Monday, 27 May 2002

England's world falls apart in final challenge

lison Kervin in Barcelona

ON A sun-dappled pitch at the imposing Olympic Stadium in Barcelona on Saturday evening, New Zealand beat England 19-9 to win the women's rugby World Cup. Their victory allows the Black Ferns to hold on to the most treasured prize in the game and it sends a clear and simple message out to the sporting world -women's rugby needs to be invested in, supported and taken seriously.

The match was a battle between the two superpowers -a contest between England, who "invented" women's rugby, and New Zealand, their southern-hemisphere opponents who appropriated and developed it. A familiar rugby tale.

New Zealand were the better side on Saturday; they were superior in the forwards and awesome in defence, as they had been throughout the tournament. They have not conceded a try and have had just 12 points scored against them.

Their win marks the high point of an extraordinary and well-managed turnaround. Last summer they lost to England in New Zealand, prompting a thorough overhaul of their game. A panel comprising leading New Zealand coaches such as Wayne Smith and Robbie Deanes was established to work with Darryl Suasua, the side's regular coach, to improve standards. As part of the new regime, the women trained alongside men's Super 12 development teams.

The policy paid off magnificently on Saturday. As Suasua ran on to the field - looking like a modern-day Ruud Gullit with his dreadlocks, designer sunglasses and hefty jewellery, -his team's transformation was complete. There is no doubt that they have made an important statement about the future of the women's game. "We have worked hard since the summer -we've been fully backed by the New Zealand Rugby Union and had support from the whole of the men's game. That's why this side is so strong," he said.

England's women are also fully integrated into the Rugby Football Union now but, it would be fair to say, without the same enthusiasm that the Kiwi women have received. The attitude is that if anyone appears in the black shirt of New Zealand, they are to be treated with respect. The women's route through the World Cup was followed avidly in New Zealand and the final was screened live, even though it was at 3am local time.

At the end of the tournament, as the New Zealand team performed the haka to celebrate their victory and We Are The Champions resonated around the stadium, the England team clutched their silver medals to their chests and hugged one another.

To come so close to victory, and to lose in the final game, is a devastating blow, but to make it to a World Cup final in the first place is a magnificent achievement. That England have made it to every women's World Cup final says much about the dedication and commitment of those behind the game in this country.

The disappointment of not being world champions will linger for Paula George, the England captain, and Geoff Richards, the coach, but hopefully they will take the time to reflect on just how much they achieved in Barcelona and how much they have done for the women's game.

SCORERS: England: Penalty goals: Rae 2 (5min, 32). Dropped goal: Rae (19). New Zealand: Tries: Hirovanaa (40), Waaka (48). Penalty goals: Wilson 2 (4, 14), Myers (83).

SCORING SEQUENCE (England first): 0-3, 3-3, 3-6, 6-6, 9-6, 9-11 (half-time), 9-16, 9-19.

ENGLAND: P George (Wasps); N Crawford (Worcester), N Jupp (Richmond), S Rudge (Clifton; rep: A De Biase, Saracens 73min), S Day (Wasps); S Rae (Wasps; blood rep: S Appleby, Clifton, 56-61), J Yapp (Worcester); M Edwards (Saracens; rep: T O'Reilly, Saracens, 53), A Garnett (Saracens, sin-bin, 30-40), V Huxford (Wasps), K Henderson (Clifton), T Andrews (Richmond; rep: G Burns, Waterloo, 75); J Phillips (Richmond; rep: H Clayton, Saracens, 53), G Stevens (Clifton), C Frost (Saracens).

NEW ZEALAND: T Wilson; D Kahura, A Rush, S Shortland (rep: H Myers, 66), A Marsh; A Richards, M Hirovanaa; R Sheck (rep: H Va'aga, 52), F Palmer, R Luia'ana, M Codling, V Heighway (sin-bin, 64-74), C Waaka, A Lili'i (rep: M Robinson, 75), R Martin.

Referee: G De Santis (Italy).

The Times (London, England) (May 27, 2002): p26

England's final push falls short

ENGLAND narrowly failed in their attempt to win the World Cup on Saturday, going down 19-9 to a powerful New Zealand side in

Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.

