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Bath Foundation and Leicester Tigers play the first-ever Mixed Ability game at Twickenham Stadium through Project Rugby

Bath Foundation and Leicester Tigers play the first-ever Mixed Ability game at Twickenham Stadium through Project Rugby

Leicester Tigers may have stolen the headlines with their win against Bath Rugby on Saturday but it was not the only big battle taking place at The Clash.

At half-time of their Twickenham encounter, the Bath Foundation and Leicester Tigers ‘Mixed Ability’ teams faced off as part of the Project Rugby programme – in the first-ever mixed ability game at Twickenham.

A joint venture between Premiership Rugby and England Rugby, Project Rugby aims to engage Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic people, those from low socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people, with rugby union.

And some of those who have fallen in love with the game got the chance of a lifetime when they took to the Twickenham turf on Saturday.

“I was very nervous out there but it was very exciting. I got an email telling me I was playing and I could not believe it, it was magic,” said Bath’s Shannon Hopkins.

“Back last summer, Bath said they were running a few sessions so I went down with my friend.

“I got really into it, have played ever since and have really improved. I was not so much a rugby fan beforehand, but I am now.

“I really enjoy it and being with my friends. Everyone has been so nice and it is a very fun place to be.

“You do meet new people and they come along all the time, so now I have grown a lot of confidence.”

The Project Rugby programme at Bath has been a major success story. The club has worked with over 600 people through the programme locally, with notable success in setting up the first ‘mixed ability’ side in the South West, the ‘Walcot Warriors’ attached to Walcot RFC.

It is part of the good work already done in over 200 community locations across England with 10,000 participants, which has seen Project Rugby shortlisted for the Sport England Community Sports Project of the Year at the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards, and Best Governing Body Initiative at the Sports Business Awards 2018.

“For those who know what Twickenham means, it is massive,” said Bath Rugby Foundation Inclusion officer Dan Hine.

“I saw straight away that as soon as the Bath Rugby kit was pulled on, there was a glint in everyone’s eye. There was some great banter with it being Bath v Leicester too.”

In true Bath versus Leicester spirit, the players were greeted to a loud cheer when they ran onto the pitch with each set of fans vocally backing their team.

And everyone played their part in a thrilling contest that was the perfect warm-up for the second half.

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