Tuesday, 16 April 1991

World Cup: review

David Hands, Rugby Correspondent

AS THEIR erstwhile rivals returned home yesterday a posse of weary women paused to reflect on their achievements of the last week in organising the first world tournament for women rugby players. If 12 competing countries does not appear, on the surface, to embrace the entire globe it has been, none the less, a considerable success.

The event, which reached its climax on Sunday in Cardiff when the United States beat England 19-6 in the final, has been run on a shoestring, with none of the trappings of the modern men's game no big sponsors, no back-up, limited accommodation, but huge reserves of enthusiasm and considerable organisational skill. It was a tournament run for players by players who were prepared to risk their own money to bring their particular dream to fruition, and in that sense has taken rugby back to its original and purest roots.

Although the final accounts have yet to be drawn up, the crowd of just under 3,000 for the final ensured that there would be an overall loss of between Pounds 10,000 and Pounds 15,000, including accommodation costs for the penniless Soviet team. Acts of generosity by individuals and firms and clubs in and around Cardiff could not offset that deficit. After the closing banquet, it was claimed businessmen were prepared to cover any shortfall.

The organising committee deserves such generosity, though there is also a moral responsibility on the men's game to ensure that none of the women is out of pocket: the International Rugby Football Board, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union were all represented at the final and they have been told how hard the women have worked to keep costs down. Indeed a draft set of accounts will be sent to the Sports Council later this week and it is hoped that the necessary financial assistance may be forthcoming.

``I don't think anyone thought we would actually get it off the ground when we went round looking for sponsors,'' Deborah Griffin, the organising committee chairwoman, said. ``We were never in doubt but we had to convince other people. Now that we have done it the next tournament, in 1994, may be easier.''

During the summer, countries interested in hosting the next World Cup can put in bids which will be considered during a meeting in Madrid in September.

Most of the competing countries are affiliated to their men's national union. It is interesting to observe that the Women's Rugby Football Union, the umbrella for the game in the four home countries, is not, which may be the answer to why, when enough women came to believe in a world tournament, they got on and organised one which worked and which indicated the rising standards in such countries as Italy and Spain.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Women take game back to its roots and realise dream; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 16 Apr. 1991

Monday, 15 April 1991

World cup final: report

Alix Ramsay

THE United States became the first world champions in women's rugby union after biding their time before pulling England apart by 19-6 in the second half of the World Cup final in Cardiff .

In the first half, England had kept the Americans penned back in a tight and turgid show of muscle. The ``locks from hell'' and the ``turbo props'' could do little to counter a disciplined display from the England forwards. Facing the heavier American line-up, the English pack finally proved that organisation can counter brawn, scoring a penalty try from a well-worked five-metre scrum. Converted by Gill Burns, the English drew first blood to go 6-0 up.

But the United States, tackling with power and skill, were always going to come back. The turning point came after half an hour when a Francis fumble allowed the United States to press forward, winning a penalty. Harju converted, there were points on the board and the Americans were given a new lease of life.

Within two minutes of the second half Godwin forced the ball over after England had failed to counter the American pressure. Now the States were on a roll and the English could do nothing to stop them.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1991

Source Citation
"American brawn to advantage; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 15 Apr. 1991

Saturday, 13 April 1991

World Cup: Performance of Japan

Simon Barnes

The event of the year, the women's rugby World Cup, stages its final at Cardiff rugby club tomorrow.

Japan will not contest it but they are unquestionably the team of the tournament. They have played three matches without scoring a point: they conceded 62 points to France, 37 to Sweden and 30 to Spain. They have carried off these defeats with style.

Every single time a try has been scored against them, they have performed a sporting bow to the scorer. After every game, each Japanese player has sought out her opposite number and presented her with a small gift of an origami something-or-other. All members of the team play in scrum-caps: the stand-off half plays with hers tucked into the back of her shorts. I trust all these innovations will be adopted by the All Blacks for the lesser event, the men's rugby World Cup, this autumn.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Japanese salute; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 13 Apr. 1991

Thursday, 11 April 1991

World Cup: quarter finals and future development

David Hands, Rugby Correspondent

WHATEVER the success of the inaugural women's World Cup being played in Wales this week, their administrators are already looking ahead. A meeting in Cardiff has agreed in principle to a second tournament in 1994, and has invited proposals for the formation of an international women's rugby organisation.