The final, played in front of nearly 8,000 spectators, was tense throughout but England were ultimately outgunned by a New Zealand side who have taken women's rugby to a new level over the past 18 months.

The Kiwis, under coach Darryl Suasua - who announced his retirement following their victory - had conceded just three points before the final and fully deserved to win their second successive title.

England briefly led 9-6 in the first half, thanks to two penalties and a drop-goal from fly-half Shelley Rae. New Zealand struck back with a try either side of half-time, and an astute kicking game gave England little chance to further threaten the New

Zealand line.

Paula George, the England captain, had hoped that beating New Zealand last summer would give the team the confidence to repeat the feat. "We had them running scared for long periods," she said. "But unfortunately we didn't turn our pressure into points."

England's coach, Geoff Richards, felt that the better team had won. "New Zealand are a fantastic side and kept us under pressure for the whole game," he said. "We were living off scraps in the second half and, unless you have a platform up front, it is difficult to launch meaningful attacks."

Nevertheless the team hope that their performance, and the standard of play in this tournament, might persuade Rugby Football Union officials to allow women to play on Twickenham's hallowed turf. "Hopefully it won't be too long now till we play at HQ," Richards said, "We are a national team and we feel we deserve to play in a national stadium."

Daily Telegraph (London, England) (May 27, 2002)

Sunday, 26 May 2002

New Zealand crowned the queens of rugby

England 9 New Zealand 19

WHILE the nation has been captivated by David Beckham's left foot, few will have noticed that England came tantalisingly close to winning the World Cup yesterday.

England women's rugby team narrowly lost to a physical New Zealand team in the final of the 2002 IRB World Cup here yesterday but were part of an absorbing contest.

England's coach, Geoff Richards, felt the game took women's rugby to new heights. "It was a fantastic spectacle," he said. "Women's rugby has improved markedly since 1998 and will continue to. The game will increase in popularity and standards will rise accordingly."

Though the organisers could not claim to have converted hundreds of Spaniards to the oval game, the tournament has been an undoubted success. Nearly 8,000 people turned up to watch the culmination of this two-week competition centred around the Catalan city and women's rugby's two heavyweights contested the match in a stadium worthy of any final.

New Zealand are undoubtedly the queens of their game, conceding no tries and just 12 points in the whole campaign. England, though, were gallant losers, led superbly by their captain Paula George. "We are gutted," she said, "and I cannot put into words quite how we feel. But we have to look forward. I'm exceptionally proud of my team and I could not have asked for any more."

The women's game so long the target of scepticism back home, has made rapid progress. New Zealand, under the guide of their coach, Darryl Suasua, who retired following the final, has showcased players with improved technical and physical ability. Strong forward play and speed in the back line was too much for England to handle on the day.

But more important than the result was the spirit in which the game was played. It was a fantastic advert for the women's game which is already one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The final also provided a brief glimpse of what the men's game is lacking since it turned professional.

Yes, the pre-final entertainment was distinctly amateurish but that was the beauty of it. The majority of the 16 competing teams stayed long after the final whistle and mixed happily with each other. Enemies on the pitch, friends off it - rugby's brotherhood (or sisterhood) was evident. The women's game is free from the financial incentives and imperatives that have become part and parcel of the men's game.

Scores: 3-0 Wilson pen; 3-3 Rae pen 3-3; 6-3 Wilson pen, 6-6 Rae drop-goal, 6-9 Rae pen, 11-9 Hirovanaa try, 16-9 Waaka try, 19-9 Marsh pen.

New Zealand: T Wilson; D Cahura, A Rush, S Shortland, H Myers; A Richards, M Hirovanaa; R Sheck, F Palmer, R Luiaana, M Codling, V Heighway; C Waaka, A Lilii; R Martin,

England: P George; N Crawford, N Jupp, S Rudge, S Day; S Rae, J Yapp; M Edwards, A Garnett, V Huxford, K Henderson, T Andrews, J Phillips, G Stevens, C Frost

Sunday Telegraph (London, England) (May 26, 2002)

New Zealand crowned the queens of rugby

England fell at the ultimate hurdle in the Women's Rugby World Cup yesterday when they lost the final to the defending champions, New Zealand, in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.

