Sunday, 6 February 2005

Sports active: The routine: Jo Yapp, England rugby international

Jamie Polk.

Last week, scrum-half Jo Yapp was announced as captain of the England women's rugby union team for this year's Six Nations tournament. The 25-year-old made her club debut for Worcester Ladies in 1996 and joined England's elite squad in 1998, playing her first international, against Ireland, in the same year. She lives in Worcester and teaches physical education at Bewdley High School.

How professional is the women's game?

In terms of attitude and training it's as professional as the men's game. Finance is the main difference. We are Lottery funded, but only one or two girls are full-time. Most of us have to juggle training and playing with our jobs. The structure at club level is well developed; the Premiership has eight teams and the usual names are there, like Wasps and Saracens.

Describe your training regime

I train two nights a week with my club. During the 90-minute sessions we do ball-handling drills before going through team plays - line-outs, rucks, mauls. On top of that I have a fitness programme set by the English Institute of Sport that fits around my club-and-country training. It's pretty scientific, and the programme changes depending on the time of year. Pre-season is all about building strength - a lot of high-repetition weights, squats and bench presses. Explosive strength helps in the tackle. Once the season starts, the emphasis switches to maintaining body condition.

Have advances in technology improved match preparation?

Every international we play is videoed, as are those of the opposition. The coaches spend hours analysing strengths and weaknesses, and pinpointing who we should target. Once a week, one of the England coaches comes to Worcester and does a skills session with me. We go through my passing technique and work on improvements. Men's rugby is all about bulking up. Do you follow a similar nutritional plan?

Our diets are tailored to individual needs, whether it's reducing body fat or increasing muscle bulk. We get our body-fat levels monitored three or four times a season, along with our fitness levels through beep tests.

Which parts of the body take the biggest hammering?

It depends on what position you play, but the neck and shoulders are always vulnerable. Our training focuses on overall body conditioning and core stability. We are encouraged to use alternative therapies on top of general fitness work, and some of the girls have taken to yoga.

How important is recovery time?

Its significance is being increasingly emphasised. The problem is that when you mix training and work there is almost no time to rest. During tournaments we need to train to maintain fitness, but really it's about being ready to go on match day. We need to make sure we get enough rest and recovery between matches. After heavy training sessions and matches we are encouraged to take an ice bath. It's a great way to rid the body of toxins, especially lactic acid.

Interview by Jamie Polk. Jo Yapp will captain England against France on Sunday 13 February at Imber Court, Surrey. More information:

The Independent on Sunday (London, England) (Feb 6, 2005): p11.

Saturday, 5 February 2005

Ireland's women

DESPITE outscoring their hosts Spain by three tries to one, Ireland's women lost 19-17 in their Six Nations opening match in Madrid yesterday.

Ulster firefighter Suzanne Fleming led a recovery by the Philip Doyle-coached Irish, bagging two second-half tries, but it was not enough as Spanish centre Ines Etxeguibel Alberdi's three drop goals and a penalty sealed the home win.

The Irish, who picked up their first Six Nations win on the same Ciudad Universitaria ground two years ago, gave away too much possession in the early stages and were down 13-0 at the break. Fleming's brace got them back in touch at 16-12 but with UL Bohs wing Lynne Cantwell's late effort going unconverted, Kepa Ancin's charges claimed the spoils

Sunday Times (London, England) (Feb 6, 2005): p26.

Sunday, 30 January 2005

60 seconds in sport; Interview with Karen Findlay, the captain of the Scottish women's rugby team

What match are you in training for?

Friday's Six Nations opener against France in Roubaix Do you have another career outside of rugby?

I'm a sergeant in the Met, sitting exams to become an inspector. I'm originally from Cullen in the north east of Scotland, but now live in the shadow of Twickenham What is your earliest sporting memory?

Aged seven, stealing my dad's golf clubs and sneaking off to play at Cullen Golf Club. I could have fitted into his bag. My dad said there were worse things I could have been doing. I got my handicap down to seven Do you remember your first rugby match?

In 1988 I was at Richmond watching a women's game. My friends said I should give it a go, as I had the perfect build Who is your sporting hero?

David Sole. He was outstanding for Scotland and plays in my position Is there anyone outside of sport that you admire?

My mum for putting up with my dad What is your funniest sporting memory?

I was running out to play for Scotland in Spain but got my studs stuck in a drain in the middle of the pitch. It was live on Spanish TV, and friends said it looked like I'd been shot. I've never been so embarrassed What's the last CD you bought?

O by Damien Rice What's your biggest success?

In one weekend in 2001, I was in the Scotland team that won the European Championship in France, flew back to London and the next day was in the Richmond team that beat Wasps to win the English Cup final at Twickenham What hobbies do you have?

Drinking nice red wine, with good food and good company What are your ambitions?

To help this Scottish women's team achieve it's full potential. We've made huge progress, but didn't do well in the last World Cup and I'd love to go to the 2006 tournament What is your favourite piece of sporting memorabilia?

My European championship winners' medal and the first Scotland shirt I played in.

It was an A international in Wales in 1995 and we were staying in a pokey B&B, but we won the game Your worst sporting memory?

Losing away to Spain last season Do you have a nickname?

Jock If your house was on fire, what one item would you grab as you ran to safety?

My pyjamas. My bed is my favourite place How would you like to be remembered?

As a players' captain, someone who gave their heart and soul to the job and took great pride in pulling on the blue jersey of Scotland

Sunday Times (London, England) (Jan 30, 2005): p26.

Thursday, 20 January 2005

Teenage dream

THE growing popularity of women's rugby is reflected in the announcement of a youthful England team

for the Six Nations opener against Wales on Feb 4 in Cardiff. Six squad members are under 23, including Michaela Staniford (pictured), who will become

the youngest England international when she appears at outside centre.

The A-level student learned the game at Rickmansworth School and Fullerians, before joining the East Durham and Houghall Community College academy .

"Michaela is a natural footballer and very talented," Geoff Richards, the England coach, said. "Of course, she's inexperienced, but with the World Cup 18 months away now is the time for young players like her to get their chance."

Staniford will be 18 years and 24 days old when she plays against Wales, beating scrum-half Danielle Waterman, 43 days older when she won her first cap two years ago.

Richards believes the growth in women's rugby at clubs and schools has built a pool of far better players. In the past, women tended to start the game at university.

Daily Telegraph (London, England) (Jan 20, 2005)