BASINGSTOKE RFC hosted its first international as England under-20 women took on their French counterparts at their Down Grange home, writes RUSSELL AMOS.

Even the snow was unable to start the contest last Saturday, which came about the the club’s previous close contacts with the England Women’s rugby team during last season’s preparations for the Six Nations and the World Cup.

The game was due to kick off at 7.30pm and a huge amount of hard work had already gone into making the event a really special one, as this was our first international game.

Volunteers and staff were prepped and ready for an extremely busy day.

On the morning of the game, due to the amber weather warnings and predicted snowfall, kick-off was bought forward to 5.30pm.

A frenzy of rearrangements was initiated to facilitate the earlier start.

Working closely with the wonderful ladies from the RFU Events team, all was ready when the teams arrived and supporters from far and wide poured into the ground, an estimated crowd of around 500.

With the choir in place, ball girls at the ready and a guard of honour cheering the two teams onto the pitch, the anthems were duly shared with whole of the local community in a proud and unique moment for the club.

The game kicked off on time, conditions for play were very challenging with a biting north-east wind and by the second half the ladies were playing in horizontal snow.

In a very even close contest throughout, it was France who eventually came out on top winning the game 17-10.

Back in the warm clubhouse after the game, while supporters thawed themselves out.

Andy Paton, England Rugby Player Development Manager, congratulated the girls for playing in such difficult conditions and thanked the club for managing to accommodate the last minute changes.

Players and team staff from both England and France said they had really appreciated the very warm and welcome experience at Basingstoke RFC, despite “la Grande Neige.”

The club would like to thank all those who came and braved the freezing pitch conditions to come and support the England under-20 Women.

Special thanks should go to the very professional Basingstoke RFC ball girls and also to the hard core volunteers and staff, who stayed with us throughout the bitter conditions to make everything run perfectly.

The whole day ended up an amazing success because of these people.