Despite not lifting the trophy, Bath Rugby Foundation youngster Aaron Sumner insists he loved every minute of his Urban Rugby Squad National Festival experience at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium.
Sumner himself had a particularly unique day. He was the only person to both play and referee the National festival, while he has also refereed a Move Like A Pro touch game involving former Bath stars David Flatman and Duncan Bell.
— BathRugby Foundation (@BR_Foundation) 26 October 2016
The Urban Rugby Squad is a ground-breaking initiative run by Premiership Rugby and its clubs, helping 1,000 young people aged 14-16 from disadvantaged communities across England.
In its first year, the scheme helped 778 young people and delivered 136 personal development workshops on topics such as anger management and sexual health.
Northampton Saints were the victors in Worcester, but representatives from every Premiership club and Championship side London Irish – including boys and girls from diverse backgrounds, many of who had never played rugby before – turned out in a fine day’s action at Sixways.
And Sumner insisted that the chance to referee and play at such a high-quality venue is one that he will never forget.
“I’ve been able to play with my friends and meet new people, though I’m upset we didn’t make the semi-final. Playing at Sixways makes you feel like a professional rugby player,” the teenager said.
“I am a level-two qualified referee and I asked to get involved so I could try and get some experience in touch rugby as well as contact.
“I got into refereeing by watching the guys at The Rec, it looked quite interesting so I got involved with Somerset Society.
“My dad did Move Like A Pro with Bath and I refereed David Flatman and Duncan Bell during a touch game at the half-way stage of that.”
Though there could only be one winner, Joe Aygul – Outreach Officer for the Bath Rugby Foundation – was proud of every member of his squad, while he applauded the initiative for attracting a new, diverse player base to the game.
“The team we have brought today is a combination of people from across the county, so we have guys who have met for the first time today playing rugby together,” the 25-year-old said.
“We are here to celebrate the success of the project for Bath, play some good touch rugby and have some fun.
“It is really important to involve everybody, rugby is a game for everybody no matter what shape, size, gender, religion or race and today has been testament to that.
“It has been great to see how well they have all bonded.”
For more information about Premiership Rugby’s Urban Rugby Squad, run in partnership with BT Sport’s The Supporters Club, the broadcaster’s initiative that aims to build a better world through sport, and Restart Rugby, the Official Charity of The Rugby Players’ Association (RPA), please visit http://www.premiershiprugby.com/urban-rugby-squad/ and the join the conversation #RugbyChangingLives