However, the game was much harder-fought than the Black Ferns' eventual margin of victory, 19-9, suggests. Shelley Rae's kicking kept the runners- up in contention throughout a tight first half, but New Zealand eventually eased clear with tries from Monique Hirovanaa and Cheryl Waaka.

Rae cancelled out two Tammi Wilson penalties with one of her own plus her first drop goal of the tournament before adding a second penalty to edge England 9-6 ahead.

But Hirovanaa put the Kiwis back in front when she spotted a gap after 33 minutes and crossed to give her side an 11-9 half-time lead.

Waaka extended that advantage to seven points when she breached the English defence six minutes after the restart, and the Black Ferns managed to hold on for the rest of the second half despite the sin-binning of Victoria Heighway. Hannah Myers, a replacement, sealed New Zealand's triumph in this 16-team, two-week tournament when she added a penalty in injury time.

France, beaten 30-0 by the Kiwis in their semi-final, bounced back to hammer Canada 41-7 in the third-place match. The French helped themselves to four first-half tries, including a pair from centre Nathalie Amiel, en route to a 24-0 interval lead.

In the second half, the prop Dalphine Plantet went over for her second try of the day and the French were only denied a clean-sheet victory when the Canadian centre Julie Foster touched down and Kelly McCallum supplied the conversion.

France completed the scoring in the 71st minute when their No 8, Clotilde Flaugere, claimed their sixth try. Estelle Sardini added the conversion to swell her points total to 11 for the match.

Scotland had to be content with sixth place after they were routed 30- 0 in their closing game by Australia. Charmain Smith, a wing, ran in a brace of first-half tries as the Wallaroos built a 13-0 half-time lead, and there were further touchdowns after the break from centre Sharon O'Kane and flanker Selena Worsley. The rest of Australia's points came via the boot of Tui Ormsby, who kicked two penalties and two conversions.

Had they not run into a rampant New Zealand line-up at the quarter-final stage last weekend, the Australians might well have finished higher in the overall pecking order than fifth.

The Independent on Sunday (London, England) (May 26, 2002): p8

Saturday, 25 May 2002

Women in final push

ENGLAND face New Zealand today in the final of the Women's Rugby World Cup in Barcelona confident they have the gameplan to win the trophy.

They reached the final by beating Canada 53-10 on Tuesday, a win that gave them good reason to feel optimistic.

Captain Paula George said: "We will need to step up another gear to win. After all, they are the reigning world champions."

Coach Geoff Richards said: "We've got a plan of attack and we are confident in that, and that in the end it will come good."

Ruck & Roll: Mr Motivator Richards keeps women on top

SVEN Goran Eriksson could learn the art of the World Cup campaign from his counterpart with the England women's rugby team. Today Aussie Geoff Richards leads England into battle in Spain in the Women's Rugby World Cup final against favourites New Zealand. Last year he shared the award as UK sports coach of the year with Eriksson.

The Mirror (London, England) (May 25, 2002): p67

Findlay aims to lay down law in play-off

Lewis Stuart

SCOTLAND hope that their captain's fiftieth cap will be the good-luck omen that will take them to fifth place in the Women's Rugby World Cup in Barcelona. Karen Findlay, the London police officer who leads them, reaches the landmark today when the team play Australia.

It is a repeat of the fifth/sixth place play-off in the 1998 World Cup, which Australia won, but a match that Scotland know they are capable of winning if they play to form. They would match their best finish in the competition, achieved in 1994, if they win, and will at least have lived up to their seeding. The Scots have been forced into two changes with Sarah Higgins, the full back, and Angela Hutt, the wing, picking up injuries in the win over Spain. They are replaced by Alison McGrandles and Jen Dickson, but should not be much weakened. Both could consider themselves unlucky not to be there in the first place.

For the final against New Zealand, England have left Gill Burns, their in-form and legendary No 8, among the replacements. Burns, 37, has played in all four World Cups and was England's star performer in their impressive 53-10 semi-final win over Canada on Tuesday. The final will be Burns's final top-level outing before she retires but she may not get on the field. Geoff Richards, England's head coach, instead will start with Claire Frost, from Saracens, at the back of the scrum. Frost is one of eight changes to the starting team that defeated Canada.

She will form a new-look loose-forward combination with Georgia Stevens, who will play in the less familiar openside flank position, while Jenny Phillips, who has recovered from a stomach bug, will take her place on the blindside.

