The Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup was back in force on Sunday at Gloucester Rugby, where out of hundreds of players Lydney under-12s and Clifton under-11s booked their place at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final in May.
In total, more than 7,000 children will participate over the course of the season as they go in search of a spot in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Parade of Champions during half-time of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final.
There were plenty of potential stars on show at Dean Close School, as 32 different teams took to the field in under-11s and under-12s tournaments.
Lydney’s under-12s claimed their second Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup triumph having topped the under-11s pile last year, edging out Old Patesians in a thrilling final to seal their place at Twickenham.
Niall Freeman darted over for the game’s only try before an incredible defensive effort from Lydney kept Old Pats at bay, and skipper Henry Blunt could not have been prouder.
“We’re very pleased to win the final, and it’s so exciting to go to Twickenham for a second time in two years,” said the 12-year-old.
“They kept on coming at us but it feels great to defend our title again – it’s amazing!
“It’s great to just be back playing in this festival again. We definitely feel like we’ve been playing against teams that have developed us more.
“Gloucester is our favourite team and it’s a big inspiration for me that they are here supporting us. I want to play for them in the future, and this festival really encourages me.”
Meanwhile, there was a double success for Clifton, who not only lifted the under-11s trophy with victory over Ross-on-Wye in their final, but also saw starlet Sami Hamid awarded the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Spirit of Rugby award for his performances on the day.
The award goes to a player who best demonstrated the values of rugby, and Hamid was hand-picked by the referees for showing exemplary fair play throughout.
Hamid picked up some tackle-bags and other equipment for his side, as well as a set of Gloucester Rugby match tickets, and the 11-year-old could barely contain his delight.
“It makes me really happy to win this award for showing the right spirit when playing the game,” he said.
“I always try and show the right spirit while I’m playing the game, and it’s feels really good to be singled out from everyone that was here at the tournament.
“The equipment will definitely help us improve as a team too, as the forwards will use them to improve in the rucks and hopefully we can win the ball more often.
“It’s very exciting to be here at a tournament run by Gloucester rugby, as Bill Meakes is playing for them now having been at Clifton before. They are one of the best teams in England and it’s cool they take an interest in us.”
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 Premiership Rugby clubs.
Casting an eye over proceedings were Gloucester legends Terry Fanolua and Adam Eustace, and Gloucester’s Community Rugby Development Manager Fanolua believes he saw more than a few players with huge potential.
“This is a big event, but everyone has done a great job and credit to the kids as well,” said Fanolua.
“They have played some outstanding rugby, and I was standing on the side of the pitch there with my mouth open as I could not believe the talent on show.
“I love coming down to watch and I always want to give as much as I can back to the people of Gloucester who welcomed me with open arms while I was playing at Kingsholm.
“Trying to inspire the kids to play the best rugby they can is brilliant, and it’s so important to get them playing in festivals like this – they can be with their friends, running out onto the pitch together, and working for one another which is what rugby is all about.
“It’s great to teach them and at this stage I would say to them that they should just focus on enjoying the game. Rugby should be played to have fun.”
Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for over 7,000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup each season. Keep up-to-date with the latest Land Rover rugby activity by following @premrugby and @LandRoverRugby