A NEW era begins this weekend for England women's rugby when Geoff Richards, the former Wasps and Australia full back, becomes their first full-time coach (David Hands writes). He will meet his squad, many of whom helped to win the five nations title last season, for the first time at a training camp at Lilleshall before selecting the party to contest the Canada Cup in Winnipeg next month.
All the leading countries in the women's game are gearing up for the 2002 World Cup with professional appointments but Richards, who replaces Peter Kennedy and Steve Redfern, arrives with the experience of Australia A and under-21 men's squads behind him. He has also spent three years with the Australian Institute of Sport before taking up a two-year contract with England, funded by the Sports Council.
There is liaison with the senior men's game too, since Phil Larder and David Alred have worked on defence and kicking with the women's squad. Sadly, Richards will not have at his disposal for Canada the experience of Emma Mitchell, the Saracens scrum half, and the midfield duo of Sue Day and Nicky Jupp; all three are recovering from injury.
However, over the weekend he must perm 26 from the senior training squad of 36 for the party, as well as appointing ancillary coaching staff. His opponents will include New Zealand, the world champions, and the United States.
The Times (London, England) (August 26, 2000): p43.