Provision for Rugby Union

Rugby Union is fast developing into one of the most popular sports in the country. The mass influx of foreign players into the Guinness Premiership shows this. However, we must still concentrate on nurturing young English talent. Here I Intend to explore how one works their way from Sunday league to donning the white shirt. Grassroot Development Grassroots rugby consists of teams often run by parents of players who play locally during weekends. The Canterbury district is full of many local clubs (see appendix 1) operating at all age groups from minis rugby – at under 7s level – right the way through to adult level. Not only that but at a younger ages the game is stripped down to make playing and developing much easier.

Rugby Sevens, and in some cases maybe Fives, and Tag Rugby are becoming increasing popular within schools and local clubs as a means of encouraging youngsters to enter into the world of rugby. These tasters into the 15-a-side game are widely available for anyone. It is at the bottom of the sporting pyramid and provides opportunity for success. A large chunk of grassroots funding comes from match fess with a small amount from sponsorships such as Canterbury RFC and Spitfire Ale.

Schemes by the RFU are being put into place to encourage development such as the Fit for Rugby campaign and the Building for the Future campaign. The “Fit for Rugby” campaign is one attempting to encourage more government investment into the sport for increased participation at clubs and schools – encouraging schools to play at least 6 games per annum, along with coaching and officiating. It is coupled with the “Building for the future” campaign. This campaign is one that is encouraging the government to invest in new facilities for clubs such as new pitches, changing facilities and floodlit pitches. These require extensive funding from the government and lottery – the RFU estimates about 723 million over 10 years from the government and lottery to fully develop these.

Rugby’s national governing body, the RFU, is always looking to bring the best English talent into the national line-up. Recently, the body published a document chartering plans for the future of the sport. The document describes how over one third of the league’s players are foreign. To provide incentive to top flight clubs for bringing in young British talent the RFU and PRA – Players Rugby Association – intend to compensate clubs for it. They also intend on funding 2.5 million a year into academies for the sport.

Provision for/Pathways for Elite Performers How does a player go from the club local rugby to the top flight? In Kent, if you play for a local side you have the opportunity to then play and represent your club at county level. Here is where the Elite Player Development Group and the Schools of Rugby body come into play. The EPDG runs in three levels: 13-16, 15-18 and 16-21 years. In order to join academies run by top flight clubs players must undergo assessments from the SOR or the RFU academies. If you are the lucky enough to make it through these academies you find yourself on the squad list of a top club – such is the case for Wasps stand-off Danny Cipriani.

As this youthful stage players are likely to play for the England Saxons or Under 20s along with their club before stepping up to the national side to take part in competitions like the World Cup. It is incredibly hard work to make the transfer to the elite stages with lots of time and effort required. Pathways from schools are much harder to follow as only top schools get any attention and most players at these schools represent their region anyway.

Whilst the RFU run both a Men’s and Woman’s national side and many of the top flight clubs run women’s sides as well as local teams (see Appendix 2), who offer rugby to girls of all age groups. The path to the top follows a similar route to that of men’s rugby. However whilst the opportunity is there for women to make it to the top the lack of esteem and role-models are discouraging signs for those attempting to play the sport. Whilst rugby is made available for women publicity is shying them away from the sport. The women’s national side gets limited recognition compared to that of the men’s team. It needs to be resolved to enable women to play. A positive for rugby is that the women’s national side plays in similar competitions to the men’s team such as the RBS 6 Nations suggesting that no preferential treatment is given.

Provision for disabled participants Provision for those with disabilities is not as good. The only way to play the sport if you are disabled is if you are quadriplegic in a sport known as quad rugby. The sport is a mixed sport and it follows Provision for Rugby Union. In the UK there is a quad rugby national side and some clubs play the sport (see appendix 3). This only offers rugby to those in wheelchairs but there are other disabilities that mean you are permanently excluded from rugby. This is one of the issues that need to be addressed to make the sport available for everyone. Quad rugby is funded by a private charity and is a sport that is featured across the globe but the current state of affairs permanently excludes certain players who may have the ability to represent their country.

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