IT IS not often the men take a back seat to women in rugby, but today Steve Dowling will be happy to do so, watching nervously from the touchline at Swansea as the England team he coaches plays Spain in their opening match in the women's World Cup.
Dowling became involved when one of the England internationals, Cheryl Stennett, joined his department at school. Now, after much hard work, he believes England can win the trophy.
``We've got a very good blend of talents,'' he said. ``We've got a good pack and I'm sure we've got the best backs in the tournament. The captain, Karen Almond, is an outstanding player and tactician and Gill Burns, the No.8, is very powerful.''
France, New Zealand and the United States are tipped to provide the strongest opposition for England. ``We believe the USA are strong and fit, but whether they are technically as able remains to be seen,'' Dowling said.
Brian Moore, the England and Harlequins hooker, who helped with the final training sessions, was quickly converted to the cause of women's rugby. ``I was very conscious at first of not being patronising,'' he said. ``But I found after a very short time I didn't have to think about it. It was just like coaching any other team, which says it all.
``I think people who go to watch with an open mind will be convinced in the first few minutes of the level of skill and commitment.''
FIXTURES: Today: New Zealand v Canada (Glamorgan Wanderers, 1.00); France v Japan (Cardiff Harlequins, 2.30); United States v Netherlands (Pontypool, 2.30); England v Spain (Swansea, 2.30). Monday: Canada v Wales (Glamorgan Wanderers, 5.00); France v Sweden (Glamorgan Wanderers, 8.00); Netherlands v Soviet Union (Llanharan, 3.45); England v Italy (Llanharan, 5.45). Wednesday: New Zealand v Wales (Llanharan, 3.45); Japan v Sweden (Llanharan, 5.45); United States v Soviet Union (Glamorgan Wanderers, 5.00); Spain v Italy (Glamorgan Wanderers, 7.00). Friday: Semi-finals (Cardiff RFC, 6.00 and 8.00). April 14: Final (Cardiff RFC, 3.00).
Copyright (C) The Times, 1991
"Women's game hoping to make converts in Wales; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 6 Apr. 1991.