Gerald Davies reports on a skilful women's international in which England beat Wales 25-0
The old world changes, and so do attitudes. Years ago, a friend of mine used to say, in his fashion, that, for so rough a game, he could not get over the extraordinary number of women who followed rugby. Were he still with us today, he would find that the women are not only there sitting beside him in the stand, but out there on the pitch, too. For so politically correct an age, this masculine view of the feminine world may be interpreted as dangerous talk. But there we are. We cannot deny the fact.
Quite what my old pal would say in seeing the women of England actually playing the game against the women of Wales, I am not sure. But knowing him, he would doubtless approve, particularly as he would have seen a match of high skill and wholehearted endeavour at Sale yesterday. He would have been less content, however, since he wore his Welsh heart so firmly on his sleeve, to see Wales go down to so disciplined and well-organised an England team by five tries without reply.
Those who object to women playing rugby are much the same as those who once objected to women running marathons: the over-protective male attempting to shelter what is perceived to be the sensitive femininity of a woman. This is the male chauvinist in patronising mood.
Jeff Probyn put his foot in it recently by wishing, at the first hint of danger and physical harm, to outlaw women from rugby altogether and giving scant acknowledgement that women, like men, can make up their own minds as to what is and what is not dangerous. Adopting such a posture is much like subscribing to Dr Samuel Johnson's view that ``a man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner at his table, than when his wife talks Greek''.
Had the venerable good doctor known about rugby, he might have added the laws of rugby union as another subject to be kicked into touch. The dissection of rugby's intricacies can often seem like so much ``greek'' in any case.
While England were too powerful for Wales to make it a proper contest, the skills displayed and the overall commitment of both teams were qualities to admire. The feistiness with which women's rugby has been foisted on an unsuspecting and deeply suspicious public deserves to be richly rewarded. Unless that sounds too patronising.
The dominating personality was England's captain. Gill Burns dominated the lineout and like Dean Richards although comparisons are not wholly valid she drew her forwards around her to clear any threats at the base of the scrum. Not far behind her was Jenny Chambers. Suzy Appleby was a neat and busy scrum half, who, with an accurate pass, seemed to turn up everywhere when the need was called. These three set a high standard.
For Wales, Amanda Bennett, at stand-off half, seemed to have studied the videos of when Wales's factory was in full production. She had a fine game, as did Lisa Jones at No8.
Sara Wenn's try from a drive at the lineout close to the Welsh line and Burns's push-over try gave England the half-time lead. Superior power in attack led to three more tries after the interval by Mills, Appleby and Edwards.
Now that England and Scotland are associate members of their respective rugby unions, with Wales and Ireland soon to follow, the future of women's rugby can be nothing less than bright. Any remaining prejudice must fly out of the window.
SCORERS: England: Tries: Wenn, Burns, Mills, Appleby, Edwards.
ENGLAND: P George (Wasps); J Molyneux (Waterloo), J Edwards (Blackheath), A Wallace (Leeds), A Cole (Saracens); D Mills (Richmond), S Appleby (Novocastrians); J Mangham (Waterloo), N Ponsford (Clifton), E Scourfield (Leeds), J Chambers (Richmond), S Wenn (Wasps), H Stirrup (Wasps), H Clayton (Waterloo), G Burns (Waterloo). Cole replaced by L Mayhew (Leeds, 68min). Burns temporarily replaced by K Henderson (Clifton, 56).
WALES: K Richards (Old Leamingtonians); A Lewis (Ystradgynlais), P Evans (Swansea), W Shaw (Aberystwyth), K Yau (Waterloo); A Bennett (Wasps), B Evans (Cardiff); J Watkins (Cardiff), N Griffiths (Cardiff), C Lloyd (Cardiff), J Morgan (Cardiff), S Jones (Cardiff), K Knoak (Swansea), S Butler (Richmond), L Jones (Cardiff). B Evans replaced by C Thomas (Waterloo, 28); Griffiths replaced by B Jones-Evans (Waterloo, 68), S Jones replaced by H Carey (Swansea, 56).
Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).
Copyright (C) The Times, 1995
"National pride dispels prejudice; Women's Rugby." Times [London, England] 13 Feb. 1995