SCOTLAND: A McGrandles; G Gibbon, V MacDonald, R Petlevannaia, J Dickson; D Fairbairn, P Chalmers; K Findlay, V Wiseman, A Christie, L Cockburn, C Muir, B Macleod, D Kennedy, F Gillanders. Replacements: A McKenzie, V Galbraith, J Hanley, L O'Keefe, J Sheerin, M-P Tierney, R Shepherd.

The Times (London, England) (May 25, 2002): p37

Wednesday, 22 May 2002

The Times (London, England) (May 22, 2002): p39

Daryl Holden in Barcelona

England 53, Canada 10

ENGLAND produced a remarkable turnaround in form yesterday to outclass Canada and power into the women's rugby World Cup final here. Having been disappointing in their opening tournament wins over Italy and Spain, England finally rediscovered their touch, scoring eight tries to Canada's two, to set up an eagerly-awaited final against New Zealand on Saturday.

Last night, the Black Ferns, New Zealand's defending champions, proved much too good for France in the second semi-final, winning 30-0, but they will have to be at their best to hold on to their title.

England will take much confidence into the final after destroying Canada in searing heat. They produced a high-class running game, with backs and forwards combining superbly.

Geoff Richards, the England coach, who was worried by his team's poor form, was pleased with the effort. "We always knew we were capable of playing good rugby and they really put it together," he said. "What was really pleasing was that they followed the game plan to the letter."

England certainly did that and they had stars all over the field. No one was better than Gill Burns, the No 8. She was dynamic, making powerful runs from the base of the scrum and out in the midfield in a commanding display.

Burns led a forward effort to which Canada had no answer. They struggled in the set-pieces, their scrum lost two against the head and they lost six of their own lineouts.

Sue Day, the centre, was again polished in all she did. She finished attacks superbly to grab four tries by backing up but she was also rock solid in defence and one withering 50-metre run from a counter-attack led to a try for Nicola Crawford, the right wing.

SCORERS: England: Tries: Day 4 (17min, 29, 54, 75), Crawford 2 (24, 52), Feltham 2 (9, 37). Conversions: Rae 2. Penalty goals: Rae 3 (4, 31, 40). Canada: Tries: McAuley 2 (36, 62).

SCORING SEQUENCE:3-0, 8-0, 15-0, 20-0, 25-0, 28-0, 28-5, 31-5 (half-time), 38 5, 43-5, 48-5, 48-10, 53-10.

ENGLAND: P George; N Crawford (rep: N Jupp, 75), S Day, A De Biase (rep: S Rudge, 75), E Feltham; S Rae, E Mitchell (rep: S Appleby, 62); M Edwards (rep: V Huxford, 40), A O'Flynn, T O'Reilly, K Henderson (rep: J Sutton, 50), T Andrews, J Phillips (rep: C Frost, 40), H Clayton, G Burns.

Scotland chase fifth place

SCOTLAND will have to defeat Australia if they are go live up to their fifth place seeding after beating Spain more easily than the 23-16 scoreline suggests yesterday.

After a solid opening, tries from Angela Hutt, the wing, and Fiona Gillanders, the flanker, gave Scotland a 13-6 advantage at half-time, Paula Chalmers kicking a penalty.

After the break, Niki McDonald, the centre, scored the third try, converted by Chalmers, who added a penalty.

The Times (London, England) (May 22, 2002): p39

Monday, 20 May 2002

Kiwi trailblazers pack a potent punch

WOMEN rugby players have often looked tough, but mostly it was an illusion. All sweatbands but no sweat, to borrow Colin Meads's dismissive phrase for one England pack. Women can clearly run and pass - quite superbly in the case of the 1998 New Zealand girls - but their game often lacked the satisfying impact and collisions that sets rugby apart from other sports. Rugby, yes, but not as we know it.

Things change, however. The defining feature of the 1998 tournament in Amsterdam was the pace and sheer athleticism of the New Zealand girls, whose "play book" was exactly the same as their senior male All Blacks counterparts. They catapulted the women's game forward about two decades and to contain their virtuosity teams across the world have had to concentrate on defence and aggressive tackling.

