Saracens opened up the defence of their Aviva Premiership Rugby crown with victory over Sale Sharks on Saturday, but it was also a special day at Allianz Park for Westcliff RFC under-11s and Worthing RFC under-12s.
Westcliff and Worthing were triumphant in the third leg of this season’s Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, hosted by Sarries, to book their place at Twickenham next May.
Launched during the 2008-09 season, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is the first national grassroots tournament officiated by Premiership Rugby and run in conjunction with all 12 clubs.
In total, more than 7,000 children will participate over the course of the campaign as they go in search of a spot in the Parade of Champions during half-time of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham on 28 May.
There were 28 clubs at Mill Hill RFC on Saturday before the final for each age group was played on the Allianz Park turf at half-time of Saracens’ 41-3 victory over Sale Sharks.
After helping his side win the under-11s final against Bury St Edmunds RUFC, Westcliff’s Dylan Sykes is counting down the days until his moment in the spotlight at Twickenham.
“It will be amazing to go out on the pitch at Twickenham and I think it will be an unbelievable experience,” said the ten-year-old. “I can’t wait now.
“We play in a lot of tournaments like this and it's really enjoyable when we come to something as big as this especially playing on the Saracens pitch at half-time.
“I have played for Westcliff for six years and I am a massive rugby fan. I do a lot of training at home, practising passing and ball handling and then I play games every Sunday.”
In the under-12s category, Worthing secured their place at rugby HQ by seeing off Holt, and 12-year-old Reece Daly won’t forget the day in a hurry.
“Coming into the tournament we 100 per cent thought we had a chance, and being able to play at Allianz Park was amazing,” said Daly.
“The tournament was good. We picked up a few injuries but it was an exciting day.
“We drew our first game against Saracens Amateurs and I had to come off because I had a hand injury.
“It hurt at the time but I recovered and was able to play the next game.”
Both Worthing and Westcliff were able to watch Saracens’ triumph over Sale before being presented with their well-deserved trophies by Sarries players including Nathan Earle.
The former England U20 star believes the experience will live long in the memory for all the youngsters.
“They’re getting the atmosphere of an Aviva Premiership game without having to play one, which is great,” explained Earle.
“Playing on a Premiership Rugby pitch in front of a packed house will be really good motivation for them. And seeing Sarries play now as well can really help them.
“You don’t think about the bigger picture at that age – it is all about going out and enjoying yourself.
“Hopefully that love for the game will carry on into adolescence and maybe some of them can even go professional.
“As a junior, my club Cranbrook had an affiliation with Harlequins so I got to play on that pitch a few times and it was always a great experience.”
Land Rover is a proud supporter of grassroots rugby and a partner of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup for nearly a decade. Land Rover’s ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign aims to champion grassroots rugby on the global stage during Rugby World Cup 2015. Follow @Land RoverRugby #WeDealInReal