Red Roses Training Squad & Simon Middleton’s Comments



England Women Head Coach Simon Middleton has named an extended training squad to take part in a camp in Bisham Abbey this weekend.

43 players will convene on Friday 13th October for the three-day training camp before Middleton will select a smaller squad to take part in two behind-closed-doors training games against South Africa on October 18th and 22nd in Aldershot.

The camp will provide a chance for the squad to come together for the first time following the Womens Rugby World Cup in August and begin preparations ahead of the Old Mutual Wealth Series that will see England play Canada in a three Test series. 

Simon Middleton said: “This year we are doing things differently and bringing together an extended training squad of 43 players with the objective being twofold; firstly to allow us to select the strongest squad for the upcoming season and secondly give new talent invaluable playing opportunities as part of an international training team in games against South Africa. Off the back of the training camp and training games we’ll reduce the extended training squad numbers and name an EPS squad, who we feel is right for the upcoming season.


“We are really excited about the new, young players coming into camp for the first time. We know and have seen players in the past who have made unbelievable gains, when you get them in the right environment at the right time.


“In the long term we are working towards our objective to build and prepare a squad with real depth for the next Womens World Cup in 2021. We are confident these young players can, and will develop as the next generation of international players. It’s crucial we expose them to the international environment at an early stage as part of their development if we are to meet this objective.


“In the short term, we don’t want to go into a period of consolidation, we want to keep moving forward and keep winning”.


World Cup winner Kay Wilson has confirmed that she will retire from international rugby this season. The winger has played 49 times for England and featured in the last two Women’s Rugby World Cups. 


Middleton added: “While we are sad to see Kay retire from international rugby we want to thank her for her outstanding contribution to the game over the past number of years. Kay is a world-class player and role model for women’s rugby who has inspired many young players to get involved in the game. We wish her all the best with her next endeavour.”


Kay Wilson said: “I genuinely didn’t think I would ever get one cap for England so to finish my career on 49 is something that I am really proud of. I’ve been very fortunate to have played in two World Cups, win two Six Nations gram slams and meet and play alongside some amazing people but now I feel it’s time for the next chapter in my life.”
England training squad for Bisham Abbey camp


Rochelle Clarke (Wasps FC Ladies)

Heather Kerr (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Sarah Bern (Gloucester-Hartpury)

Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Marlie Packer (Saracens Women)

Poppy Leitch (Bristol Ladies)

Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning)

Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies)

Justine Lucas (Wasps FC Ladies)

Harriett Millar-Mills (Wasps FC Ladies)

Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women)

Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)

Jessie Hood(Bristol Ladies)

Abbie Parsons (Bristol Ladies)

Hannah West (Wasps FC Ladies)

Alex Powell (Wasps FC Ladies)

Cath O’Donnell (Loughborough Lightning)

Courtney Gill (Gloucester -Hartpury)

Olivia Jones (Loughborough Lightning)

Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women)

Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries)

Molly Morrisey (Gloucester- Hartpury)

Jo Brown (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Izzy Noel-Smith (Bristol Ladies)


Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies)

Amber Reed (Bristol Ladies)

Dannielle Waterman (Wasps FC Ladies)

Katy Daley-Mclean (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies)

Lotte Clapp (Saracens Women)

Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies)

Rachael Woosey (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks)

Celia Quansah (Loughborough Lightning)

Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women)

Ellie Kildunne (Gloucester-Hartpury)

Abbie Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)

Lagi Tuima (Bristol Ladies)

Lucy Attwood (Bristol Ladies)

Brooke Bradley (Bristol Ladies)

Charlotte Pearce (Loughborough Lightning)

Lauren Cattell (Saracens Women)

Kelly Smith (Gloucester- Hartpury)



The Barbarians Get In Touch With Their Feminine Side

The Barbarians are to launch a women’s team that will take the field for the first time this season. 

The famous invitation club founded in 1890 becomes twice as exciting when the women’s side makes its debut against Munster at Thomond Park on Friday, November 10.

England World Cup winner Giselle Mather will coach the team in the first of a number of matches planned for the 2017-18 season. Managed by Fiona Stockley, the Barbarians will play against club, provincial and international sides with a full schedule to be confirmed later this year.

“We’re delighted to open a new chapter in the Barbarian FC’s history with the creation of our women’s team this season,” said Barbarians Chairman John Spencer.

“Its formation is something we’ve been working towards for a number of years and it is a reflection of the excellence of the global women’s game which was showcased so brilliantly at this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland.