So it has been getting very physical under the hot Catalan sun. Tempers have occasionally flared, players have been sent off and the tournament littered with yellow cards. Samoa - making their first appearance on the women's rugby scene - clashed mightily against Scotland and two players were dismissed, but

the biggest collision of all was Australia's clash with New Zealand on Saturday. There is no love lost between these two rugby nations and it showed. The result was probably the most intense, full-on physical confrontation the women's game has seen.

It was not dirty, just brutal. The smaller Aussies were outgunned in every department except courage. Big hits, now obligatory rather than simply desirable, were reeled off. The mother of all tackles came from full-back Bronwyn Laidlaw, who hit Tammi Wilson with such force to save one certain try that you feared for both girls. To their mutual surprise they got up,

gingerly, dusted themselves off and stared with new-found respect and awe at each other. They were still comparing notes about "the tackle" hours after the game.

The dam eventually burst late in the second half and New Zealand ran out 36-3 winners, poor reward for the brave Australians who received no favours from the referee. Their approach and courage was repeated in the next game when hosts Spain, heading for a heavy defeat on known form, took England to the limit.

The Spanish were pumped up by a noisy home crowd and highly motivated after a minute's silence for the father of their lock, Marish Rus, who had died two days earlier. His daughter, after wiping away the tears, had the game of her life, as did her colleagues. Mighty England, the only team thought capable of challenging New Zealand, found themselves in a dogfight and didn't like it. They trailed 5-0 at half-time to a try by Spain wing Isabel Perez and only two tries after the break by Nicky Jupp and wing Nicola Crawford, salvaged a 13-5 win.

England now play Canada, 11-0 winners over the fiesty Scots, in their semi-final tomorrow, while the French are next in the firing line against New Zealand.

"We were very nervous and poor, just as we were against Italy in our first game," admitted England captain Paula George. "Our hope now is that we can settle down and produce our best form. A decent performance must be just around the corner. We've trained well, the draw has been kind to us, there are no excuses really. We just need to make it happen."

The much anticipated New Zealand-England final at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday is still a probability. If so, it will be the last game in charge for Kiwi coach Darryl Suasua, who is seeking a National Provincial Championship contract after seven years with the girls.

"It's been a pleasure and a privilege and there's plenty the women can teach the guys," said Suasua, who coaches the Marist club in Auckland. "Firstly, discipline - generally they are much better. Secondly, attention to detail and work ethic. When I

introduce a new play or strategy,

they listen, absorb and execute.

"If I try the same with a guys' team, there's a think-tank of senior players mulling it all over and picking the bones out of it before it is accepted. And thirdly, fun. They always enjoy their rugby."

Daily Telegraph (London, England) (May 20, 2002): p09

Sunday, 19 May 2002

England survive Spanish fright to reach last four

England survived a major scare to qualify for the semi-finals of the Women's Rugby World Cup in Barcelona with a hard-fought 13-5 victory over the host nation, Spain.

For much of yesterday's quarter-final, the Spaniards had high hopes of reaching the last four and led 5-0 at half-time. But a rousing dressing- room speech at the interval by the England coach, Geoff Richards, injected a sense of urgency which bore fruit in the form of two tries within 10 minutes of the restart.

Earlier, it had taken nearly half an hour for the first points to be recorded when the Spanish wing Isabel Perez darted through a gap to score an unconverted try. Then, despite heavy English pressure just before the interval, the home defence refused to bend.

England, unused to being outplayed by one of the lesser rugby nations, finally got on to the scoresheet when centre Nicky Jupp crossed the Spanish line in the 46th minute. Four minutes later, right-wing Nicola Crawford found the space she needed to dot down in the corner and give England a 10-3 lead.

Five points was too small a margin as Spain again applied the pressure, but in the 53rd minute Shelly Rae, a normally dependable kicker who had missed two conversion attempts, at last found the target with a penalty which put England two scores ahead.

The results meant that England have now qualified for Tuesday's semi- finals, though the news wasn't as good for Scotland who were beaten 11- 0 by Canada, who reached the last four. Canada had lead 3-0 at the interval.

As the reseeding process is based on the number of tries scored, it is possible that England might have to face the favourites and defending champions, New Zealand, who yesterday thrashed Australia 36-3. The Black Ferns dominated both territory and possession, and it took a fine defensive performance from the Wallaroos to avoid a heavier defeat. The try of the game came in the second half when substitute Helen Vaaga found a hole in a maul before fending off three would-be tacklers to score.

