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Premiership Rugby

RFU to invest in England’s future

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

The Impact survey, carried out by pollsters MORI and commissioned by the RFU and Premiership sponsors Zurich, is the most comprehensive study ever into participation trends in rugby union in England.

Some of the findings make alarming reading for English rugby and will now act as catalyst for the RFU's strategy to increase the appeal of rugby across all age-groups.

The report found that away from the success of the England team and the Zurich Premiership many areas of grass-roots English rugby are in decline.

The report found that only 4% of all those 15+ in age had experience rugby and showed that participation in secondary schools has declined by 17% since 1994 and ranks 15th among school sports and physical activities, even behind dance.

In response to these findings the RFU have launch an initiative that will see rugby be introduced into 200 new secondary schools, the establishment of 2,600 links between clubs and schools, coaching and refereeing courses for 700 teachers and the training of 4,000 people to be foundation level referees.

Sports minister Richard Caborn was at Twickenham on Monday to support the launch of the Impact game plan and threw his weight behind the ambition scheme.

"Research like this is invaluable for planning a long-term strategy for any sport and I applaud the Rugby Football Union and Zurich for their forward-thinking," said the MP.

"We are already working closely with the RFU on a number of projects through Sport England and we very much look forward to future partnerships."

Also present at the project's unveiling was England coach Clive Woodward who said: "It's good to see sponsors like Zurich getting involved in every area of the game.

There is a vast amount of work done by a lot of brilliant people – volunteers, parents, coaches, teachers – at grassroots level and without that the game just would not develop at all. It’s an area we have to keep focusing on and make sure we do everything possible to help those people flourish in the jobs they are doing."

England veteran Jason Leonard was also in attendance and commended the importance steps the RFU were taking to ensure that English rugby enjoys a prosperous future.

"The avenues now for people who want to get involved in rugby are better than ever," said the prop.

"The most important thing for us as England players is 'where is the next Jonny Wilkinson or Martin Johnson coming from?' It is very important to fuel the interest of these youngsters to play rugby. Zurich are helping to open the doors for everybody to get involved in rugby."

The RFU action plan focuses on four areas: club development and club/school links, competitions, coaching and officiating, and community involvement and partnerships.

Terry Burwell, RFU Community Rugby and Operations Director, said: "The problem we have always had in planning strategy for the development of the sport is the lack of robust data in participation trends.

"This piece of research will enable us to plan how we can best meet the strategic objectives of the game in partnership with both Government and Local Authority agendas.

"Linked to this is the challenge of meeting our own social agenda that ensures everyone has the opportunity to participate in the game for both fun and competition."

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