The better-known International Rugby Football Board was unable to accept an invitation to the meeting but will have a second opportunity when the women convene in Madrid this summer, to try and establish the framework of the new body and evaluate the success of their first World Cup.

The organisers are hopeful of crowds of at least 6,000 at tomorrow's semi-finals in Cardiff, and Sunday's final at the same venue. They require that number to cover the tournament costs of Pounds 30,000 and have still to find some £4,000 to cover the cost of accommodation for the Soviet team, though rather than allow the individual organisers to stand liable for that sum, the men's game would surely be in a position to help.

Meanwhile, on the field New Zealand made their way to the semi-finals by beating Wales 24-6 at Flannharan yesterday.

Several hundred of the old mining village's inhabitants urged on the national side but, in a reversal of male traditions, New Zealand's backs outweighed the strengths of the Welsh forwards.

England and France are already through to the other semi-final.

RESULTS: Quarter-finals: New Zealand 24, Wales 6 (Scorers: Wales: Penalties: A Bennett (2). New Zealand: Tries: L Brett (3), A Richards, A Ford. Conversions: D Chase (2); United States 46, Soviet Union 0. Pool 2: Japan 0, Sweden 20. Pool 4: Spain 13, Italy 7.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Women's game is looking to the future; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 11 Apr. 1991

Tuesday, 9 April 1991

World Cup: Soviet Union team penniless


CUSTOMS officers called on the headquarters of the Soviet women's rugby team in Cardiff yesterday after reports that the tourists were penniless and had been selling cut-price vodka and caviar in an attempt to pay their expenses during the inaugural women's World Cup.

The women were said to have travelled through Heathrow airport's green channel with five 5ft cases of liquor, but at South Glamorgan Institute yesterday customs investigators found it almost impossible to break the language barrier and eventually left.

It is understood that no charges will be brought against the team, who had only enough money for their air fares and hoped to barter their goods for food during the week-long tournament in South Wales. But half of their goods went missing at Moscow airport and since arriving they had resorted to rationing their breakfast meal and sold some jerseys and sportswear to raise cash.

Yet even while Customs was questioning them, offers of help were coming in. Companies and individuals contacted the party with offers of cash, meals and transport. A pie manufacturer and a restaurant owner came forward to give the girls a square meal, an anonymous donor offered £1,200 towards their expenses and the mother of Bess Evans, the Welsh women's hooker, donated £100.

Such acts of kindness came too late to build up the Soviet women's stamina for yesterday's match: they lost 28-0 to the Netherlands - but showed a profit on touchline sales of souvenirs.

Source Citation
"Women's World Cup: Vodka salesgirls have shorts, will travel." Guardian [London, England] 9 Apr. 1991

Sunday, 7 April 1991

World Cup: New Zealand v Canada

Paul Nelson

Paul Nelson reports on the first game in the women's rugby World Cup

THERE was no fanfare, no marching band and no crowd worthy of the name.

But none of the 100 or so spectators, a mixture of the curious, the commissioned, and the committed, who saw the glint in Debbie Chase's eyes as she led her team-mates in the haka at Cardiff will ever forget the moment which marked the start of the first women's World Cup.

The sight of 15 women performing the traditional Maori tribal dance, a ritual challenge which for centuries has remained the preserve of men, will live long in the memory. It was slick, done with conviction and it said in a more eloquent manner than any words could that the women's game has arrived. The New Zealand team were every bit as convincing over the next 80 minutes, as they saw off impressively a stubborn Canadian side.

Chase, a free spirit who lists her occupation as bass player and has credentials in half a dozen sports, including rugby league, scored two tries as a result of the sort of balanced running in the centre that brought back memories of her male Maori counterpart, Steve Pokere.

Outside her, Helen Mahon, a pacey wing, ran in a hat-trick of tries, two from the tactical kicking of Jacqui Apiata, the fly-half.