“Our aim is to welcome more talented players into this iconic club to forge new friendships and play with the style and passion for which the Barbarians are famous. We are working with clubs and unions around the world to make sure it benefits the players and the game.”

The Barbarians will field players from seven different nations in their opening women’s game. Those who have already accepted invitations have 440 international caps between them. They are Susie Brown (Scotland), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Claire Cripps and Megan Goddard (England), Elen Evans (Wales), Emma Jenson (New Zealand), Christelle Le Duff (France) and Kelly Russell (Canada).

“The Barbarians are one of the reasons I fell in love with rugby and to be coaching this side is a massive honour,” said Mather, the Wasps Director of Rugby and a World Cup winning player in 1994.

“I can’t wait to get these players from all different nationalities together with everything they bring from their different environments. It’s going to be a massive opportunity for all these athletes.

“The state of the women’s game is phenomenal at the moment following events like the World Cup and the launch of the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s in England. With the Barbarians coming in on top of that it’s taking the game to a different level.”

Women’s Sport Trust Joint CEO Jo Bostock said: “Women’s rugby has made great strides in 2017 in terms of high-quality competition, investment and infrastructure, and we support the launch of the Barbarians women’s team. It is a further indication of the progress of women’s sport as a whole. 

“The Barbarians are an iconic rugby club with a long history of giving athletes from different countries the chance to form friendships and perform with the freedom that makes them better players. Extending that opportunity to the growing number of talented women’s players is to be applauded.”

Abi Chamberlain, Head of Leadership Development at Paysafe and a former England Sevens rugby captain, said: “Paysafe is absolutely thrilled to sponsor the Barbarians women’s team. This is an extremely important step forward for women’s rugby and we applaud the innovation and commitment of the Barbarians. 

“Following England’s superb performance in the recent World Cup, women’s rugby has hit new heights of popularity. It is important that cutting-edge advancements in the women’s game continue apace, and Paysafe is proud to be part of this new initiative and to champion the women’s game.”

World Rugby’s General Manager, Women’s Rugby, Katie Sadleir said: “It’s an incredibly exciting development in international rugby to see the first women’s Barbarians team being formed. The talented players that have been recruited from around the world for this team provide an excellent opportunity to deliver more inspirational rugby maintaining the momentum created during the recent World Cup in Ireland.

“It’s fantastic to see the financial partnerships that have come together to support this historic initiative.”

South Africa 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Focuses On Player Welfare

South Africa, Ireland and France have an anxious wait until November 15 before they find out whether or not they have been successful in their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

At the presentations to World Rugby the week before last,each country spoke of projected profits, of stadia, infrastructure, ticket sales, hospitality, but by in large the most important contributors, the players themselves, were barely mentioned, with the exception of the South Africa bid.

With Francois Piennar and John Smit on the panel they certainly painted the picture of  a player centric tournament, should they get the opportunity to host it in 2023.

At a time when player welfare is a hot topic, with talk of the possibility that players may be have to go on strike to reduce the intolerable increased demands being put upon them, and their health, the Springbok delegation were at pains to point out that player welfare will be at heart of RWC 2023, should they be declared hosts.

One of their key pillars of delivering the tournament centres on match schedules and team bases, designed to maximise player welfare, ahead of cost or indeed any other considerations.

Some of the proposals may seem small and insignificant, but the fact that they are the only bidders to even mention the players in their plans, gives them a lot of respect and credibility in my opinion, and who knows it may just be the little extra factor that makes the difference between winning and losing the Rugby World Cup bid.

A South African world cup ensures all training venues are a maximum 17 minutes travelling time from the teams accommodation, and all training venues will have everything in one location such as swimming pool, gym, indoor and outdoor pitches.

Players will not have to check out of their “home” hotels for “away” matches in the pool stages, they will simply vacate their rooms with minimal luggage for their trip.

Travel will be reduced to a minimum, in the pool stages 8 teams will remain at their home team base, playing all matches at their home venues, with the remaining 12 teams only having to travel “away” for one of their matches.

For the semi finals and finals all four teams will locate to Johannesburg for the final two weeks of the tournament.

Aside from player welfare, the weather (Averaged at 22 degrees in September and October) and beer were highlighted, with South Africa stating a beer worked out at £1,75 in their country, as opposed to £5.70 in France, and £4.25 in Ireland.

Because of the sheer size of all eight of the stadiums designated for use, more tickets would be on sale than at any other world cup, 2.9 million to be exact, 400,000 more than the England 2015 tournament.

