“The coaches scrutinised our open play, our handling skills, our decision making, our technique and anything else you care to mention.”
Jo Wells - Centre for London Welsh Women
Inevitably, the time of year comes round when the considerations for county representations arise and there is always much conversation between coach and players about trying out. As a ‘late-comer’ to playing rugby, I had personally decided that I was far too over the hill for such capers and only with some forceful cajoling from coach and captain did I eventually agree to attend trials.
Despite trying to maintain a very much ‘nothing-to-lose’ attitude, I approached the impending trials with maximum amounts of trepidation and minimum amounts of confidence in my decision to take part. The emails being received detailed what seemed like hundreds of players attending selection from teams playing at the higher echelons of league structure. Regret had started to set in.
The day of the trials dawned and a packed club house at Grasshoppers RFC showed a number of supremely confident, significantly younger than yours truly, faces who all looked like they could equally have easily been about to undertake an Iron Woman Challenge before breakfast! The instruction we were issued with was simple; you get one chance to prove you should make the squad.
Outside on the swanky 4G turf, we were instantly separated into backs and forwards and it was about the last opportunity we had to draw breath that evening. The only comfort was being in a group with the other two (younger) London Welsh trialists. That is definitely where the comfort ended. As someone who definitely does not thrive in high pressure situations, I was acutely aware of the urge of everyone around me to demonstrate their rugby prowess as overtly as they could while I just tried to keep up with the instructions being given.
We were raced through our paces with an intensity that left little time for additional thoughts after the initial fear and dread. The coaches scrutinised our open play, our handling skills, our decision making, our technique and anything else you care to mention. Finally, when I was sure someone might suggest a sit down (!) we were brought together with the forwards and split into two teams to play full contact 15s.
This was it; the final opportunity to demonstrate you deserved a place in the squad. In the ensuing onslaught of darting runs, ferocious rucking and counter-rucking and fairly individuaslistic performances it was starkly evident that some players would stop at nothing to demonstrate their right to a squad position. In a brief moment to catch my breath as a rolling sub, I was buoyed by the displays of grit and skill presented by the London Welsh contingent; both players giving the coaches reason to pay attention to them and showing ability to attack and defend with equal tenacity.
With distinct finality, the whistle called time on the display. There were no more chances to show your mettle. What was left now was an agonising wait while a further 45 girls trialled the following week and the coaches made their decisions on selection. The emails confirming the squad would be released in due time but it was not an enviable task to whittle from 90 plus down to 35.
Battle-weary and slightly stunned by what had just occurred, I staggered from the plush facilities berating myself for thinking I needed to demonstrate tackling technique that would not be out of place on a mid-west cattle ranch. Despite that, I can confirm that the current position for women’s rugby can only be applauded; the depth of skill and ability, the enthusiasm and spirit, the overall ‘competitive camaraderie’ was phenomenal. To have seen what a strong position grassroots rugby is in for women and how it is managing to maintain its sense of inclusivity while being driven by increased skill and athleticism makes it an exciting sport to be involved in. Even if this trialist is probably heading down the other side of that hill.
Jo Wells London Welsh Women centre
London Welsh Women currently sit second in the league with their two last games of the season coming up this Sunday 3rd March against Rosslyn Park Ladies and the last match of the season Sunday 17th March against Portsmouth Valkyries.
Updated 21:24 - 24 Mar 2019 by The Offical London Welsh