By Ulrika Andersson-Hall.
Women's rugby in Sweden definitely has a buzz about it at the moment. After managing to beat Italy, Spain, and Germany on home soil to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the media interest was fantastic and we celebrated in style. Already then, there was a lot of talk about a serious effort to make the Swedish team better prepared for the World Cup than it's ever been before. Those plans are certainly starting to come into place. We have a very competent and enthusiastic coaching and management team lead by Jonas Ahl, and more players than ever show great commitment and an eagerness to fight for a place in the squad.
Rugby here in Sweden is played during summer as the winter sees our pitches covered with snow and polar bears hibernating in our club houses (well almost...). So with the Swedish league over and done with (where Gothenburg took the gold after a hard fought finals competition with Uppsala, Stockholm and Enkping) we started our international season with a large selection camp in October. We now have a squad of about 40 girls who will attend indoor winter camps, fitness tests, and training games until the final squad is picked in the summer.
As part of our World Cup build-up we will need as many quality games as possible, and we're very fortunate to have been invited over by Wales to play them in Swansea this coming Saturday. The Swedish squad selected for this game mainly consists of players that took part in the qualifiers in May, but with some experienced players missing there will also be a good opportunity for some of the younger faces to present themselves. Most of all, this game will show us where we stand at the moment and what we'll need to work on over the winter. And it will also of course give our coaches another opportunity to look at selection for the spring games.
Depending on which Swedish club you play for, the autumn has looked very different with some teams not having had a competitive game since August. Therefore itll be important to get everyone quickly up to speed when we arrive on Friday, getting some contact in and a feel for the ball again. Personally, I've only had a 4 week break where I've spent some quality time with husband and kids, but I can't wait to get out there on the pitch again and face one of the strongest sides in the world.
Wales v Sweden is a 1pm KO at Swansea RFC, St Helen's this Saturday.