Newbury Ladies training in the rain
THE vice-captain of Newbury Ladies RFC believes the club’s recent Warrior Camp will galvanize the senior women’s side as they begin life in a new league this month.
Developed by England Rugby, the Inner Warrior programme is aimed at women and girls between the ages of 18 and 35 to encourage greater female participation in contact rugby across the country.
Over the past 18 months, 7,000 women have attended rugby training sessions – or Warrior Camps – and Newbury last week hosted their own in a bid to attract new players to the ever-growing game and even opened the event up to girls over the age of 11.
It was the first time the club has staged a Warrior Camp and it was hailed a success by Megan Horwood, who is second in command at the Berkshire side.
“We had 43 women and girls turn up in total and out of those, 16 were brand new players, while over 31 were over-18’s, with the rest being juniors, five of whom were new,” said Horwood.
“It was a really positive session with people who were complete newbies to the game and it was a great opportunity to engage with women who might not have ever played rugby before.
“We wanted to hold a Warrior camp straight after the Women’s Rugby World Cup to try and attract a lot of people – we even had a BBQ after the session to keep it sociable and friendly.
“We had a lot of support from the RFU, who were really helpful in supplying us with things to help promote the event.
“Each player who turned up could choose from a selection of ‘goody-bag’ items the RFU had sent to us – either a free towel, water bottle or a vest.”
Having enjoyed a successful campaign last year which saw them finish as league runners-up and crowned as Berkshire Cup champions for an impressive third consecutive year, Newbury enjoyed promotion to the Women’s Championships South West 2 division.
They will represent a strong Berkshire contingent in the new league – the third tier of women’s rugby – alongside neighbours and close rivals Reading Abbey Ladies RFC, who pipped Newbury to the league title last season.
And while the going might get tough in this year’s campaign – especially against the likes of Wimbledon Ladies and Guernsey Ladies, Horwood insists her team are relishing the opportunity to lock horns with new opposition against the backdrop of this summer’s Women’s Rugby World Cup, which she believes has lifted the mood within the Newbury camp.
“Women’s rugby in this country has been around for a while now, but the game has grown in popularity over the last few years,” said Horwood.
“The Women’s World Cup has obviously been a great platform for the game and these ‘Inner Warrior’ camps have been a great way for women of all ages and abilities to challenge themselves.
“It has been great to see our players watching the women who play at an elite level ahead of the new season, where we’re hoping to finish the season mid-table in our new league.
“It will definitely be more of a challenge, but we’ll just take each game as it comes, as we would do with entering any new league.”
Newbury kck off their new campaign in South West Two with a trip to Devon to face Cullompton on Sunday.
THEe next set of Warrior Camps will take place in January 2018 and further details are at www.englandrugby.com/innerwarrior and details of local clubs are at www.findrugby.com