Girls rugby set to explode with new clusters season
20 April 2017 10:52
By Liz Jones
Girls enjoying rugby at Mor Ladron cluster in Caernarfon
Summer rugby for girls has kicked off again around Wales this month after last year's pilot proved a huge success.
More than 2000 girls in the u9 to u15 age groups regularly trained and played at the 27 new cluster centres for girls set up all over Wales for spring and summer 2016, and in conjunction with additional playing opportunities at the 80+ school club hubs around Wales, the number of women and girls playing the national sport went from a total of around 2000, to more than 4000 regular participants.
The cluster centres were so successful in creating a vibrant, sustainable environment for girls' rugby that 15 new u15 and u18 teams were established to allow girls to continue to play rugby in the traditional rugby season.
WRU National Women and Girls Manager Caroline Spanton said "We took a bold risk last season which paid off with our female playing numbers doubling after just one trial season.
"Given the success of that pilot, all the hard work by volunteers and the three new Game Changers during the off season, and the excitement throughout Wales as the clusters all hold their first sessions, I'd like to think we can double the number of women and girls playing rugby in Wales again this year."
The summer cluster season is now back, providing more girls-only playing opportunities for minis and juniors throughout Wales. There is one new cluster - the Islanders in Barry, but in addition, the three North Wales clusters - the Ravens, Rebels and Mor Ladron have set up satellite centres at nine additional venues to ensure there are accessible opportunities for girls to play rugby throughout mid and north Wales. In addition to Caernarfon, Mold and Cobra, there are now satellite centres in Abergele and Llangefni (Mor Ladron); Ruthin, Queensway and Denbigh (Ravens) along with Welshpool, Dolgellau, Bala and Llanidlloes (Rebels). Many clusters have added extra training evenings and age groups to their offering, with girls turning up in huge numbers to the first cluster sessions of the season.
Dave Roberts, one of three Game Changers now employed by the WRU specifically to increase women and girls participation said, "We knew there was a huge appetite in North Wales for more girls' rugby and there was no shortage of volunteers or coaches so given the geography of the area, we felt adding additional satellite centres was the best way to provide playing opportunities to as many girls as possible across the region."
Wales Women internationals Jess Kavanagh, Elen Evans, and Gwenllian Pyrs, along with former Wales prop Jenny Davies who is a key figure in the RGC girls development pathway, joined girls at Caernarfon RFC for the launch of the Mor Ladron cluster.
Elen Evans, who is now coaching at one of the Rebels clusters in Dolgellau said, "I had to wait until I was 16 and then played senior rugby so it's amazing to see so many girls giving rugby a go at such a young age. There is a huge potential for growing the game in North Wales, from a female perspective that has certainly been helped by the fact our international games have been on television and online - and there is no doubt the success of the RGC men's side is also a factor up here."
Cenin Eifion, Mor Ladron coordinator said, "The cluster brings players together from a number of clubs and seeing a smile on the faces of the girls running around and having fun playing rugby is infectious."
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