Women’s Rugby on the up

FOLLOWING on from a BUCS Western Conference Cup win by Aberystwyth University Women’s Rugby over Southampton University, the Women’s World Cup was held in France during the summer. England were champions, overcoming Canada by 21 to 9 at Stade Francais’ Stade Jean-Bouin after drawing 13-13 in the Pool stages, which were based at the French Rugby Federation’s Training base in Marcoussis, on the outskirts of Paris. With the new season upon us, and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) deciding to offer professional contracts to its female players, rugby returns. The Courier spoke to Leonie Mahon, Captain and Fly-Half, Carys Ann Thomas, President and Scrum-Half and Hayley Ellis, Vice-Captain and Number 8, three members of the University’s Women’s Rugby side.


Photo – Lisa Thomas

How did last season go? You won BUCS am I right? Favourite match?

Leonie Mahon: Last season was a great example of progression and hard work. We developed and improved from match to match. We had a strong set of forwards which meant our scrums were formidable at times and then we were able to combine this with our backs some of whom had been playing together for a year before so understood each other well and had meant we had developed good movement of the ball. Yeah we won the BUCS cup but did well within the BUCS league as well. Which helped us achieve BUCS team of the year. It seems a pretty obvious choice but the BUCS cup final against Southampton just showed all our efforts and skills coming together all at the right time. We were working well as a team, playing the match on our terms and keeping our attacking play fluid.
Hayley Ellis: We won the [BUCS] Western Cup, I think the final has to be a personal favourite. After they beat us first time round 20-5, it was great to come back 36-0 in the final and two tries for me was a great way to end!

What was last season’s biggest highlight?

LM: Again it has to be the BUCS Conference Cup Final, getting to the final was good enough for us but to then win it and to win by 35 points to 0 was just phenomenal. Especially since we have played Southampton in the past and lost it was just brilliant.
CAT: Winning the BUCS Cup has to be the biggest highlight. It was our way of showing how serious women’s rugby is as a sport.
HE: Winning the cup, Varsity and being awarded BUCS team of the year!

Did you watch the Women’s World Cup? Opinion? A player that stood out?

LM: Yes, great promotion of women’s rugby and shows that we can put on as greater entertainment as the men’s side. Maggie Alphonsi is a force to be reckoned with, every England game I watched she was strong at the break down, puts all of her energy to every movement she performs and threatens the other teams defence making huge runs.
CAT: I managed to catch a few, the final being one of them. I wasn’t particularly impressed with Wales but England truly deserved to win. The entire England squad stood out because they were clearly a class about the others in their skill and dedication to the sport.
HE: l did, Magali Harvey – her try against France was incredible and Kelly Russell. Canadian rugby is so exciting right now!

With a new season on the horizon, when’s your first fixture? What are your ambition and goals for the season?

Photo - Lisa Thomas

Photo – Lisa Thomas

LM: 29th October at home against Carmarthen I believe. Ambition for the season is to try and continue where we left off, keep the relationship between the backs and forwards strong and aim for a high position in the league. However we are losing a number of key players this year including most of our scrum, which is why Sports Week and Freshers’ Week will be a key area for us. Then as we have a fair bit of time before our first match it means we can put in a good bit of fitness and skill training beforehand so we can hit the ground running and get any new players settled in for the first game.
CAT: Our first fixture is 29th October which is a home game against Trinity Carmarthen. We’re going to be a mostly Fresher based team this season with so many of our girls having graduated this year. We were known for our scrums so it would be great to recreate that name for ourselves with new girls. I would love for us to hold our BUCS division champions title.
HE: What are our ambition and goals for the season? To be promoted! We’ve been in the same league since I arrived and I’d like to leave the team in a great position to go forward to further success.

Are there any colourful members of the club?

LM: Hannah Parry (nickname Hannah Party), she may not be the most vocal but she is the most dependable and consistent player who we know we can trust to watch our backs at 15. We also have Hayley Ellis our Vice-Captain who is a flamboyant player who makes herself known as soon as she is on the pitch. She makes big hits and has made some epic runs which even though she is a small player you learn quickly not to mess with her.
CAT: I’d say the entire team is colourful. Every girl’s unique and we all have a laugh with one another and the banter is never-ending on socials. We never have a dull time when we’re out as a team.
HE: Charlotte Isaac, you’d have a few laughs in your article if you interviewed her.

Do you have a coach?

LM: Yes we have three. Kevin Bryan, Ifan Thomas but our main coach is Huw Griffiths who has been with this club for a number of years and has been through all of our ups and downs. He deserves a lot of credit especially for our Cup win that’s for sure, they all do

What’s the best way to get involved with AUWR?

LM: Come along to any of our training sessions; Monday nights from 8:15pm down at Aberystwyth Town (Plascrug) or on the Astro at 6pm. Doesn’t matter about your skill level, whether you are tall, short, big or small…the one good thing about rugby is there is a position for everyone.
Also coming along to one of our socials on Wednesday night is definitely a great way to experience AUWR and meet a great bunch of girls.
CAT: There are loads of ways to get involved with AUWR. We’ve got taster events coming up during Sports week, there’s our stall at Fresher’s fair. Girls are encouraged to try out our training nights all throughout the year; we had girls join in April this year. Giving our socials a try is a great way to get to know the girls off of the pitch as well.

Thanks to all three for their participation, if you’re looking to partaking in Women’s Rugby, you now know how, if not, contact AUWR by looking at our BUCS Directory.