Oxford Women’s Rugby team began their inaugural tour in early September, when they flew to Barcelona for a week of pre-season training and a match against Spanish side CN Poblenou.
Along with their first pre-season tour, the squad appear to be entering a new era. A new coaching team headed by Kevin Moggridge, former England women’s under 20s forward coach, has come on board, as well as a new sponsor, Vodaphone, as the women’s Varsity match celebrates its 30th year this December.
Oxford lost their match against CN Poblenou 32-12, with Oxford’s tries coming from Abby D’Cruz and Sophie Trott. However, the team told Cherwell that they took many positives away from their defeat, such as their competent maintenance of structure and organisation, despite many substitutions, and signs of individual promise which will make selections for the season difficult and competitive.
The side, which has a range of new recruits from rugby cuppers and returning blues and panthers, focused on consolidating themselves as a team as well as fine tuning their technical ability. The squad were joined by Graham Smith, the forwards coach for the 2014 winning England world cup team, for an intense session of body management and handling practice.
Prop Gwen Cartwright told Cherwell that during the team’s trip to Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s stadium, they used the opportunity of being in a stadium comparable to Twickenham to talk over how it feels to run out into such a space. The team used this opportunity to grow themselves both physically and mentally which will serve them well as they enter a gruelling season of fixtures leading up to their contest with Cambridge at the end of the term.
Women’s captain Abby D’Cruz told Cherwell that she felt that the tour was a “huge success for the playing group” and their new coaching team and that they were able to “put down a really solid foundation for the season ahead”. D’Cruz said that she was very excited by this year’s squad who are “full of potential”. After last year’s varsity match defeat, the blues captain expressed that the team “really can’t wait to show what we can do in the upcoming BUCS season and the Women’s Varsity Match”.
The Women’s Blues tested themselves in a pre-season friendly against Oxford Brookes last Friday, with their 31-20 victory suggesting that their hard work in pre-season, including their training on tour, is paying off. Leading by example, the Blues’ vice-captain Sophie Trott scored three tries, converting one, whilst captain D’Cruz converted the other two.
Oxford’s remaining tries came from Ann Bidgood and new recruit Connie Hurton. Hurton, a second year who stood out during women’s rugby cuppers, has already acheived a blue after the 2017 cross country Varsity match, and will be looking to add a further one to her collection.
Connie Hurton told Cherwell: “It was an exciting match to play in as we had a very mixed Oxford side with lots of new players (several were making their debuts for the Blues).
“Equally with my try, we’ve had a great preseason and tour and it was great to put all that we’ve been working on succesfully to use in a match environment.”