The USA failed to reach their fourth consecutive World Cup final when they lost 21-9 to France. The French held a 16-6 half-time lead following tries from centre Nathalie Amiel and flanker Aline Sagols, and two penalties from full-back Estelle Sartini. Inez Rodriguez landed her third penalty for the Americans early in the second half, but thereafter it was a stalemate until Amiel broke through for her second try, and France's third, in the 79th minute.

The Independent on Sunday (London, England) (May 19, 2002): p12

Saturday, 18 May 2002

Brownlee rings changes as Scots take on World Cup favourites

Lewis Stuart

AS IF the brutal game against Samoa was not enough, Scotland now face the task of taking on one of the pre-tournament favourites in the latest round of the Women's Rugby World Cup in Spain. In the men's game, Canada may have yet to break into the elite, but their women have been one of the world's top teams since they started.

"There is no doubt they are favourites and we are the underdogs," Peter Brownlee, the Scotland coach, said last night. "But that often suits Scottish teams, it seems to work with our sort of personality. We've watched a video of their opening match, digested it and churned our way through it and I believe that if we can pressure them in the right places, we can stop them playing and do the job." It is a big task. Canada hammered Ireland 57-0 in that opening match.

In the Six Nations tournament just finished, Scotland beat the same opponents 13-0. They were never in danger of losing but struggled to convert pressure into points.

But before everybody heads off into a state of doom and gloom, there are some factors on Scotland's side. They have not played Canada at this level, but did take on the United States last November and won 22-3. Since the Americans and Canadians are traditional rivals with nothing to choose between them, that gives Scotland a benchmark that shows they are capable of springing a surprise.

"I'm not so worried the result, more about the performance," Brownlee said. "If we can get that right, we will be competitive with anybody. It is all about us and the way we play. It will be a much harder task than our opening game. Samoa were an unknown quantity and inexperienced at this level. Canada are a different proposition altogether, they have been around for ages, have loads of experience and quality."

Brownlee has made three changes to the starting line-up. Ironically, Ali McGrandles, the first Scot to be sent off in a full international, comes into the team to replace Denise Fairbairn, who became the second on Monday and is banned for this match.

On the wing, Angela Hutt is injured and Brownlee uses the opportunity to freshen up the back three, bringing in Rhona Shepherd on one wing and Gill Gilmour on the other. Jennifer Dickson drops to the bench with Mary-Pat Tierney coming into squad.

SCOTLAND: S Higgins (Royal High); G Gibbon (Royal High), N MacDonald (Glasgow Southern), R Petlevannaia (Murrayfield Wanderers), R Shepherd (Murrayfield Wanderers); A McGrandles (Richmond), P Chalmers (Murrayfield Wanderers); K Findlay (Richmond), V Wiseman (Richmond), A Christie (Royal High), L Cockburn (Royal High), C Muir (Murrayfield Wanderers), J Sheerin (Richmond), D Kennedy (Royal High), F Gillanders (Wasps).

Replacements: A Mackenzie (Royal High), V Galbraith (Richmond), J Hanley (Waterloo), L O'Keefe (Richmond), B Macleod (Murrayfield Wanderers), M-P Tierney (Watsonians), J Dickson (Richmond).

The Times (London, England) (May 18, 2002): p32

Thursday, 16 May 2002

Women's rugby sent to try us!


THE Women's Rugby World Cup is taking place in Barcelona and I want to make it perfectly clear that none of our team looks like Fran Cotton in drag.

That point has to be made because sportswomen are very sensitive about stereotyping and are desperate to be taken seriously.

My own record in this is not very good. A few years ago there was a TV programme about the Harlequins women's rugby team, which showed their AGM in a private room at London's Sports Cafe.

One of the girls went out to get the beers in, came back with a couple of foaming tankards and complained that some chauvinist pig had commented: "Nice jugs."

It is time to admit that comment came from a group of sports journalists on a night out and that I was among that group.

I apologise unreservedly, because they were very ordinary jugs and because women's rugby, like women's football or women's anything, is a serious sport.

