Wasps may be battling for honours at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table but their youngsters are also flying high on the Urban Rugby Squad Programme, and coach Rhye Parry couldn’t be prouder to be introducing the sport to Coventry’s teenagers.
The Urban Rugby Squad is a ground-breaking initiative run by Premiership Rugby and its clubs, helping 1,000 young people aged 14-16 from disadvantaged communities across England.
Wasps’ scheme – run by Engage Coventry – involves four local areas, with Parry introducing the game to young people from all walks of life. And he is confident their graduation from the programme doesn’t mean the end of their involvement in rugby.
“We work with about 70-80 young people every year, and it’s been fantastic. It’s really good to open up the opportunity of rugby to kids who don’t normally get to play the sport on a regular basis, they’ve never really experienced it before,” said Parry, a sports and education coordinator at Engage Coventry.
“Particularly with them playing touch rugby, it’s a good introduction into the sport, and we’ve found a broad demographic of young people getting involved.
“We’ve had people who have a little bit of rugby experience to those who have none, as well as a lot of females and those from different backgrounds and religions.
“That has enabled us to create a really good social network amongst that group, so not only have they been able to learn about the game, they’ve also been able to make new friends and make links with new organisations.
“Hopefully, we’ve given them a real taste of rugby and they carry on, we’ve tried to provide them with as many exit routes from the programme as possible.”
In its first year, the scheme helped 778 young people and delivered 136 personal development workshops on topics such as anger management and sexual health.
Later this month, Urban Rugby Squads representing each of the Premiership Rugby’s 12 clubs will battle it out in a National Festival at Worcester Warriors’ Sixways Stadium.
And for Parry, it marks the culmination of weeks of hard work and dedication for his team.
“The players are really excited for the National Urban Rugby Squad Festival,” he said.
“We’ve been able to select 14 players and really work with them ahead of the festival, and they’re really looking forward to it.
“It’s going to be great for them to meet and mix with young people from all the other Premiership Rugby clubs from up and down the country, and pitting their wits against them in that touch rugby environment.
“It’s great to shine a spotlight on these young people, because they will be in their Wasps kit and they’re really excited to represent the club and the ambassador role that comes with wearing the shirt.”