Drybrook lead the charge in girls rugby
GIRLS rugby is a growing sport and this is certainly the case at Drybrook Rugby Club.
The Forest of Dean club is at the heart of the community, where everyone is welcomed and supported, and that ethos runs through to the girls' section as well.
The club struggled to develop a girls section with only a handful of girls seemingly interested in the sport but now the numbers have risen dramatically.
The club's girls section manager Mandy Meredith is pleased with how much the girls' section has increased in such a short amount of time.
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"We had a women's team a long time ago but that folded and then they set up a girls team again but there weren't many girls," she said.
"When I joined about five years ago there were only four of five girls training here but after four seasons here it has increased to 40 girls."
This was a result of club advertising and hard work and now the increase in numbers means the club now have a team for Under-18s, Under-15s and Under-13s.
Meredith added the club's friendly atmosphere has been influential in successfully reaching out to more girls who want to play rugby.
"I think it's getting more popular, especially here where we have a range of ten to 17-year-olds who are all making friends here and look after each other," she said.
Meredith and the teams have been doing as much as they can to promote girls rugby in the area.
She added: "Last season we did a Years 7-8 touch-rugby tournament at Drybrook to attract more players in, and have a lot of social get-togethers and spread what we're doing by word of mouth.
"We have our own Facebook page with photos and our Drybrook RFC girls page through the club's website for people to see what we do," she said.
The sides don't play competitvely in league games but the girls enjoy playing the sport regardless.
Last season the Under-15s won all but one of the games they played and the club are currently rebuilding their Under-15s with girls moving up to the Under-18s.
"It is a constant cycle of encouraging girls to join in order to have enough girls to continually keep each age group going," said Meredith.
"We don't play in leagues for our ages as it would be too widespread to travel such as going to London, but we play local teams like Cardiff, Tewkesbury, Newport, Cleeve, Chipping Sodbury and Melksham."
This hasn't stopped the club from producing talented players however, with nine girls this year representing the county side and two playing for Somerset.
England Internationals Natasha Hunt and Ceri Large are former Drybrook girls players themselves, helping to put the small village on the map.
"Ceri still comes back to watch and coach the girls which is really good and all the girls look up to her," said Meredith.
"The girls are really amazing and it's great to see them smiling, having fun with friends and playing a great team sport".