Sweden are back in the top division of women’s rugby in Europe. Swedish team manager Anna-Lena Swartz tells us how one of the game great pioneers have turned their fortunes around, and their targets for the future
Historically Sweden have had strong teams both in 15s, appearing at the World Cup in 2010, and 7s, having played for many years in Grand Prix. Then, for different reasons, in the years after 2010 our performance internationally fell away. Sweden missed out on the 2014 World Cup, and were relegated from the top level of European sevens.
That changed in 2014 when our ambition to compete at the highest level was resurrected thanks to our cooperation with David Mobbs Smith.
David Mobbs Smith, a level 3 coach from England and a sevens specialist, was invited by me for the first time in the summer 2014 for a U18 skills training camp. Those camps led to more camps, where “DMS” prepared our players for the historic first Europeans U18 championship, held in Enköping.
Together we realised that with the right people involved we could create a new elite player pathway and strategic plan which will lead us to create a core of top elite players by 2020.
We established a management group including David Mobbs Smith as Head Coach, Jonas Toresäter for Strength and Conditioning, Britt Westesson as manager and Assistant coach and myself as overall manager, leading the program forward and assisting in coaching and tour management.
Most important for us is, of course, having our players to compete in tournaments against as good opposition as possible. What has been of real value to our U18s has been the opportunity, thanks to Donnie Masters, to compete at Rosslyn Park Sevens in London, the world’s largest tournament for players up to 18. Our girls can now play against academy teams from England and rate themselves to their level.
For our seniors, preparation and development is like all other countries - all based on fitness programmes, camps and attending as many tournaments as possible. To become an elite player you have to work hard on your own fitness and game understanding. Our aim is to provide the opportunities and then get the players to do the work.
We take help, support and advice from Stockholm Exiles’ Mårten Fredriksson and Riksidrottsförbundet´s Liselott Ohlson and also enjoy the moral support from our own union and have discussions directly with chairwomen Madeleine Lahti.
Thanks to the success in both legs European’s trophy this year, we are now one year ahead of our strategic plan - our plan was to get back into GP in 2017, and then to be able to stay in the top 10. We are therefore looking forward to the challenge next year, performing well and staying up.
With the assurance of continued support from everyone involved, plus cooperation with sponsors, we hope to keep the fire burning in the players and with our management group kept intact.