All the latest from the world of rugby
April 29, 2012
Posted by Huw Baines on 04/29/2012
Emily Dugan spends the day with England's women's Sevens side at Twickenham, for The Independent on Sunday.
"Two England rugby players face off on the turf at Twickenham stadium. The taller one sprints forward, does a graceful sidestep and zips easily past a bulky forward to the try line.
"The rest of the squad start laughing. Ferocious-looking forward Mark Odejobi – or Odd Job to his team-mates – has just been beaten by Jo Watmore: a girl.
"I am with the rugby sevens squad as they prepare for the England leg of the IRB World Series, which will come to their home stadium in two weeks' time (12-13 May). But this year, there's a difference: for the first time, women are competing in the internationally recognised contest."
September 5, 2010
Posted by Graham Jenkins on 09/05/2010
Women's game belies game's amateur status
It will be back to the day jobs soon enough, but before then, England's ladies will attempt to win the World Cup for the first time in 16 years. The Daily Telegraph's Brendan Gallagher reports.
"Many of the England girls have stored up their annual holidays or negotiated unpaid leave to take a 12 weeks off to prepare properly and then compete. New Zealand prop Ruth McKay has had to arrange cover at her farm near Hunterville, where she is head shepherd. I wonder if she walks around with a sheep under each arm à la Colin Meads.
"Everybody out there plays for the love of the game. Physically that game has been transformed in recent years. The pioneers had to deal with sceptics and also overcome the tag of being a novelty, but gradually they won that battle and women's rugby now attracts some seriously impressive athletes – England's all action flanker Maggie Alphonsi could excel at any sport she chose.
"The speed at which play now unfolds is unrecognisable and big hits are a big part of the proceedings. Some of the tackles during England's 15-0 semi-final win against Australia on Wednesday night were simply ferocious. Twenty years ago it did not sit comfortably, now it is just part of the game and spectacle."
Posted by Graham Jenkins on 09/05/2010
England in World Cup final today! No, really
With no prize money nor match fee, the England Women take on the might of the All Blacks – simply for the glory of holding the trophy. Emily Duggan reports for the Independent on Sunday.
"When the England rugby team walks on to the turf at Twickenham to face New Zealand in the World Cup Final today it will be in front of a near-capacity crowd and TV cameras. But there will be no big sponsorship deals, no match-winning bonus and, in fact, no money at all for any of the star players.
"The insulting lack of accolade or incentive is simply because the international athletes in this case are women – who have had to take holiday or unpaid leave from their jobs just to compete in the tournament."
September 4, 2010
Posted by Ruaidhri O'Connor on 09/04/2010
Women's rugby has cast away the stereotypes
Writing in The Guardian, Robert Kitson believes the Women's World Cup has dashed a lot of myths about the sport.
"The popular notion that women's rugby is but a pale imitation of the men's version has been lain to rest this past fortnight. Some will say that has been the case for a while, and they may have a point. But what has died a spectacular death is that most basic of counter-arguments: that women are simply not designed for rugby. Tell that to Maggie Alphonsi, the stupendously good English openside who prefers the nickname The Machine, or Danielle Waterman, whose cover tackle on the aforementioned Beck in the second half of Wednesday's semi-final was another nail in the heart of lazy sexism.
"The watching Martin Johnson will also have been impressed by the fitness and technical skills on display. As in cricket or golf, what it may lack in power it makes up for in terms of alertness and precision. The quality of England's recycling work and passing are a credit to their own head coach, Gary Street, and Alphonsi's ball-snaffling is an object lesson for any aspiring flanker.
"A sense of perspective, nevertheless, is probably worth retaining. Twickenham will not sell 80,000 seats for a women's international any time soon. The oval-ball future is unlikely ever to mirror the Two Ronnies' serial "The Worm That Turned" when Diana Dors ruled Britain, men were forced to wear dresses and the rules were upheld by mini-skirted "Gestapo" officers. But rugby does have a new army of role models, as Sunday will surely re-emphasise. All those tiresome hooker-themed jokes are so last century."