The impressive back division was beautifully set up by Anna Richards, a scrum-half from Auckland who is a natural all-round athlete with a useful service and a devastating swerve.

The early moments of the game were enough to convince even the most hardened sceptic that this was a legitimate form of rugby in its own right.

There was a bite to the tackle and a good deal of vigour up front. Several times the All Black forwards showed the same indiscriminate footwork in their rucking as their more famous counterparts, and a number of times the Canadians were left needing treatment. Although the fierceness of the physical exchanges surprised many unfamiliar with the game at the Glamorgan Wanderers ground, the players made light of it.

``I wouldn't say it was a dirty game,'' Ruth Hellerud-Brown, the Canadian captain, said. ``I've played in much worse. The most important thing was that there was no hair-pulling and stuff like that going on; we can take the boots.''

Hellerud-Brown's side stuck to their guns throughout, even though it was clear by half-time, when they trailed 16-0, that there was no way back.

Mahon had completed her hat-trick and Chase had scored the first of her tries, and had the New Zealanders had a decent place kicker they would have been even further out of sight. Neither Ross, their chunky fullback who came into the line with real punch, and on occasions a Campese hitch-kick, nor Chase had the power to succeed with any one of eight kicks at goal.

The lack of kicking ability, both from ground and the hand, is one of the glaring differences from the men's game. But, as many long-suffering supporters would suspect, it improves the game as a spectacle. Once the purist has stopped tut-tutting over the kicks to touch that fall short, he is impressed by the amount of running this produces once hoofing the ball into touch is no longer an option.

The New Zealanders look a good bet to make the final on the Cardiff ground a week today. Among the teams they are likely to meet are England, who finally wore down a determined Spanish defence to win 12-0 at St Helens, Swansea, with tries from Stennet, Williets and Burns; France, who trounced Japan 62-0; and the United States, who beat the Netherlands 7-0.

Even if the opening day's play had not been so compelling, the World Cup is already a significant triumph for its organizers and for the women's game. Despite a desperate lack of funds the tournament has no sponsor and the regrettable sniping of men who see the game's development as an intrusion into their territory, the tournament has brought together 12 teams from around the globe on shoestring.

For some, the sacrifices have been enormous. The team from the Soviet Union were still arriving in dribs and drabs yesterday, with no money, little food and supplies of champagne, caviar and vodka with which to barter for the basic necessities.

Copyright (C) The Sunday Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Different gender but don't call these All Blacks tender; Rugby Union." Sunday Times [London, England] 7 Apr. 1991.

Saturday, 6 April 1991

World Cup: Soviet Union, New Zealand and Japan preview

The event of the year kicks off today. The women's rugby World Cup starts with four matches in Wales, but the competition has not advanced this far without a slight problem or two. For example, they lost the entire Soviet squad. The players, who had already regretfully informed the organisers that they would be unable to pay for their own food and accommodation, failed to turn up on the expected aeroplane.

Their greeters were later told that they would be on a following flight. This was cancelled. For a while no one knew if they had arrived or not, or where they were. They finally showed up yesterday morning. A 15-seat mini-bus was there to take them away but unfortunately, only six of the squad were able to get into it. They are very big ladies indeed. One of them is 6ft 4in. Finally they were all squeezed into two mini-buses. At least we can now understand their problems with paying for their own food.

I hear hot news from the New Zealand squad. Naturally, they wanted to exploit the New Zealander's traditional psychological advantage by performing the haka before every game this being the Maori war dance. In the more straight-laced Maori circles, the idea of women performing a haka is as difficult to handle as the idea of women playing rugby is in other enclaves of tradition. Indeed two players in the New Zealand party, a Samoan and a Cook Islander, have been refused permission to perform the haka by their tribal leaders. But times change: and a Maori chief has given the other women full permission to haka their opponents into submission before every match.

Meanwhile, the Japanese side threatens to be the team of the tournament. It includes players who stand at four feet nine inches, and every player on the pitch wears a scrum-cap. Indeed, I have been told that the Tokyo Ladies team all play in pink scrum-caps. That's one for the All Blacks to copy.

