Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans has applauded Premiership Rugby’s innovative Rugby4All programme for broadening horizons after girls from non-traditional rugby schools enjoyed a day of high-class coaching at Twickenham Stoop.
The programme is backed by Department of Culture, Media and Sport, in partnership with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and aims to increase participation among women and girls, to provide better access for disabled people and to promote the game among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups.
Lord Holmes, Disability Commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Programmes like Rugby4All are a fantastic way of bringing people together regardless of their ability, gender or social background to grow the game across diverse communities and get more people involved as participants and coaches.
“Everyone should have the same opportunity to get involved in the game and it is so important to give young girls opportunities like these, not only to enable them to gain great health benefits but personally develop core skills like respect and teamwork and build relationships.”
The programme also gets Evans’ full backing after seeing it work close up – which aims to train 240 BAME coaches, introduce 1,800 primary school children to rugby and provide taster sessions for 600 11-15 year olds – with the hope that 240 of them will progress into a player development programme.
He said: “It was a prime example of how Rugby4All can be so beneficial. More than 70 girls were at the Stoop, you could tell they were having a great time.
“For me, it’s encouraging to see more girls getting involved in this fantastic sport and also developing their confidence too!
“Programmes like this are refreshing. They enable rugby to be more widely available and bring people together, regardless of gender, ability or social background.
“If we can broaden the appeal of rugby union and inspire others to love the game like we do, then programmes like Rugby4All will continue to be a huge success.”
Harlequins also welcomed England Women international and Saracens star Lottie Clapp to join in with the coaching.
And Harlequins head community coach Brian Holland said the programme, which aims to introduce 7,200 secondary school girls to rugby and train 480 teachers and volunteers, says the social impact should not be underestimated.
He said: “Many of the girls that were playing here have never played the game before and it is about breaking down that barrier, making it accessible to all, opening up the game and really just having fun.
“The programme focuses on non-traditional rugby schools and increasing their interaction with rugby in Years 7 to 9.
“We use the core values of the game to promote the same standards within their own time. We want them to enjoy the game, build discipline, confidence and obviously sportsmanship is huge within rugby.
“Most parents’ first impressions of the game are that it is too rough, but then they can see how much their kids are enjoying it, so our main priority is just that it is a fun day.”
For more information about the Rugby4All programme including how to get involved, please visit premiershiprugby.com/rugby4all