Premiership Rugby’s Project Rugby programme has been one of the game’s great success stories in recent years engaging thousands of participants per year, delivered across the country by the Premiership Rugby clubs at more than 200 locations across England.
In this new series we will shine the spotlight on a number of stars of the programme, young people who’ve had their lives change for the better by Project Rugby. One such young person is Cheick Kone who was born in war-ton Cote d’Ivoire and had no knowledge of rugby before moving to England with his father when he was just nine years old.
Project Rugby is a joint initiative between Premiership Rugby and England Rugby with Gallagher adding its backing in March 2019 as part of its commitment to support not only the professional game but also champion rugby at the grassroots level as a truly inclusive sport.
Cheick began playing rugby in December 2018 through Worcester Warriors’ Project Rugby sessions – an after just five of those, he was picked up by the Academy. Despite initially wanting to play football, he says: “When I started playing rugby, I didn’t realise how many more friends it was going to get me.”
Project Rugby is one of Premiership Rugby’s Community programmes that together form the Plan to Improve a Million Lives. This ambitious community strategy is Premiership Rugby’s commitment to make a positive impact, through rugby, on the lives of one million people by the end of the 2020-21 season. Cheick is already one of those people.
Academy outreach coach Matt Jones took a pop-up rugby session into St Matthias School in Wolverhampton, where Cheick was first introduced to the sport. Matt says: “The next day I called the Academy and asked if they wanted me to bring him down. He’s been in the Academy ever since.
“We came across a few guys like Cheick that were all found because of Project Rugby. Moreover, they are all guys who, without Project Rugby, would not be doing this.”
Worcester Warriors now pay for Cheick’s travel to and from training through their Community foundation, as well as a host family with whom Cheick stays during the week before returning to Wolverhampton at the weekend. He is an incredible example of where Project Rugby can lead and his love for the sport is inspirational.
More than 45,000 young people
Since launch, more than 45,000 young people have been introduced to rugby through the initiative who wouldn’t otherwise have had access to the sport. And in the 2019/20 season alone, despite Project Rugby sessions and festivals up and down the country having to be paused due to coronavirus and social distancing just as their busiest time was approaching, more than 15,000 have so far managed to get a taster of all the game can offer them.
Cheick’s impressively quick transition to becoming a regular rugby player, not least at a competitive and high-performing level, last July saw Cheick named ‘PLAY Achiever of the Year’ – an award sponsored by Gallagher at Premiership Rugby’s Parliamentary Community Awards (pictured above).
To find out more, visit the Project Rugby website