Rugby’s greatest stars will grace the Rugby World Cup later this year but there are many unsung heroes working behind the scenes to make the game inclusive for all.
And it is that spirit which encapsulates Premiership Rugby’s Community Champion award, supported by Land Rover rewarding a person who delivers significant social change or support in their community.
A panel of judges managed to boil down the nominations from the Premiership Rugby clubs to a shortlist of six people who have all made a positive impact in their community.
The Award is one of this month’s All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards which takes place at the House of Commons on 24 June.
The winner – at the 10th Premiership Rugby Community Awards – could be someone who has taken an active role in a grassroots club linked to a Premiership Rugby club, someone who has been a mentor for a participant in a club social inclusion programme, or a volunteer who has shown exceptional commitment over the course of the year.
Judging the nominations left James Keegan, sport advisor at the British Council, admitting he was humbled to learn about the people and stories that make this year’s shortlist so special.
"I was delighted to be involved in the judging of the Premiership Rugby Community Champion of the Year award," he said.
"Reading the stories of each of the nominated candidates and the impact they have had on their local community through the sport of rugby was truly inspiring.
"All of the nominees are already winners in terms of the effect that their work has had on young people, and my experience on the judging panel has reinforced in my mind the unique appeal of rugby in delivering real social change."
Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby and Bulkington, and a member of the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group said: "I congratulate all the clubs who entered this year’s Parliamentary Community Awards and look forward to meeting the finalists at the House of Commons on 24 June. The work done by the professional clubs and their partners to grow the game should be applauded, especially in a Rugby World Cup year, when the opportunity to leverage the interest in the game will be enormous."
Bath Rugby’s nomination, Nick Tilley, is head coach of Chippenham Under-15s and Nick Elbourne, endorsed by London Irish, works tirelessly for Wimborne.
London Welsh put forward Jeremy Bristoe of Witney Wolves, while Newcastle Falcons have recognised Houghton’s Chris Simpson.
Leicester Tigers volunteer Eric Barker has been nominated by the East Midlands club, while the Aviva Premiership Rugby Champions Saracens have nominated Sheila Coulthard.
"The Community Champion Award is a fantastic acknowledgement of an outstanding individual who has worked tirelessly throughout the rugby season to support rugby within their community. These Community Champions often don't receive the limelight they deserve, so it is great to have an evening where due recognition is given for their efforts in helping to drive rugby at the grassroots level. It is something that we at Land Rover place great emphasis on and value too," Richard Duncan, Sponsorships and Partnerships Manager, Land Rover UK.
The winner will be announced at the All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group Premiership Rugby Community Awards on 24 June at the House of Commons.
Bath Rugby (Nick Tilley – Chippenham RUFC)
London Irish (Nick Elbourne – Wimborne RUFC)
London Welsh (Jeremy Bristoe – Witney Wolves RUFC)
Newcastle Falcons (Chris Simpson – Houghton RUFC)
Leicester Tigers (Eric Barker – Leicester Tigers Volunteer)
Saracens – (Sheila Coulthard- Saracens)