Ironsides welcome England star Cleall to ‘come and try’ girls’ rugby event

Battersea Ironsides are gearing up for their ‘come and try it’ girls’ rugby event this Sunday, when they welcome England star Bryony Cleall to lead introductory training.

Once nominated as the most inclusive club in the country, Ironsides is hosting an event this Sunday (23/1) from 10am to 1.30pm, encouraging girls aged 10-17 to come to the Earlsfield club to try their hand at rugby .

SWL spoke with U18 girls Head Coach Fiona Sutherland and player Poppy Dyson about all things related to the girls and women’s teams and their hopes for this weekend’s event.

Sutherland, 26, agreed that having Cleall, a Red Roses International who has won two Six Nations titles and two Premiership titles during her time at Saracens, will be a major draw for a vital recruiting opportunity.

She said: “It’s really nice to have her, she can talk about her career, she’s quite inspiring and can also give away a little stock at the end which hopefully makes us stand out and be a little bit unique.

“We hope to have a total of 40 girls, if we can keep 15 new faces I will be very happy.”

BUILD-UP: Tackling drills like this is unlikely to be a big part of Sunday’s session, but for the players who stay on it will eventually become an important thing to learn

For Sutherland, camaraderie has been integral to the women’s team’s success, and will also be key to capitalizing on Sunday’s success as the girls’ team hopes to create a welcoming environment.

“I think the most important thing is to start with a very open first session, be friendly, make sure everyone is introduced, make them feel at home and comfortable, and reassure them that pretty much everyone is like girl starts playing rugby all over again.

“The social element is so important and a lot of people come back to the club after the games. Some may be absolutely useless at rugby at first but they stick it out because they love camaraderie and feel like they’re part of something bigger.

“It’s not just about creating one great session, it’s about creating a great ethos and community and we’ve done that in the women’s section, and really want to do that in the girls’ section.”

FRIENDSHIP: Sutherland has made team camaraderie a central goal to build a strong girls division

The women’s team has racked up 40 out of 40 league points in their eight games so far and dominates NC 1 South East, where they have scored 239 points and conceded just 28.

They won the competition in 2019/20, but the shortened season meant they couldn’t make it to the promotional play-off that would eventually have secured their promotion to the South East Women’s Championship, the third tier of the rugby pyramid.

Youngster Dyson, 16, was thrilled with the women’s success and echoed her coach’s view that a welcoming environment was vital to growing the junior section.

“I train with the women once a week, I really like that, it’s actually very inspiring.

“Making sure our new players feel completely welcome and are genuinely friendly is important.

“I remember being quite nervous for my first session, but everyone was so welcoming, not just the coaches but all the players.

“Some of the U15s make my heart melt, they are so nice and the senior women players are so friendly.”

TEAM SPIRIT: Pippa Dyson (left) only joined in November, but is leading the calls for players after an enjoyable two months

If the girls’ division can make the most of this Sunday, Sutherland is hopeful that they can begin to fill the games as a club of their own and become a feeder for the women’s side in the long run.

She said: “There are games throughout the season hosted by Surrey and we would normally team up with a few of the other local clubs to play against them as we don’t have enough players to set up a full team yet. , but we would like to have our own team soon.

“We already have three players in the women’s squad that have made it through the junior section, it would be great to see more of that. We can dream big.”

COMPETITION ACTION: Ironsides women take on Barnes

When asked if she had a message for someone considering coming down, Dyson made it clear how much of a positive impact rugby had already made in her short time playing the game, and how it was open to anyone who wanted to try it.

She said: “Women’s rugby has completely changed my life and I’ve only been playing for two months.

“To me, one of the most important things about how inclusive and how empowering it is, because when I think of a women’s rugby player, there isn’t one stereotypical model. It is very diverse in body shapes and lengths and types.

“It’s very important to show young girls and women that the body images we’re supposed to have aren’t really a true representation of reality, and you can be successful in life and in sports regardless of your shape.”

Those interested in attending the event at Battersea Ironsides (Garratt Green, Earlsfield, SW17 0JG) can register using this Google form.

All photos supplied by Battersea Ironsides RFC.

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