OK. But we are not allowed to give it serious scrutiny or expose the unspoken truth that it is not very good.

The goalkeeping at this season's women's FA Cup Final was atrocious, for instance, but we were not supposed to notice and certainly not supposed to comment.

Next week I shall help out at a schools' football tournament involving girls' teams. Their matches will be very competitive and great fun.

But the girls are not as strong or fast as the boys, and the physical differences become more marked as kids grow up.

So while women certainly may be able to bend it like Beckham, they'll never be able to run like Owen or tackle like Campbell.

The Mirror (London, England) (May 16, 2002): p63

Monday, 13 May 2002 a lesbian tiff


THE Welsh women's rugby team may benefit from a bizarre lesbian love scandal among their Aussie rivals.

Australian player Cheryl Soon took an overdose after a fight with ex-lover and fellow player Tui Ormsby.

Soon, 26, was upset she and Ormsby, 24, had split up. Aussie team boss Larry Thompson does not want Soon in the side. But she and Ormsby will line up together today when Australia meet Wales in the women's World Cup in Barcelona.

In a report Thompson said Soon was in a "very unstable condition" after the bust up.

He said Soon should not be selected because the row had caused a "real split among the team".

But the Australian Rugby Union sent Soon for counselling.

An ARU spokesman said "The matter has been dealt with appropriately.

"We are satisfied with her capacity to do the job asked of her at the World Cup."

The Mirror (London, England) (May 13, 2002): p16

England saddled with weight of expectation

Daryl Holden

Geoff Richards, the England women's rugby coach, has dismissed suggestions that the World Cup in Barcelona will be nothing more than a two-team race between his side and New Zealand.

England warmed up for the 16-team event with an historic first training run at Twickenham last Friday. They arrived in Spain confident and should easily beat Italy in their opening match this afternoon, while New Zealand, the champions, are expected to threaten the 100-point mark against unfancied Germany.

New Zealand are the top seeds and have long been the dominant force in the women's game but they suffered their first loss in a decade last year when they were beaten by England in Auckland. As a result, many expect New Zealand and England to dominate in the next two weeks and meet in the May 25 final at the Olympic Stadium.

Richards thinks the tournament is wide open, with Canada, Australia, France and Samoa, the World Cup newcomers, not to be discounted.

FIRST-ROUND DRAW: New Zealand v Germany; Australia v Wales; United States v Holland; France v Kazakhstan; England v Italy; Spain v Japan; Canada v Ireland; Scotland v Samoa.

The Times (London, England) (May 13, 2002): p29

Scotland women in mood to prove a point

Lewis Stuart

SCOTLAND'S women rugby players stick to the tried and tested as they head into the unknown in the opening round of the Women's Rugby World Cup today. They may be fifth seeds and European champions but the pressure is on from the start.

The problem, as Barbara Wilson, the Scottish women's rugby administrator, admits is that all they know about Samoa, their opening opponents is that 23 of the 26 in the squad are based in New Zealand and that they are huge. "I saw that there is only one of their team who weighs less than 75kg (just under 12st) but there's only about half our squad who reach that," she says. "But the girls are prepared for a strong match and are geared up to give them a game. It is not always the biggest that wins these things."

While Samoa may have size and weight, Scotland have teamwork and confidence. Their opponents are a scratch side pulled together after the Black Ferns had had their pick of the leading players in New Zealand and have little experience of playing with each other or at this level.

And Scotland are heading for the World Cup with something to prove. While England have been getting most of the kudos and far more financial support -Scotland won the European title despite having had their lottery backing withdrawn and now that it is back, it is at a level that pales into insignificance compared with the money allocated to their English rivals -the Scots have been putting together some solid performances and head for Barcelona ranked only two below England.

In the Six Nations just ended, Scotland finished third, comfortably beaten by England but frustrated and angry with themselves for losing to France who went on to claim a grand slam. "We were all over them but could not score," Karen Findlay, the captain, said. "It was incredibly frustrating, we know we should have won that game."

Women's rugby is growing in Scotland but a big performance from the national side would be a huge boost, raising its profile to the stage where sponsors, a strong public following and a decent slice of financial support would inevitably follow. Failure would set the project back years, which is why today's game is vital for women's rugby in Scotland.

The Times (London, England) (May 13, 2002): p29