Terry Fanolua may have played over 200 times for Gloucester Rugby, but the former Samoan international admitted the joy on his young stars’ faces at the Urban Rugby Squad National Festival at Sixways Stadium makes his new job just as rewarding.
Former centre Fanolua won 29 caps for Samoa in a glittering playing career, and the Cherry and Whites legend is now a community coach at Kingsholm, heading up their Urban Rugby Squad at Worcester Warriors’ home ground.
Representatives from every Premiership club, as well as 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.
Fanolua’s Gloucester side enjoyed three group games and even though they did not make it to the knockout stages, he insisted every member of his side had enjoyed their once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“The Urban Rugby Squad is their first chance to play rugby, so just to see the look on their faces when we arrive and when we leave makes our job rewarding,” he said.
“When we walked through the gates it put a smile on my face to see them realise where they got to play today.
“From the first week of the programme through to where we are now, everyone has opened up, their confidence is pretty high.
“The young people who were very shy and didn’t say much are now all laughing and joking together, which is great to see.
“This intiative is very important, we need different backgrounds, different religions to come together and it is a great opportunity for these young people to start mending those relationships.
“That is what sport is all about – bringing people together.”
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.
— Samantha (@samatti0410) 26 October 2016
And 16-year-old Hartpury College student Maisy Williams was full of praise for the help she had received from Gloucester Rugby and over the moon with her Worcester Warriors experience.
“Gloucester Rugby have been amazing with this course, I have loved it and have got to know so many people,” the Mitcheldean teen said.
“It has been a brilliant opportunity to get to work with new people and the chance to play at Sixways in Gloucester kit is amazing.
“Gloucester Rugby have done so much for us, they have been brilliant. They have been committed to coming and training with us out of work hours.”
— Gloucester Community (@GR_CommunityDpt) 26 October 2016
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