back to rugby. Not only will your information help design the best recruitment campaign, but you can enter a draw to win tickets for an England Six Nations game. To take part visit and tell all your friends too!

Photos from the Essex county tournament

Herts U17s compete in the line out against Yorkshire

Eastern Counties U17s work hard to retain the ball against Herts

The heroic Barbarians ... with guests!

The victorious U14s... still unbeaten at 12-a-aide!

The disappointed U17s... next year we'll put it right!
For 21 more action shots from U17 and Barbarian games see here

Sunday, December 03, 2006

U14s take the honours as U17s fall at final hurdle

Westcliff RFC in Essex hosted the "Essex County Tournament" today with Hertfordshire providing three teams, as they did at Hitchin last year. But this was a much bigger affair with six teams competing in each age group.

In Pool B the U17s Hertfordshire Barbarians could not quite match the glories of last year when the "B" string famously defeated Oxfordshire, but they certainly ran Thames Valley county champions Buckinghamshire close, going down 10-5 to a try in the final seconds before giving Essex a scare or two in a 10-0 defeat.

The main county squad, on the other hand, took Pool A with some ease - though Yorkshire put up a huge battle before going down 7-0. Eastern Counties showed some real promise - but in the first ever competitive game could not hold the Herts girls who ran out 22-0 winners.

Meanwhile the U14s won their group by first beating a physically large Bucks U14 team 19-5 with tries from Courtney Arberry, Sam Voyce and Sydnie Grace, and Clare Shutler adding two Conversions. They then beat Eastern Counties (Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambs) 31-0 with Clare Shutler scoring three Tries and three Conversions, and other Tries from Megan Childs and Millie Porter.
Barbarian heros
With Essex U14 and U17 winning their groups it was going to be the local rivals against each other in both finals. But before that "Barbarians" played off against Eastern Counties - but after a break and their earlier heroics they were distinctly slow out of the starting stalls and 12-0 before the game was more than a few minutes old. A much better second half performance restricted the Easterns to only one more try, however.

So to the finals, and the U14s were on first. All previous U14 games between Herts and Essex have been extremely close and this was exactly the same. Essex scored an early Try, which they converted to go 7-0 up. Herts then scored Tries from Clare Shutler, which she converted, and Alice Nee to lead 12-7 at the break. In a very tense second half, Herts defence withstood the Essex onslaught and crucially Milly Porter just won a sprint to the Herts try line, following a perfectly judged Essex kick, to prevent the home side evening up the score.

So that was one-nil to Herts. Could the U17s complete the double?

At half time it looked certain that they would. They went into the break 5-0 up, and it could easily have been a much larger lead as Herts had dominated pretty much all phases of play. But a very different side seemed to start the second period which took place entirely within the Herts half. An Essex pack that had been going backwards suddenly seemed to win every scrum, whoever had the put in, and most of the lineouts too. History is made - Herts conceed first ever tryThe home side's confidence grew with every phase, and in the end a Herts defensive line that had stood definant and unbroken for two years finally broke. With the scores level the final play was a Herts lineout on their own 5m line - and it was in the end no surprise to see it stolen and an Essex forward crash over for winning score.

And so it was only the U14 Herts Captain Clare Shutler who could lift a Winners trophy for the county in the clubhouse afterwards. But however disappointing the outcome was for the U17s, they had still played well throughout most of the tournament until the final few minutes - and the Barbarians had again shown the incredible depth of talent in the county.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

News from Dubai...

Some of your may know that some of our senior players from Hertfordshire and East Region are in Dubai at the moment playing in the Dubai International Ladies Sevens. Sixteeen teams from around the world are taking part. Quite who the heck they actually are is anyone's guess as the website is less than informative, but anyway the first round of games took place yesterday.

Saracens have sent two teams - and the first team are through to the semi-finals tomorrow having strolled through their group, running up well over 100 points in three games without conceeding any, and having a prett easy quarter final today. This puts them through to a semi-final against an all-but US "national" team calling itself "Greater Little Rock"

The Americans have already truned over our East region side. While not an "official" team, everyone in the squad - including the manager and physio - were involved with East last year.
They had begun well in the midday heat (well, 11 am anyway) with a 50-0 win over Wadi Wadi, but after that it looks like they had some problems going down 22-5 to MGUS in the afternoon before being turned over by an "Greater Little Rock" 22-7.

That should have put them into the plate and a game against "Sisters of Soccer" this evening, who have so far failed to score a point in the competition. If they've won that one (and they shoudl have done) they could face our third side - "Saracens II" - in the plate semi-finals tomorrow lunchtime. However, Saracens II have yet to win a game so far...

More news when it leaks out...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Herts girls to pull on the red rose

Congratulations to Sarah Mckenna and Hannah Clark for making the England U19’s squad. Both girls played their junior rugby for Fullerians, before joining OA saints , and are both the product of the county and regional route to elite rugby.

This is Sarah’s second year in the squad , but the first time for Hannah after three years of trying (which goes to show hard work and determination count as much as talent).

Clive Cramphorn ( head of OA saints junior section ) said “all those involved with the saints are delighted and proud of the girls and wish them every success in the coming year”. Clive also added that Charlie White formerly of Welwyn Warriors ( also a county and regional player) made the final 44 but did not make the final squad , and did fantastically well in her first trial .

Take control...

... become a referee!

There is a new "Entry Level Referee Award Course" (ELRA) being sponsored by the RFU and the next course in Hertfordshire will be held at:

Sir Frederic Osborn School
Herns Lane,
Welwyn Garden City
Herts AL7 2AF

The course will be over four evenings (Tuesdays 9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th January 2007 (6.30pm – 9.30pm)) and includes:

Laws of Rugby Union
Roles, responsibilities and attitudes
Contextual Judgement
Health and Safety
Communication and Positioning
Child Protection
Theory into Practice
Game management and Control
Practical refereeing

Closing date for applications 13th December!
For more information and an application see the RFU website

Showcasing girls rugby

There are two events coming up in December designed to "showcase" the development of the game, and also give girls a chance to meet top adult players or play in front of a good crowd.

On 14th December all girls are invited to Saracens ground (Bramley Road, Southgate) to have a session with the Saracens women's team as well as get some publicity photographs taken showing how many girls are now playing the game.

And on 19th December U17 girls are invited to Hertford to play an exhibition game ahead of a men's county U23 match.

In both cases it promises to be an enjoyable evening, with refreshments provided, and a great opportunity to show what you have achieved and the quality and depth of girls rugby in the county.

BUT we need good numbers to commit to the events if they are to go ahead. If you are at Westcliff on Sunday please let the coaches know whenther you can get to Saracens or Hertford. If you are not at Westcliff then let your club know or drop a line to Amanda Bate as soon as possible.

Emerging School tournament

Hertfordshire's first ever inter-school tournament will take place at Welwyn on 7th February. For the first event 14 schools from all parts of the county who have shown the most interest or enthusiasm for the game have been invited to take part.

This year the competition is an U14 event and aim of the project is to get MORE girls into rugby, and MORE schools playing competitive rugby - its not about getting existing girls playing in more competitions. Though of course these girls are very likely to take part... they need to be encouraged to get more of their friends involved.

Senior regional trials: change of venue

Due to the weather and ground conditions Sunday's (3rd December) senior trials will now take place at Letchworth Garden City RFC and not St Christopher School, as previously arranged.

This is only about a mile east of St Christopher on the main road - behind the North Herts Leisure Centre. See map below.

Please park at the rugby club or the Leisure Centre - but not in the football club car park next door to the rugby club as your car will be locked in when the football finishes!

Start times and all other arrangements will be as previously announced.