Spanish rugby journalist Bruno Lopez (pictured below) has joined Scrumqueens.com as a writer on all things related to women's rugby in Spain. In his first feature piece he catches up with the experienced Marina Bravo and chats about the 7s season ahead for Spain, who are preparing to play in France at an international tournament later this month.
"Theres been much change this summer in the Spanish women's 7s headquarters. With a new president taking over, the winds of change left a lot of dust, and it is only now, with the new season about to kick off, that its starting to settle.
To be honest, it hasnt been easy but Spanish Rugby is used to the grind and so the show must go on!
Our 7s season kicks off this week, with a training camp in Madrid, a first get together with the recently appointed coach Boris Gutierrez Lobo.
With 21 players called up, the goal is quite clear. The coaching staff wants to know where the group is at, which players are ready, which ones are climbing up the ranks and which ones are not there quite there yet, so they can map the best course of action for the year. With the best group immediately available, the team will travel to their first tournament of the year: the Marcoussis International Tournament in mid- October, along England, France and Holland.
But before this season starts, I wanted to review the past one.
I met with one of the 7s squad key players, and a good friend of mine, Marina Bravo recently. It was also a busy summer for her. After spending her playing career in Majadahonda, one of Spains most powerful clubs, Marina signed a deal with Cisneros, perhaps one of the most respected clubs in Madrid, a deal that was the first of its kind in Spanish female Rugby. From now on, the Club will take care of her full accommodation, with Marina joining the institutions residence halls. With Marina leading the way, we only hope others will follow soon.
I met with her in the Central Stadium of Madrid, home of the national team and the heart and soul of Spanish Rugby. Surrounded by trees, parks, faculties and the walls of Marinas new home, the modest and austere stadium offers a unique view. The concrete stands and green lawn, the cafeteria terrace that provides almost the best view and the athletics track, its all been there quite a long time, exactly the same as it is now. I call it our theatre of dreams.
And so we sat in the terrace one more time.
Chatting with Bravo one gets the feeling of talking to a seasoned veteran, even though she is much younger than her rugby career might reveal. A veteran she is, for shes been playing in the top level for quite a while now. I asked her about England, about those finals in Ameland and Moscow last year, two defeats where Spain fought bravely:
"Well, it leaves a bitters-weet taste really. We reached the final in Moscow and they were the better team that day, we were hoping for a more close game like it was the case in Ameland she explains.
I wanted to know what they feel is keeping them away from beating England, Well you know, she paused for a second, the main difference is that these players have been playing the game a lot longer than us. Their vision on the field, their experience and their technique gives them the upper hand. But I remain positive, because our path took us to a point where we can compete against them.
We keep on talking about the quality and unity of the group, and I wanted to know if what we see on the outside, a close group of friends that seem to enjoy conquering new goals together, is real or not:
We are indeed a big family she calmly replies. Living together and travelling together all the time does create small arguments, obviously, but its no different than with your roommate or your friends. I think that our performance on the field is where you can really see our unity, the way we fight and suffer for each other and the team. This is a team sport, and we need everyone on the boat so it can sail.
I wonder if theres a down side to it, if there will be problems with the newcomers joining a group that has been fermenting for years, like the good whiskey.
Nah, no problem at all. On a personal level, we already now everyone. Some of them might even be our club teammates or our friends. Adding new players is a natural and needed process. On a rugby level, it depends on their adaptation to the system and the demands of the game she adds.
My last question for her is about the future, what are the goals for Spanish Sevens Rugby:
Well, I hope for a project that can keep us in this elite level, competing in the World Series, European Championships and IRBs, and earning our spot among the US, Canada and Australia. As usual, media exposure and coverage is much needed, so that people gives us the right credit for our achievements she concludes.
Marina leaves for training with her new team and I stay for a little longer, walking along the stands of my favorite stadium, anxious to see the 7s lionesses roar once again.
There is a peaceful silence in the stadium, soon to be broken by the sound of players working hard to achieve one of the precious spots on the final squad.
Lets get ready to rumble!"
LIST OF PLAYERS ATTENDING THE CAMP
1 ISABEL RODRIGUEZ - GETXO
2 JULIA PLA - GEIEG
3 MARIA RIBERA - RICHMOND
4 MARIA CASADO - MAJADAHONDA
5 MARTA CABANE - GEIEG
6 PATRICIA GARCIA - OLIMPICO
7 PAULA MEDIN - CRAT
8 VANESA RIAL - CRAT
9 ELI MARTINEZ - GEIEG
10 MARINA BRAVO - CISNEROS
11 LAURA ESBR - INEF-BCN
12 ANGELA DEL PAN - INEFC-BCN
13 ALEX CASTILLON - INEF-BCN
14 MARTA COSTA - INEFC-BCN
15 ANNA ARNAU - GEIEG
16 MICAELA - MAJADAHONDA
17 IRENE SCHIAVON - OLIMPICO
18 ISIS VELASCO - MAJADAHONDA
19 MARINA CABR - GEIEG
20 ANNA PUIGBERT - INEF BCN