History has been made in sumo wrestling. The annual spring grand sumo tournament featured an all-American bout at this, the highest level of the Japanese game of games. The wrestlers in question were both Hawaiian. Akebono, an up-and-coming star, took on the mighty 37-stone Konishiki. To put it another way, this was Chad Rowan against Salevaa Fuali Atisanoe. Akebono won, a big upset, for Konishiki is the highest ranked foreigner ever to wrestle sumo. ``It's like a dream come true,'' Akebono said.

Source Citation
"Dressing down has its appeal for blazer wearers; Sport." Times [London, England] 6 Apr. 1991.

World Cup: The tournament begins

Alix Ramsay

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

Source Citation
"Women's game hoping to make converts in Wales; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 6 Apr. 1991.

Tuesday, 2 April 1991

Women flock to valley of the mauls

Alix Ramsay

WALES the spiritual home of rugby, the land that fathered Gareth Edwards, J.P.R. Williams and Barry John. A place where the success of the national team ranks alongside the achievements of Owen Glendower and Aneurin Bevan.

This week, another chapter, albeit a modest one, will be added as Wales plays host to the first women's rugby union World Cup. Twelve teams, including New Zealand, Japan, the Soviet Union and Canada, converge on the valleys for the week-long tournament, starting on Saturday.

This is not a genteel sport these women play to win but it is not a game played by female navvies. A quick check down the player-profiles reveals a host of engineers, solicitors and PR executives. But in the twinkling of an eye, they shed their shoulder pads and high heels and put on shin pads and gumshields.

Sue Dorrington works for Help the Aged as a special events manager, dealing with the rich and famous to persuade them to support the charity. Her every free moment is spent on the rugby field or in the training gym. ``I spend half my life in a tracksuit and half my life dolled up in the office,'' she said. ``Most of the titled women I speak to have no idea about my rugby. I can spend my morning shaking hands with Princess Diana and then run off to training in the afternoon.''

Originally from Minnesota, Dorrington came to England to further her rugby career after playing in the United States. Now she is the Richmond and England hooker, qualifying for the national side through her marriage to an Englishman.

``There is something inexplicable about it,'' she said. ``It gets into your system. Nothing gives me as much pleasure as rugby. It's my only sport. I'm 5ft tall and there are few team

sports around that would accept a 5ft loud-mouthed American.''

Although she is now a fully fledged Anglophile, Dorrington reveals her American roots in her attitude to the game. ``I'm fortunate to be playing to a high standard, but I'm very competitive,'' she said. ``The minute I'm dropped from the England squad or from the Richmond first team, I'll quit. I play to compete, not for fun.''

Dorrington knows no fear: that rugby is a fierce contact sport is one of the attractions. ``It's the challenge of playing the best I can and beating my opposition technically that appeals,'' she said. ``As a hooker, it's a battle all the time and this is a game where women can use their power and strength, especially in the front row.''

Her captain in the England side is Karen Almond, a PE teacher at a girls' prep school at Potters Bar. Her colleagues in the staff room and the parents are very supportive, if a little surprised, by her sporting achievements. ``Most of them are quite impressed,'' she said. ``At parents' evenings, we spend most of the time talking about rugby.''

Almond has played rugby for the last ten years, since she was at Loughborough University, and has seen the game grow and develop to the point where there are now 100 clubs in the Women's Rugby Football Union. But she is still aware that women's rugby has a difficult image problem to overcome. While it is a rough game, she is adamant that it is not as bad as it seems.

``We've worked hard to keep the image clean,'' she said. ``I find it much more horrific to watch from the touchline than I do when I'm playing. I think we are more careful than the men in the rucks and mauls we tend to look before we jump. I like to think we show the same level of competitiveness but not the same vindictiveness.''

Liza Burgess, the Welsh captain and No.8, is not so sure. She believes there is little difference between the level of aggression and commitment shown in the men's and women's game.

``As a forward, I think it is just as rough and tough as the men's game,'' she said. ``What you want to do is get in there and win the ball. The game is all about that. If you play a sport, the ultimate aim is to win. Without that, it is not a sport.''

Copyright (C) The Times, 1991

Source Citation
"Women flock to valley of the mauls; Rugby Union." Times [London, England] 2 Apr. 1991