The final would be played at the National Stadium in Johannesburg, which has a capacity of 87,436 making it potentially the largest ever Rugby World Cup Final in history.


South Africa last hosted the tournament in 1995, as if you needed reminding, and who will ever forget the two men that wore the green and gold number 6 shirt that day, a day enshrined in rugby history, but more importantly a day when rugby was the catalyst for uniting a country, a day when Francois Piennar lifted the pot of gold at the beginning of the rainbow nation.




Alhambra Nievas The Granada 1983 Vintage Is Still Breaking Down Barriers

Beas de Granada is located in one of the most beautiful places around Granada with panoramic views southwards towards the Sierra Navada.

The town is steeped in history from the time of the Roman Empire, where it grew from being a coach house at a crossroads, to becoming a farmstead with just twenty families when under Arab rule.

It is situated 1072 meters above sea level and is part of the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Huetor.

So what has this to do with rugby I hear you ask ?, well this delightful town is the family home of one of the world’s best rugby referees Alhambra Nievas.

The tractor driving, olive harvesting referee never forgets her roots, quite literally come harvest time, the olives have been plentiful as indeed has her rugby harvest.

Some referees like fine wine just seem to get better with age and this 1983 vintage shows no sign of deterioration and is looking better than ever.

Incorrectly listed, much to her delight, as 28 years of age in the official Womens Rugby World programme, Alhambra actually reached the tender age of 34 on the very day the tournament started in Dublin.

Taking charge of the World Cup semi final, at the Kingspan stadium, in Belfast, between New Zealand and USA was a huge thrill for her and her team, and undoubtedly yet another highlight of what has already been a glittering career.

The ultimate team player, it was wonderful to witness her genuine delight for friend and refereeing colleague, Joy Neville, when she was awarded the World Cup Final between England and New Zealand.

Radio, television and other commitments have made things hectic, after the tournament, with not much down time, and never one to rest on her laurels, Alhambra has successfully completed the World Rugby Educator Course, in Romania, resulting in global recognition as a trainer.

Anxious to give back to the sport what the game has given to her, the humble and modest

lady from Granada would not be aware that she has already given far more back to the game, to its values, and to encouraging young women in sport, than she could ever have received in return, but now she will able to officially use her talents to assist others intent on taking up the whistle, and in improving standards both regionally and internationally.

Once again we talk about another breakthrough for women in rugby, and once again Alhambra Nievas is involved.

On October 14th she will take charge, of Finland v Norway in the Rugby Europe International Championship, the first woman to referee a men’s game in this competition.

So whilst the folks back in Beas de Granada celebrate the pilgrimage to the chapel of the virgin del pilar del colmenar, along with the neighbouring residents of Huetor Santillan, Alhambra will be 2086 miles further north in Helsinki, preparing for the match.

It is doubly good news for women’s rugby as Joy Neville will referee the match between Norway and Denmark a few days later.

The breakthroughs don’t end there, in yet another first Alhambra will be the first non Commonwealth referee to officiate at the rugby 7s on the Gold Coast, Australia, in the Fifteenth Commonwealth Games next April.

Six nations duty will hopefully be on the cards after christmas, after her superb handing of last years decider in the Dublin monsoon, between Ireland and England, and then there is the mouth-watering prospect of the Rugby World Cup Sevens Tournament in San Francisco.

Before all that Alhambra, as well as attending to domestic refereeing duties in Spain, undertaking Women’s World Sevens duties in Dubai, and only last week was in Marcoussis, near  Paris, for two days, along with fellow whistling amigo Iñigo Atorrasagasti, as a member of the panel of referees for the prestigious European competitions under the auspices of the EPCR.

Unlike many fine wines the 1983 vintage travels well, but there is no doubt that the native soil of Beas de Granada beneath her feet gives her the perfect balance to the busy grassy rugby fields of the world.

Vamos amigo



Will Rugby World Cup 2023 Answer Irelands Call 

Last weeks ‘Roar” looked at the French bid to host the Rugby World cup in 2023.

Today we look at the Irish claim, exactly one week before the Ireland 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Presentation delegation present the emerald isle’s case to World Rugby, in London, on Monday September 25th, spearheaded by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD.

I would imagine that the Blarney Stone will be getting a fair bit of attention this week, but just in case that fails then  U2 and Bob Geldof will provide video pieces to strengthen the Irish cause, Geldof will recite the WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree”

Liam Neeson has also narrated the bids accompanying video so there is no shortage of big name backing.

