Sophie Spence, former Irish XV’s and 7’s rugby international player and now coach of Penclawdd Men’s Division 1 team, talks about her coaching journey as a converted netball player with Liza "Bird" Burgess. MORE
Maggie Alphonsi: The state of the women’s game
Maggie Alphonsi is one of the world’s best ever players. A World Cup winner in 2014, she won 74 caps for England and score 28 tries.
She’s now a columnist for the Telegraph, a commentator/pundit on the TV and a National Member of the RFU’s council. What makes this more remarkable, each one was a first for a woman in rugby.
She’s also one of the main presenters at the Rugby Show, which is being held at the Ricoh Stadium on 11/12 July 2020. Click here for free tickets using the PROMO CODE: RUGBYCOACHWEEKLY.
Ahead of the event, I managed to catch up with Maggie to ask her about the state of the women’s game at the moment.
DAN: It’s great to see and hear a much wider diversity of expertise on the TV. It’s also encouraging that many of the Tyrrells coaches are women.
Does the current conversation need to focus on continuing to gain a more equal footing, or should we be concentrating on developing talent, that will naturally fill these roles?
MAGGIE: I think you need both. There needs to be an emphasis on pushing for equality. We don’t want to drop the momentum whilst there is a hunger for change that has already been gained in women’s sport.
We should also be utilising and maximising the talent out there to fill the coaching roles and developing the talent pool.
D: The quality of play in the women’s game is still accelerating. What do you think are the main drivers behind this?
M: The main drivers in England have been the introduction of professional contracts, so those English players have more time together in camp to develop their skills and cohesion.
Also, the support from the RFU, some men’s clubs and key sponsors has helped strengthen the domestic league and improved the level of competition.
I think the best way to support these drivers is to keep giving visibility to the game and shining a light on the good work being done.
D: When I first started coaching with the Welsh women (2008), many of the players still used “male” specific language, like a two-man ruck or even “man-up”. How important is that the language becomes more inclusive? Will that help the game or is it a distraction?
I have no issue with the use of the language such as “two man ruck” or “man on”. As I have grown up in the game, that language has always been used. It feels very normal to hear and would be hard to change.
The use of more inclusive words such as “person” would be great to hear but I don’t think it would necessarily help the game. If anything, it would only cause frustration and a divide within the game and create a problem where there isn’t currently one.
D: When you see girls being coached and then compare it to the men’s rugby, what differences do you see, if any? Should there be a different approach, and should some skills be coached more than others?
M: The main differences in the men’s and women’s game from my perspective is the use of kicking. In the women’s game kicking out of hand and at the post is less frequent. It is a skill that I believe should be developed more in the women’s game.
I also think more work should be done on just developing the basic skills of handling and decision making in the women’s game, as most women/girls take up rugby much later than most men/boys.
Finally, in training (and not in the gym), which activity did you look forward to most? I’m assume it wasn’t scrummaging with Graham Smith (no offence to the former England Women’s forwards coach)!
Lol. I absolutely loved tackling drills. My favourite would be a drill where players had to run the gauntlet with tacklers stopping them. I would always be the tackler.
See Maggie talking more about her tackling here: