A game being played this week shows that enthusiasm for the growth of the fifteens game outside of the Six Nations is alive and well.
The growth of women’s international Sevens has been remarkable in recent years. Almost 100 countries competed for a place at the World Cup, the draw for which took place earlier this week.
However it is often feared that this growth will be at the expense of the full game with smaller nations maybe abandoning fifteen-a-side rugby. But a game due to take place next weekend shows that this may not be the case.
Away from the pomp and circumstance of the Six Nations, Belgium will host a German XV in Brussels, the latest fixture in a small but well organised programme of fixtures organised by the Belgian RFU that will culminate in early April with a test match against Switzerland.
Belgium have a long history of women’s international rugby – longer than most major nations. Their first test match was as long ago as 1986, but they have met with little success of the years. Their 27 test matches have resulted in just five wins – against Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia and Romania (who they beat in their last test win in 2008).
Despite this, the enthusiasm of the players has ensured that the Belgian RFU have continued to organise an annual programme of games for the 15s team, including matches against club teams in Kent, the French Flanders regional team, the French Military, and internationals with Germany and Switzerland.
And 2012/13 has so far proved to be successful year for the “Lionesses”, with a 31-15 win against Haylesford/Maidstone in September and a 14-13 win over the French Military last month, with the Belgians hanging on to win in a game that finished in a hailstorm.
Their opponents next weekend – a German XV – offer further consolation for anyone concerned that the future of fifteens may be in doubt, because the game has been organised and will take place despite the fact that the German RFU removed all support and funding for the official German women’s XV in 2010.
Germany has as proud and almost as long a history as Belgium with over 60 test matches played since 1989, including two World Cup appearances, and wins over teams such as Sweden and the Netherlands. So news about the loss of their national team was greeted with some disappointment.
However, the players did not simply sit back and accept the decision, and last season won the support of the Rugby Association of Baden-Württemberg to help organise an unofficial team. Baden-Württemberg - the strongest association in the country - took on the role as they see it as a way to promote the game, as well as give players the opportunity to represent their country internationally. Ultimately the aim of all concerned is to change the decision of the German RFU.
As a result last year they put together an “unofficial” German XV that hosted the Belgians in Offenbach, winning 21-14. Following the success of that game the same German XV have been invited back to Belgium, and will play a return game on 9th March at RC Kituro, in Brussels.
The teams for next weekend’s game have been announced:
Belgium: 1.Marie Clarys-Robion (Dendermonde), 2.Nele Van Hoovels (Leuven), 3.Lotte Beckers (Dendermonde), 4.Ingrid Knippels (Leuven), 5.Yet Ceulemans (Antwerp), 6.Carmen De Donder (Dendermonde), 7.Esther Beeckman (Dendermonde), 8.Cathy De Geyter (Boitsfort), 9.Gaëlle Portier (Coq Mosan), 10.Charo Reper (Dendermonde), 11.Aude Risselin (Boitsfort), 12.Mélissa Schneider (Coq Mosan), 13.Systke D’Haeseleir (Dendermonde), 14.Nele Pien (Dendermonde), 15.Margaux Lalli (Frameries), 16.Laura Fortemps (Coq Mosan), 17.Silke Vandamme (Dendermonde), 18.Christelle Monty (Boitsfort), 19.Alison Lenaerts (ROC Ottignies), 20.Noémie De Bondt (Soignies), 21.Cécile Blondiau (Soignies), 22.Florence Van Den Broucke (Leuven), 23.Delphine Rossignol (Boitsfort). Coaches: Denis Duchau and Pascal Lawinski
German XV (squad): Anna Krauskopf, Corinna Völker, Lisa Niel (both Eintracht Frankfurt), Friederike Kempter, Jana Eisenbeiß, Katrin Schmitt, Mona Bieringer, Alicia Amberger, Lisa Maral, Suheda Ünlü, Brenda Weinel, Andrea Beckenbach, Tilla Dier, Stefanie Horn (all Heidelberger RK); Julia Eichhorn, Isabel Rink, Anabelle Grimm (all Karlsruher SV); Barbara Werner (RC Mainz); Elisa Trick, Johanna Carter (both SC Neuenheim); Sabine Missbach, Stefanie Müller (both Stuttgart RC). Trainer Bärbel Glass. (Most players are come from the Heidelberger RK, who have been undefeated at club level in Germany for three years).