300 schools have signed up to England Rugby’s All Schools since 2013
Ian Ritchie, the RFU chief executive, believes that the RFU’s 145th year will be its biggest and most important yet because hosting the World Cup, the third-biggest sporting event on the planet, offers the union an unparalleled opportunity to grow the game, increase participation and shatter an image of stuffiness and elitism.
Speaking to The Times newspaper in January Ritchie said “I do think, without hyperbole, that this is the most important year that English rugby has had since the RFU was founded on January 26, 1871. There are three major strands to it. One is the hosting of the World Cup and making sure we have a fantastic event and that we host the world in absolutely the right way. I am sure the event will be a fantastic success. Winning it would come in rather handy and is an important objective for us but the third objective and, in many ways it is an overarching one, is the growth and development of rugby in this country. The World Cup provides the ultimate shop window in order to grow the game.”
The RFU has committed £25 million to a detailed national legacy project, which includes the provision of better club facilities, the development of more coaches and the introduction of rugby to 750 more secondary state schools, with the aim of creating a positive legacy for one million children through rugby and its core values. Ritchie continued:
“You can only respond to what we think will be fantastic interest in the World Cup if you plan for it and invest for it. This was an opportunity we could not miss. We want to look back and be able to say: ‘Have we grown the game?’ That means more people playing, coaching and volunteering in rugby.”
All Schools, which is backed by Principle Partner CBRE, the commercial property adviser, has already seen rugby introduced into 300 new state secondary schools in England, with another 100 to come on board in 2015. Sixty per cent of those schools currently in the programme run mixed programmes for boys and girls.
“To take rugby into schools where they have never played rugby is crucial. If you took the England team in the RBS 6 Nations last year, 13 out of the 15 who were usually picked went to state secondary schools. This idea that to play rugby you have to go to a public school is palpably not the case at the elite level. If you talk to Jason Robinson or Owen Farrell, they all remember their roots. We have had some of the women’s internationals involved and when those players who have won the World Cup go along to schools and talk to girls, they are the best ambassadors you can have. The All Schools programme is part of galvanising and engaging children in state secondary schools with a game they have never been involved in before. They get the values of the sport and then translate those into school situations.”
The spike in interest in 2003 came after England’s World Cup triumph and while victory this year would help the RFU’s legacy plan, Ritchie told the Times that it is not dependent on Chris Robshaw lifting the trophy at Twickenham in October.
“There is no question that England winning, apart from the fact we all want it to happen, would give this an even greater boost but the competition and the tournament will drive it,” Ritchie said. “This goes on because growing rugby is our purpose in life, it is our raison d’être.”
Spreading the word
- All Schools will cost £10 million to implement. The RFU has made an initial commitment of £2 million
- 300 schools have signed up, rising to 400 by the end of this year and 750 by 2019
- 130,000 students will participated in rugby during the 2014-2015 season, 33% of those were female
- More than 26,400 hours of specialist coaching has been delivered over the past two years
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Contact Hayley Banyard, Sponsorship Manager