Bedford Blues, together with Bedford Junior Blues, have announced a new Women’s team to start next season.
Back in 2017, the Bedford Junior Blues produced a development plan to help further grow female participation in the game of rugby in the town of Bedford and the surrounding areas.
Since the concept of a Women’s Rugby team in Bedford was formed, Bedford Blues, Bedford Junior Blues and Regional RFU Development Officers have given their full support with the setting up of the team, from the recruitment of players to supplying resources for training.
The idea then became a reality in January 2020 when the first training session was held with 12 players attending on a cold Saturday morning. The team has continued to increase its numbers, even during the current COVID-19 situation.
Bedford Blues Women, as they will officially be known as, are looking forward to next season with a new team, a new kit and a new challenge of hopefully playing in league structure. The current squad roster stands at 25 players, who all have a variety of experience.
Head Coach for Bedford Blues Women and Girls Rugby, Mark Stapley, who has two daughters who play for the Bedford Junior Blues, said: “Since getting involved with coaching rugby at Bedford Junior Blues, I felt that the current group of girls had nowhere to go locally after they finished playing rugby at youth level and we had to create a longer term plan.
“While there is plenty of opportunity for the girls to develop further through playing county rugby for East Midlands and possibly being selected for the RFU centre of excellence, I felt that something had to be done locally.
“With the support of Bedford Junior Blues, Bedford Blues and RFU staff, the girls will now have something to aspire to.
“I am looking forward to the day when the girls from the Bedford Junior Blues have the opportunity to maybe even play rugby once or twice a season at Goldington Road for the Bedford Blues Women.”
Chief Operating Officer at Bedford Blues, Gareth Alred, added, “We are delighted to support the launch of Bedford Blues Women. Mark has been the driving force of this from day one and real credit should go to him for what he has achieved so far.
“Mark has coached as part of our Blues Community programme in local schools and is not just hugely impressive, but immensely passionate about the club and women’s rugby.
“Since hosting the hugely successful England Women’s international against Italy at Goldington Road last November, we have seen first-hand the real growth of the Women’s game and interest in Bedford. This is another exiting partnership with the Junior Blues and further confirms our commitment to our community.”
Words by Ryan Robinson