Last year was a great one for women’s rugby in England – both nationally and locally.
The Red Roses won 15 out of their 16 games, including both the Six Nations and Super Series titles. And this year is continuing in the same vein; with the side securing three wins out of three so far in the Six Nations 2018 campaign.
Locally, Newbury Ladies RFC won promotion to Championship South West two last season – the third tier of women’s rugby in England.
It is easy to see how the three-times Berkshire Cup winners are doing so well, when schools in the area are now producing some great young talent.
And it is the girls at Park House School who are leading the charge.
The start of 2018 sees the school’s two teams – under 15 and under 13 – begin to ramp up their fixtures and teacher and girls rugby coach Emma Rowland says everyone is looking forward to seeing what they can achieve this year.
“We have up to 20 girls at every training session and some of the girls are now feeding through to Newbury Rugby Club.
“That link with the club will only get stronger, which is good for the school and the club.”
Last year the school’s under 15s made it to the regional finals. They qualified after combining with Thatcham’s Kennet School for the Schools Games and finishing second.
“They all showed that real rugby spirit of determination and that feeds really well into our school values,” adds Ms Rowland.
The under 13s team finished second at the Hungerford Sevens tournament last season, but Ms Rowland says that they struggle to play matches as the Rugby Football Union (RFU) only runs waterfall tournaments at club level for that age group.
This month the school will be taking part in an area competition which will, however, see the under 13s included.
Ms Rowland, who was a rugby coach before training to become a teacher, adds: “When I came to Park House I tried to grow girls’ rugby and it just boomed.
“They just all seem to love it and they can transfer the skills they learn from other sports and so we see just absolutely everyone really going for it.
“I think it is because everyone sits on a level playing field so it allows them to really flourish.”
Three of the girls are now playing at club level, while one of the under 15s plays for county too.
Former pupils have also gone on to have great success in the sport. Cara Brincat has played for England’s under 20s and the national under 20s sevens team, while Carys Cox plays for England’s under 18 team and has enjoyed games for Bristol in the Premiership.
Both girls played in national schools games, representing the South West.
Another former pupil, Flo Piddlington, was part of the school’s most successful girls’ team. She played for Berkshire at under 18 level and is now playing for the county’s senior side.
Sophie Thornton-Allen also played at county level for the under 15s, which is the highest standard you can play at that age.
“All the girls are fantastic and so engaged,” adds Ms Rowland. “They come out wanting to learn and wanting to get better.
“They have all been inspired so much by the Roses that it gives you real confidence for the future.”