August 21, 2010
Posted by Ruaidhri O'Connor on 08/21/2010
World Cup could change women’s rugby forever
The Western Mail's Carolyn Hitt speaks to Wales international Gemma Hallett about her reasons for playing rugby.
"Welsh women’s rugby international Gemma Hallett took up the game because of her grandmother. The Pontypridd-born lock relishes family stories of her “nan screaming and yelling at the television, too nervous to sit, too anxious to stand still during the halcyon days of the ’70s. I grew up determined to make my nan proud of my own rugby exploits,” she says.
"When Gemma’s nan was shouting at men in sideboards she couldn’t have dreamed her granddaughter would be part of a Welsh rugby team playing in the World Cup that kicked off yesterday. Welsh women did actually play rugby in the 1970s but there was no formal infrastructure until the formation of the Women’s Rugby Football Union in 1983. The union looked after women’s rugby in all four home nations, which then consisted of just 12 teams."
August 20, 2010
Posted by Graham Jenkins on 08/20/2010
'People say I don't look like a rugby player'
England's Emily Scarratt is set to be one of the face of the Women's Rugby World Cup
© Getty Images
As the Women's Rugby World Cup makes its live television debut, England's centre tells The Independent's Robin Scott-Elliot about life in a man's game.
"Emily Scarratt had an easy morning yesterday, a late breakfast with her flatmates followed by some welcome downtime. But it could do nothing to still the excitement bubbling around the compact apartment she shares with a couple of her team-mates.
"We have been looking forward to this all summer," says Scarratt, a 20-year-old who juggles her studies with being one of the world's most promising female rugby players. "I am so excited about what could happen."
"On Tuesday Scarratt and the other 25 members of the England women's squad moved into their temporary home for – if everything goes according to plan – just under three weeks. They are occupying a block in the Surrey Sports Park on the edge of Guildford. Next door are the Canadians and the next one along holds the US. All 12 teams competing for the World Cup, from the All Blacks to Kazakhstan, are based in what is usually student accommodation; a far cry from what their male counterparts are used to when they gather to contest the game's greatest prize."
Posted by Graham Jenkins on 08/20/2010
England Women confident of toppling Black Ferns
One difference between the men's and women's Rugby World Cups is that New Zealand do well in the latter, according the Guardian's Paul Rees.
"The Black Ferns are overwhelming favourites to win this year's tournament, which starts in Guildford tomorrow, even though they have played a mere six matches since winning the trophy in 2006.
"The All Blacks have won the men's World Cup only once, in 1987, but the Black Ferns are looking for a fourth successive triumph. Their main rivals are England, beaten finalists in the last two tournaments who at Twickenham last season became the first side to defeat New Zealand for nine years.
"The women's game is amateur and players have to make sacrifices. The England captain, Catherine Spencer, who was born on the same day as Jonny Wilkinson, gave up her job as an office manager at a sport centre near Bristol to concentrate on the World Cup. "We call them choices rather than sacrifices," Spencer says. "It is what we choose to be the best players we can be. If that means not having a social life and having to wake up early to get the training in, that is what we will do."
October 18, 2009
Posted by Huw Baines on 10/18/2009
A game for the ladies
Emily Dugan, writing in The Independent on Sunday, praises the increased numbers of women taking up the game.
"Rugby, traditionally described as a game for hooligans played by gentlemen, is increasingly being taken up by women.
"Female participation in the game has soared, and is expected to increase further as a result of the sport gaining Olympic recognition for 2016.
"There are now more than 200,000 women and girls playing in teams around the world, with the number of girls' rugby clubs in England alone tripling in the past six years, from 87 in 2003 to 274 in 2009. The number of women over 18 playing regularly in England has gone up from 4,124 to 5,019 in the past two years, and the number of girls has risen from 5,961 to 7,925 in the same period.
"Next year England will host the Women's Rugby World Cup for the first time. Unlike the men's team, which is ranked a paltry seventh, the English women are second in the world, with three Six Nations wins under their belt and a good chance of making the top spot by the end of the season."