- Pitch up and Play creates more opportunities for girls to play rugby
- Former England captain Catherine Spencer helping to develop the next generation
Photo: RFU Archive
Girls’ rugby in Surrey is going from strength to strength thanks to a new RFU initiative called Pitch up and Play.
The innovative programme provides an alternative to league rugby and ensures that girls have access to regular competitive playing opportunities at club, school and college level without the need to travel too far.
One central venue hosts girls from all three age-groups, allowing them to play full-sided games by joining together to form teams. This reduces the pressure on individual clubs to field a full team and enables girls to compete against players of similar abilities. Events are managed by volunteers with support from RFU Community Coaches and Development Officers.
Girls who are currently playing mini rugby at clubs with no girls section are also able to join sessions to bridge the gap between mini and girls youth rugby by building club relationships.
The Pitch up and Play programme has been running on a monthly basis in Surrey since September 2013 when the first session was held at Esher Rugby Club with 115 girls from a variety of clubs taking part.
Following Surrey’s success, Romford RFC became the first club in Essex to host a an event, with plans to expand the programme to more clubs in Essex, Sussex and Kent in the New Year, starting at Harlow RFC in January.
Former England captain Catherine Spencer, who now works as the RFU’s Women’s Rugby Development Officer, said: “The concept is especially suited to the girls’ game where there is a range of experience and skill levels within teams. The days also provide the opportunity for coaches and volunteers from different clubs to meet, share knowledge and resources and to build strong relationships between clubs.
When I was growing up ‘girls rugby’ didn’t exist so I played mixed mini rugby until 12 and then started playing women’s rugby at Folkestone when I was 15. It’s fantastic to see the growth of girls’ rugby and we are working hard to create even more opportunities and age-bands.”
David McGuigan, Surrey RFU Girls Development Lead, added: “The Pitch up and Play’ concept has been a fantastic addition to the Surrey Girls Calendar. All standards of players are welcome, including complete beginners. It has been brilliant to watch the girls progress their rugby skills while making friendships with other teams. Clubs with fledgling teams who sometimes struggle to field a full team for matches or contact training sessions have benefited significantly from this programme.”
Julie Merchant-Craig from Richmond RFC who also ran an event spoke enthusiastically about the initiative: “Everyone at Richmond RFC thoroughly enjoyed hosting the girls and we were incredibly impressed by the enthusiasm and skills on display. The girls thrived playing as a group and were keen to be involved in more opportunities of this kind.”
Former England EPS member and current Richmond player, Sara Anastasi, coaches girls at the Richmond RFC Pitch up and Play event in the above photo.