Sale Sharks captain Will Addison is confident a new initiative launched by England Rugby and Premiership Rugby can unearth stars of the future.
Addison and teammate Denny Solomona were on hand at the AJ Bell Stadium last week to put almost 100 children from Manchester through their paces as part of Project Rugby, which aims to increase participation in under-represented communities.
The opportunity to introduce rugby to those who have never played the sport is something Addison cherishes, and the Aviva Premiership star believes Project Rugby will boost participation.
The 25-year-old said: “I think one of the core values of rugby is teamwork and that has definitely been shown – I think the kids have really enjoyed it.
“I think rugby instils something in them that makes them want to come back and hopefully join a club in the future.
“There are urban areas that haven’t had rugby before, so to be able to reach out to those areas is fantastic.
“The benefits of rugby are not only health but socially as well. Seeing how much the kids are enjoying it really helps us as players because we enjoy it too.
“But first and foremost it’s about making sure the kids enjoy it and if they fancy taking up rugby after it, then they will.
“There were some speedsters out there and some untapped talent so hopefully we could have some stars of the future.”
Project Rugby will specifically engage black, Asian & minority ethnic people, people from low socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people aged 14-24 with rugby union.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) October 20, 2017
The project aims to reach over 12,000 participants by Summer 2018 by providing accessible opportunities to play rugby in over 200 community locations across England, transitioning new players and volunteers into local grassroots rugby clubs.
Head of rugby growth at England Rugby, Ben Lowe, hailed rugby as a unique sport for providing a plethora of core values.
He said: “The core values of the sport, teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship, can really resonate with young people and add value to their lives.
“We heard from some participants in the programme about how it developed their leadership skills and it’s something they can take back into school and grow as a person as well as get physical active. Rugby is relatively unique in that regard.
“It’s fantastic to see the guys and girls running around in mixed groups with touch and tag rugby I think that’s what the game is all about really.
“We’ve already had a strong start in terms of engaging participants we’ve had some learnings along the way and I think it’s great our local RFU delivery teams and the Premiership clubs are working closely to make it even better over the coming year.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, added: “What we’re really excited about in Project Rugby is broadening the breadth and depth of the game – it’s about taking the game to new communities and allowing people who didn’t feel that rugby was a sport for them to be involved in our sport.”
If you missed our Project Rugby launch, catch up with everything here: projectrugby.co.uk/