Thanks to their success promoting tag rugby among girls in South East London Schools, Southwark Tigers RFC were invited to attend the prestigious launch of a new national programme this week (Wednesday) designed to engage young women and ethnic minorities in the sport. The club’s coaches brought a contingent of 20 girls – members of the team that won the tag-rugby plate in July’s finals of the London School Games at Crystal Palace.
The 13 and 14-year-olds had the thrill of talking and playing with two members of last month’s World Cup winning women’s squad: Tamara Taylor (Darlington Mowden Park Sharks – Lock/Number 8) and Claire Purdy (Wasps – Prop), who allowed them to try on their gold medals and autographed the girls’ shirts. They also met the sports minister Helen Grant MP and Lord Chris Holmes disability commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Josie Hammond-Stones, 13, from Southwark said, “Tamara Taylor’s medal had lost some of its gold because she told us she had ‘loved it to death’ and hardly taken it off for two weeks after the Finals. I have never met anyone who won a World Cup before.” The girls also took part in interviews to camera describing their experiences and the benefits of playing rugby with the Southwark Tigers. “When the returned some of the girls rushed to give me the rugby ball that Tamara Taylor and Claire Purdy had signed for them,” said Sydenham School Headteacher Carolyn Unsted. “They were practically speechless with excitement!”
“The girls were really inspired to be with the World Cup winners and were fantastic throughout – training hard, having fun and handling their first TV interviews impeccably,” said Southwark Tigers community coach Maggie Hammond.
“We are at the start of a long overdue campaign to get more women into rugby. For our part, thanks to separate funding from Sports England, we are now able to double our training sessions this year, extending opportunities to older girls such as getting coaching qualifications in their own right,” added Maggie. “We hope to form our own girls’ team at Southwark Tigers, made up of players from inner London schools to be called ‘The South London Iceni’.