Exeter Chiefs’ youngsters were crowned the winners of Premiership Rugby’s Urban Rugby Squad National Festival last season and they’re already maximising their vast potential as the programme launches year two.
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.
Exeter’s scheme involves free rugby at a handful of community sites, and Dudley conducts a two-hour weekly session with each of them as he tries to impact their lives.
"We are quite fortunate that most people in Exeter have picked up a rugby ball at some stage but the Urban Rugby Squad programme is going into new areas, using rugby’s core values to look at things like respect and discipline," he said.
"We are hoping to get the young people to stick with the rugby participation through the summer holidays, which will be the big test.
"So far it has been going really, really well and I think the young people have enjoyed it so I am optimistic most we’ll see increased participation throughout the summer too.
"It gives these teenagers a different type of education and environment, shows them a new level of discipline and a new skills set. It’s a great scheme and so far they’ve learnt a lot."
Year two of Urban Rugby Squad is 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).
Simon Green, head of BT Sport, said: "The year two launch marks a deepening of the excellent relationship between BT and Premiership Rugby. Together, we have not only grown the game of rugby but through Urban Rugby Squad, we are tapping into the special power of sport to help youngsters use rugby to better their lives."
The clubs will come together in August for a club festival where an Urban Rugby Squad will be selected to represent each Premiership Rugby side, culminating in a National Festival in Coventry, to be held in the autumn.
And Dudley has been impressed with the skills he has seen so far, and has hinted he may unearth a few future stars.
"If we can help someone have a better life than that’s great. Job done. But it’s about giving them something different and that is what this programme does," he said.
"Could we find the next Henry Slade or Jack Nowell? You never know, we could. These guys are good."
For more information about Urban Rugby Squad run in partnership with BT Sport’s The Supporters Club and Restart Rugby including how to get involved, please visit premiershiprugby.com/UrbanRugbySquad.