The presentation team includes Dick Spring, Chairman, Ireland 2023 Oversight Board; Philip Browne, Chief Executive, IRFU; David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Philip Orr, President, IRFU; Brian O’Driscoll, Ireland’s Bid Ambassador and Niamh Briggs, Captain of Ireland Women’s Rugby Team

The team believe their presentation will reflect the vision and strong commercial credentials of Ireland’s proposition but also, critically, the creativity of the Irish people, which is what, they say, will make Ireland 2023 a tournament like no other.

The global distribution of Irish folk is a very important element of the bid, which   intends to demonstrate just how crucial they can be in assisting Ireland, and World Rugby, create a global stadium of 70 million people for rugby’s greatest showpiece, and in ensuring the eyes of the world will be focussed on Ireland and rugby for 6 solid weeks in 2023.

Twelve stadia have been designated for action north and south including the magnificent and iconic Croke Park

An enthusiastic team member told me

“We have spent more than 4 years assembling a world class bid and we are now very much looking forward to presenting a truly exciting and compelling vision, full of Irish spirit, to the Council on September 25th.”

Ireland are one of 3 countries presenting to World Rugby delegates in London on September 25th, the others being South Africa and France.

Each will have 30 minutes to make a formal presentation, followed by a question and answer session.

The final decision will be announced, following a vote involving the constituent Unions and associations of World Rugby, on November 15th.

France 2023 Rugby World Cup Bid Rocked By Scandal 

French president Emmanuel Macron’s has withdrawn as head of France’s delegation to visit World Rugby in London, on September 25th, amidst the latest scandal to engulf French rugby, the timing could not be much worse, just when a pivotal presentation needs to be made in a bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Rival bidders Ireland and South Africa must be rubbing their hands with glee.

Macron originally announced with great pride that he would be happy to personally lead the presentation, one of five to speak on behalf of the French bid.

The reason for the presidents change of heart has been officially been given as ‘a clash in schedule’  but the recent scandal that has engulfed French rugby president Bernard Laporte is the more likely explanation, and the fact that France’s minister for sport Laura Flessel has ordered an inquiry into the affair, makes it even more understandable why the President has chosen to distance himself from the situation.

Laporte, a former French national coach and a sports minister under Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, was accused of using his direct influence to have disciplinary sanctions against Montpellier reduced by the French Federation de Rugby appeals committee, as a result seven members of the appeals board resigned.

Monpellier rugby club is owned by Syrian-born billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad with whom Bernard Laporte had a direct business relationship.

Also Altrad’s construction company became the first ever shirt sponsors of the French team this year, and he is also a partner in France’s 2023 World Cup bid.

It was also revealed, last month, that Altrad Investment Authority, owned by Altrad, and BL Communication, managed by Laporte, signed a one-year partnership last February.

Montpellier were fined €70,000 and hit by a one-match stadium ban for allowing fans to display banners protesting against the proposed merger between Top 14 teams Racing 92 and Stade Francais last April.

It was reduced the day after it was imposed in June to a €20,000 fine only after Laporte made a phone call to the relevant appeals board.

Laporte rejected the allegations, telling “Le Parisien” newspaper that he didn’t try to influence the board’s decision but telephoned appeals board chairman Jean-Daniel Simonet to offer “political perspective”.

“Journal du Dimanche”  obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

That refers to an alleged phone call between Laporte and Simonet in which Laporte advocated a softening of the original sanction.

The startling fact is that Since June 30th, seven members of the appeals board have resigned.

Laporte argued that he stepped in to avoid further conflict between the French Rugby Federation and the League Nationale de Rugby (LNR), who are not exactly the best of buddies, a fact underlined by the failed merger of the two Paris Top 14 clubs, Racing 92 and Stade Francais, which ended up in the French courts.

The newspaper “Journal du Dimanche” obtained a letter written by appeals board member Philippe Peyramaure to the chairman of the committee, Simonet in which he stated: “I was advised that the president of the federation [Laporte] had intervened to ask that we modify our decision in a way more favourable to Montpellier.”

Laporte’s BL Communication ended their business arrangement with Altrad but there was more bad news for the FFR president when French sports minister Laura Flessel summoned him to her office .

My office has talked with him, he has submitted files, we are in full reflection. We expect further feedback and then we will have to decide,” she said.

