When The Snake Bites, How Do You Bite Back?: A Look Ahead at CRFC Women vs Raleigh Venom

This weekend will see your CRFC Women on the road, up to North Carolina's capital city of Raleigh to challenge their in-state D1 rivals, the Raleigh Venom. Raleigh, a well established team in the Division 1 competition are sure to test the limits of Charlotte's skill, and resolve, as they have done in previous bouts. So how do you prepare for such a match up? Here is a little insight to the CRFC camp:

At training, the ladies of Green and Orange can be seen pushing their limits. Sprint repetitions well into the night, pass development, kick accuracy drills, and bonus line out work come standard for the Division 2 National Champions. When asked what specifically the focus was in this week's build-up, the women had few, but crucial points to make regarding their preparations.

From the forwards, a lot of individual focus was set on being explosive on-pitch. Endearingly considered the workhorses, or steam engine of a team, the forward pack is the constant on field, and their work rate is the heartbeat of the game itself. To be explosive then manifests itself in a number of ways:

For one, in offense, explosive play keeps momentum moving forward. Players with this characteristic may not always break the gain line, but they seldom ever find themselves on the back-foot when in possession. Such intensity exhausts defenses over time, and unsettles even the most disciplined of defensive lines. Not to be overlooked, an explosive defense is a vicious defense. This means that every carry is met by an immediate, and aggressive tackle, and every attack is confronted by defensive launch.

The forwards also emphasized the importance of the set piece to the overall flow and success of their playing system. Set pieces, for those unfamiliar, are how teams maintain, and even regain possession. As a few of Charlotte's forwards have mentioned, one of the crucial components of set-piece the set piece, be it scrum, line-out, or other restart of play, is synchronization. Knowing this, the women repeatedly practice the technical aspects of this element of rugby specifically to fine tune timing.

Outside of the trenches, the tides of battle still rage, and in this arena the backs answer their call. Every set piece must be followed with appropriate and immediate action, and such decisions must be made swiftly and wisely. When asked, the back-line units were unanimous in the importance of connection. For all backs, this meant that support must be ever-present. Good support maintains possession, and exponentially amplifies the threat posed by ball carriers and primary tacklers alike. Charlotte's centres, ravenous as they are, exemplify that very spirit of support. The positions not only beg that mentality from the 12 and 13, but require it of them.

Both the outside backs (colloquially called the Finishers of the sport), and the half-backs (architects, specializing in game flow) further the idea of support by reminding us that communication is fundamental to their contribution to the game. Having lazy outside backs places the burden of victory on the shoulders of the forward pack of any team. Knowing this, CRFC's infamous back three concentrate their efforts on balancing patience with critical insertions into the fray. For these women, pressure is not just the hook to Queen's hit single, but more so the impression they wish to place on the opposition. In order to accomplish this, they mustn't just speak to each other on the pitch, but rather communicate. For the mathematically inclined, speaking is to communication what a line segment is to a vector; seemingly similar, the latter has the added benefit of direction. In rugby this equates to one important thing: effectiveness. The women of Charlotte Rugby work not just to be stronger, faster, but purposefully to become more and more effective on field. Speed is paramount Charlotte's effectiveness. More seasoned players on the team cite that they make the concentrated effort to be quick in their observations, their reactions, and their attack (both on defense, and offense).

Off the pitch, the ladies value the relationships they have forged with each other. Rugby prides itself on the ideals of family, and camaraderie. Yet, there is a noticeable impact that this togetherness has on the performance of the team as a whole. The bonds that tie generate trust and cohesion; the nuances that players rely on to understand not only who they are playing with, but also how those people play. Of importance as well is the relationship the players have with their fans and supporters. Brieanna Carlson, veteran forward, was quick to point out that support does have an effect on the on-field performance, especially in the Women's game. “It’s always nice to have more people physically cheering you on in your corner”, says Carlson. Hannah “Pita” Kirlin, utility player for CRFC, concludes with the following expression of gratitude: "We love looking up into the stands or the deck and seeing your faces! Thank you for coming!"

Ultimately, the women express that when you navigate your way through the minutia, you reveal that the point of all of this is to have a good time. Rugby is a lot more fun when you are fit. Rugby is a lot more fun with your sisters. Rugby is a lot more fun when you accomplish your objectives, and yes Rugby is more fun when you win, to which end we say to the ladies of CRFC..

..have an absolute blast on Saturday!