This season marked the eighth consecutive year of the RFU’s innovative CBRE All Schools initiative – and more than 50 Merton-based school students were lucky enough to get a taste of what the programme entailed.
Launched in 2012 as a legacy project ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the programme seeks to introduce rugby and expand participation in state secondary schools with a particular emphasis on girls, this year reaching its landmark target of 750 schools.
Old Rutlishians RFC recently hosted an interactive training morning for more than 50 girls from Rutlish School, Harris Academy Wimbledon and Ricards Lodge High School, showcasing the benefits of a programme that has helped the number of girls playing club rugby rise by 24,000 between 2012 and 2017.
The programme employs rugby in schools as a platform for enhancing club participation, with all those at the morning honing their skills with the help of England Women’s international Abbie Scott.
The event was one of nine December visits of Red Roses players to clubs who have expanded as a result of the All Schools programme, and Ricards Lodge pupil Elsa Redmond was thrilled to meet Scott and gain a greater insight into the impact of the initiative.
“I’m really excited to be here – the morning went really well and I’m so excited to see an England player like Abbie and have the opportunity to talk to her about her career,” the Year Seven student said
“My favourite thing about the sport is that no matter what happens, I’ve always got rugby – throughout the ups and downs in life I’ve always got it there to keep me stable, and I’ve got all my friends from it who have my back.
“One of the main benefits of rugby is community and friendship – my friends from rugby are all really tight so it’s amazing to have that and a team that I’m able to talk to and trust so much.
“Quite a few of my friends at school play rugby, and I’ve talked to them about my club a lot so hopefully they’ll come along in the future so we have a bigger team.”
Each year, new schools on the All Schools programme are invited to a kit design workshop with sports manufacturer Canterbury, where they can invent a new jersey for their school.
The finished products will this season be unveiled at Twickenham during England’s Six Nations match against Wales in March.
And the programme has been an unequivocal success for girls, with more than 60,000 now involved in rugby across the country.
The morning at Old Rutlishians welcomed both students already inspired by the initiative and those who merely played club rugby, and England second row Scott was on hand to offer them advice and help inspire the next generation.
“The All Schools programme is hugely important – I think the work that everyone has done and the amount of girls now participating in rugby is absolutely fantastic,” the 26-year-old said.
“It’s just great that they’ve actually got this opportunity through the RFU – when I was younger it was completely different and I never had the opportunity to come down to training where there were so many girls.
“I think if you walk into any grassroots club in England you can definitely feel that sort of community, and that’s what so special about the game and something that we’ve really got to hold on to.
“We need to grow it further, and it’s through schemes like the All Schools programme that get young people into rugby that add to that.”
CBRE All Schools, supported by Canterbury, is one of the RFU’s key legacy programmes, set up to increase the number of state secondary schools playing rugby union in England. Visit www.englandrugby.com/allschools to find out more.