She added that France’s 2023 Rugby World Cup bid would go ahead “with or without” Laporte’s involvement.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for France’s world cup bid the French federation were forced into a public apology by World Rugby, for a tweet they posted, in which they suggested that a technical study conducted by World Rugby had France ahead in the race to host the 2023 World Cup.

The FFR tweeted the following apology on Thursday morning: “The FFR apologise for an inaccurate and misleading tweet it published on September 5 regarding the evaluation phase of the host selection process. It was incorrect to state that as a result of a technical study by World Rugby, the FFR is the leading candidate to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“The FFR respects that the host selection and evaluation process is not complete and we reiterate our full support for a fair and robust process operated by World Rugby and its independent advisors.”

And to make matters even worse Phillipe Folliot, president of Rugby Parliamentary Friendship Society in France who, whilst supporting the Rugby World Cup bid, described it as “a big dress rehearsal” for the 2024 Paris Olympics adding that it was a “chance to test security”.

World Rugby are going to love their tournament being thought of as an aperitif to the Olympics, and if there is an event for the individual shooting of feet in the Paris Olympics, then France will bring home the gold.

Ireland, France and South Africa will make their final presentations to World Rugby in London on September 25th while the host for the 2023 Rugby World Cup will be announced at the governing body’s council meeting on November 15th.



A League Of Their Own Tyrrells Premier 15S 

With 10 clubs in a league format, the Tyrrells Premier 15s starts on September 16 and the clubs will play each other home and away, with the top four progressing to a two-leg semifinal stage and the winners to a final on April 29.

The RFU will invest £2.4 million over the next three seasons in the league and crisp-manufacturer Tyrrells is the first major sponsor of a women’s rugby competition in England.

It is understood these matches will be shown free of charge on the RFU website, although there are also plans to consider streaming via Facebook and other online platforms.

The launch of the new women’s league comes at a crucial moment for the sport after England’s run to the Women’s Rugby World Cup final, which ended with a frustrating but compelling defeat by New Zealand and the controversy over the RFU’s funding of the women’s team.

Following England’s victory at the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup in France, the RFU first handed out central contracts to female players in 2014 to help them prepare for the inaugural Olympic sevens competition at Rio 2016, which saw an England-dominated Great Britain side narrowly miss out on a medal.

Fifty central contracts were awarded in 2016, 17 of them full-time, for the build-up to this year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup but it was always planned that some of those contracts would not be renewed after the tournament as the focus reverted to sevens in 2018

Despite wide calls for a rethink on the central contracts decision, the RFU has stuck to its strategy of targeting funding at the most relevant format of the game in each competition cycle and concentrated its efforts on increasing England’s talent pool and developing a sustainable financial model.

This is why it is so keen to promote the Tyrrells Premier 15s, which it sees as a commitment to the women’s game unrivalled in world rugby and a key plank in its strategy to double the number of female players in England to 50,000 by 2021.

The inaugural Tyrrells Premier 15s season launched last Thursday with all 10 club captains, coaches and club directors of rugby attending an event at Twickenham Stadium.

 England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter, Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather and Nigel Melville discussed how the new competition will revolutionise the existing landscape of women’s domestic rugby.


Nigel Melville, RFU Director of Professional Rugby said: “It’s about raising the standard of the game and giving the athletes and clubs the support they need to be better. There was a gap between our club game and our international game so we wanted to put in a place a competition that was aspirational for younger players. We hope to double the number women and girls playing the game over the next four years to 50,000 players and a lot of them will want to participate in this league. This will help create better players.”


England Women captain and newly appointed Loughborough Lightening assistant coach and player Sarah Hunter said “The new Tyrrells Premier 15s is where the game needs to be in terms of professionalism, high-quality coaching as well as support from strength and conditioning as well as medical teams. The league has been crying out for this for years and for the RFU to come in and transform it is fantastic. It’s great to be involved in it on and off the pitch.”

Wasps Director of Rugby, Giselle Mather said: “I can already see the difference the increase investment is having at my club. The athletes are really excited, there is a huge buzz about the place. We have an strength and conditioning department now, the medical team has improved and everything is there for them because of the sponsorship we have got. The excitement is palpable. We can’t wait until the 16th for the competition to begin”


A new website, will officially launch ahead of next weekend’s first round of of fixtures.


Tyrrells Premier 15s will operate in a league format with home and away fixtures confirmed today. The top four teams will progress to semi-finals played over two legs, culminating in a final on the 29th April. 

Full list of fixtures