Following the success of Premiership Rugby’s Urban Rugby Squad, the initiative returns this year with the Rugby Players’ Association Group, CEO, Damian Hopley determined to make an even bigger impact.
Urban Rugby Squad was designed to give youngsters from non-traditional rugby communities a chance to experience the sport, in addition to running personal development workshops that use the sport as an inspiration.
Twelve months ago the programme helped almost 1,000 14-16 year-olds from disadvantaged communities across England and delivered 136 personal development workshops on topics such as anger management and sexual health.
The scheme is run in partnership with Restart Rugby, the official charity of the Rugby Players' Association, who for 15 years has helped injured players through hardship, injury and illness.
Following a glorious start to the 2016 season with England having won the Six Nations and a three-Test series in Australia, Hopley is hoping to make the most of the chance to attract a wave of new entrants.
"It’s been a fantastic six months for English rugby so there’s no better time to capitalise on that positive momentum and bring the game we love to even more young people who haven’t traditionally had the opportunity to play rugby," he said.
"We’re excited to build on the success of last year’s inaugural Urban Rugby Squad which saw almost 800 teenagers from disadvantaged communities across England take up the game.
"Beyond the obvious health benefits, rugby has the power to teach life skills through its core values of sportsmanship, respect, enjoyment, teamwork and discipline, and this is at the absolute heart of the programme.
"Rugby is the ultimate inclusive sport, with people of all shapes and sizes able to play.
"We want to make sure people of all backgrounds are able to play too."
All 12 Premiership Rugby clubs will be running Urban Rugby Squad this summer.
And Hopley believes the backing of clubs and some of their star faces is vitally important to ensure the success of the scheme.
"Our members recognise the positive influence rugby has had on their lives and fully support using funds raised through Restart to give back to local communities and inspire the next generation of players, regardless of their background," Hopley added.
"With the media spotlight trained on them 24/7, it’s more important than ever that professional athletes act as role models."
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 or join the conversation #RugbyChangingLives