- Style and skill on display from Under 13 girls
- And a chance to parade All Schools outfits
Photo: RFU Archive
Once upon a time the playing fields of Whitcliffe Mount School in Cleckheaton provided the backdrop for England international RU legend Jeff Butterfield to play the game for the first time and for another England player, Roger Pickering, to follow in his famous footsteps.
But recently the history books were nudged to one side by the new kids on the Whitcliffe Mount rugby block – a group of Under 13 girls who were assembled for a West Yorkshire Development Day organised by Community Rugby Coaches Chris Stone, Neil Spence and Dave Duxbury from the RFU’s West Yorkshire Development team. And, thanks to Canterbury – official partner to England Rugby – and the RFU’s All Schools programme, the girls had a distinctive look about them.
Schools in attendance at Cleckheaton were hosts Whitcliffe Mount, Brighouse High, Titus Salt and Upper Wharfedale, with over 80 girls honing their rugby skills with a morning of coaching drills to give them the confidence to play in a competitive transitional game festival in the afternoon.
The aim of the day was to give the girls, who had all received some RFU coaching prior to the event, the opportunity to participate in competitive fixtures and there was a thumbs up response all round from the 10 teams participating in a 7-a-side programme.
Three of the four schools involved were part of the initial tranche of 100 schools chosen to take part in the highly-successful All Schools, the RFU’s programme to increase the number of secondary state school students playing rugby and to create strong school-club links.
For the young ladies from Brighouse School, Whitcliffe Mount School and Titus Salt the hurly-burly of competition also dovetailed neatly with a rugby catwalk.
An important element of All Schools was the opportunity provided by Official Partner, Canterbury, for pupils to design their own shirts. This moved the All Schools focus away from the rugby pitch and into the art and design department, with Canterbury and the RFU setting up workshops to teach students about the core values of rugby, the pride associated with the shirt and to assist the youngsters in producing some imaginative creations.
Canterbury then produced and donated a set of the shirts to each school and the girls took the opportunity to strut their stuff in an impromptu fashion shoot before the action began.
However, images of Chanel, Valentino and Versace were quickly replaced by those of their British Lions heroes as each of the teams rolled up their expertly cut sleeves to play five games of competitive rugby.
For some of the girls it was their first game of rugby ever, yet the standard was remarkably high as the girls demonstrated their ability to tackle, off-load in contact and make use of the spaces created.
Whitcliffe Mount School beat Brighouse High School in a pulsating finale which underlined and progress the girls have been making and the real strength of the game in West Yorkshire.
Pete Taylor, RFU Area 6 Women’s & Girls Rugby Development Officer, who attended the festival, said: “It was great to see such high numbers of Year 7 & 8 girls at the event and the smiles on their faces showed how much they were enjoying themselves.
“The day also provided me with the opportunity to talk with the sports teachers involved and explain the RFU vision for developing girls rugby in West Yorkshire and wider afield over the next 12 months and beyond.
“The current work being done in linking schools with local rugby clubs will give the development of the girls’ game a real focus and will also provide rugby for girls who want to play regularly for a club.”
West Yorkshire Rugby Development Officer Hamish Pratt added: “All Schools has been a major success story in bringing rugby to schools who have never played rugby or have seen it drop off the curriculum and the skill levels shown in this festival make me very excited about the second batch of All Schools participants that will be announced shortly.
“Needless to say, the girls looked very elegant in their new Canterbury kit, which brought out their fashion-conscious side before they got down to the serious rugby business.”