Harlequins hooker Dave Ward is an intimidating opponent on the field but off the field he is intent on inspiring the next generation through rugby.
Ward was on hand for the tenth All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community awards in Westminster last Wednesday as coaches, role models and volunteers all came together to recognise the unsung heroes of the game.
He presented the Play Award, in association with the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group, to Bristol Rugby’s Eagle Project which helps to boost development in girls’ rugby by delivering a programme aimed specifically at Year 8, 9 and 10 girls.
That is just one example of the incredible work done by people and clubs across the country, supported by Premiership Rugby – with more than 500 volunteers and 150 community development staff working.
Ward is heavily involved with a number of Quins’ programmes and admits he is always happy to give something back.
“I remember back to my schooldays and having anyone come into our school was so rare but it was a privilege,” he said.
“I was so excited, so happy and I remember writing down exactly what I was going to do.
“To give that same feeling of excitement and looking forward to something to young people, as I had, is brilliant.
“To see smiles on faces and all the things that rugby brings to schools and communities is a great foundation to set you up in life.
“The work I’ve done in schools is particularly memorable for me, inspiring them and helping them with life skills.
“Also, the HITZ programme at Quins – I’ve met those guys a few times and you feel like you’re making a difference.
“To see the turnaround in the lives for some of these youngsters is fantastic.
“Now that the World Cup is coming, we’ve got to hit home and strike while the iron is hot to continue the great work.”
There are currently more than 90 national and local programmes operated by Premiership Rugby that reach over 310,000 participants.
Ward acknowledges that he was blown away to hear about some of the projects at the Premiership Rugby Community Awards.
“It’s unbelievable the impact that rugby is having on so many people,” he added. “To see some of the young guys from the HITZ programme and some of the other programmes that Premiership Rugby are putting together is an unbelievable achievement.
“To be here and have a chance to meet the guys or to try and inspire a few more to get into it is a brilliant opportunity.
“I believe rugby is a sport for the future in the way it’s set up and what you can achieve from it.
“The fact that rugby is such a good way of engaging youngsters comes down to its fundamentals – you get changed together, you play hard but then you have a drink afterwards.
“Win, lose or draw you have a tunnel at the end and I think that’s what everyone embraces at all levels.”