Thu 28 Nov 2019 19:19

*Girls under 15 season update*

I’ve had the privilege to be involved with HRFC  since 2001 during this time the most exciting change I have seen is that of ladies rugby. 

It only seems a few years ago that Sophie Bambridge and Dean started out The ladies at the club. The progression to what I see in front of me now can only be described as meteoric. The buzz around the pipeline from under 11, u13, u15, u18 to a league-leading ladies side is phenomenal. It has truly opened up some amazing experiences and opportunities that would never have happened were it not for these pioneers. 

To be asked to come and help coach the under 15 girls are meaningful to me and is one of the best tests of my rugby career and coaching to date!

Preseason started with a solid five weeks of rugby fitness so that everybody in the squad could get rugby ready. New coach, new set up....never easy but those early sessions gave me a great understanding of the potential and talent within this group of players and to have some fun.

I couldn’t imagine that by November we would have progressed so far. My biggest concern for this group of girls is that they are physically fit and strong enough to prevent injuries, as this is where the physicality of the game of rugby starts to build. Girls bodies are different physiologically from boys at the hips and therefore the knees, so a lot of the focus of early-season work has been on strengthening movement and core stability within the lower body. 

The season itself has been successful so far with several games played against strong opposition at Alton and Guildford and Basingstoke. Our strengths are continuity and reload rugby. We do not possess any real flyers in the side as yet and are learning the importance of maintaining possession and field position, to build pressure.  Darren and I have worked hard on scrummaging to hammer home the importance of the scrum in winning rugby matches. We need to look no further than the World Cup final which ultimately was decided by great defences forcing errors and powerful scrummaging to capitalise. 

Within the player group, we have identified new positions for girls in the 15 aside game as their body shapes change and aptitude for position develops. It is not uncommon at this age when players go through physical changes for them to become better at certain positions - perhaps different from what they have played before or have been told.

The focus has been on developing the group firstly as rugby players with all the core skills required to play a fast reload game and secondly to find positions in which they can excel. This has meant some changes. But this has also offered opened up opportunities.

I believe that every girl in this group has a future in the game and that many will go on to represent Havant ladies in their continued progression up the leagues. 

There is also a core group within that will achieve much more along the talent development pathway for Hampshire and beyond, IF they remain committed to self-improvement.

What is clear to me is that the level of fitness required for them to achieve both of these outcomes is greatly higher than we are currently working at. Whilst I have always believed rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and this maxim still holds true, the reality of the modern game means that to play between 70 and 80 minutes of rugby to a standard, safely without injury, requires greater levels of personal fitness and strength conditioning.

This is the only negative feedback  I can level, but it must be taken on board. In every other dimension these young players work hard, they listen to the coaching advice, they ask questions and they push themselves into the zone of discomfort in order to improve. 

I have seen many great characteristics from this group already and the fact that they continue to turn up at our sessions despite the heavily increased level of workload and intensity shows that they have the hunger to improve as players. 

I have been really impressed with the support of Julia, Darren, Dan and Dean - all accepting me into this fantastic coaching group and supporting me with changes.

In the under 13s the work that Paul Croft continues to do is excellent preparation for the step on in rugby that these girls are now experiencing which will continue along the excellent pathway through the under 18s and into the ladies team.

There has never been A better time than now for ladies rugby and I feel privileged to be part of this journey with Havant rugby club.