Rugby kids reach for the stars as England Sevens put them through galactic paces

You wouldn’t think that rugby players and astronauts have much in common, but a group of school children discovered that isn’t the case as they joined three England Sevens players to reach for the stars in Teddington.

This weekend’s Marriott London Sevens World Series leg has a galactic theme, but the links between rugby and outer space doesn’t stop there as a handful of St George’s School pupils found out.

They joined England Sevens stars Sam Stanley, Sam Blanchet and Jack Walsh at the Lensbury Club in Teddington as Heathrow Express and the UK Space Agency joined forces to put them through their paces with an education programme called ‘Mission X- Train like an astronaut’.

Supported by the UK Space Agency, as part of the international Mission X challenge, Mission X UK uses astronaut training to teach how diet and exercise play an important role in human performance in space and on the Earth.

That’s where the England Sevens players came in with the similarities between space and rugby training – mainly vast-dexterity under pressure, operating under fatigue, being agile and generally fit and healthy – clear for all to see.


And England Sevens player Stanley is adamant the astronaut training can help the squad continue the fine form that saw them triumph in Tokyo and finish third in Glasgow as the World Series rolls into Twickenham this weekend.

“It is interesting to be involved with an event like this one and I know I’ve learnt quite a lot about space and how astronauts work, but also how there are similarities between them and rugby players like myself,” Bedford Blues’ Stanley said.

“Astronauts, like rugby players, need to be quite agile – they have to work in cramped conditions when fixing the shuttles while we need to be equally agile to evade defenders on the pitch.

“They also need to monitor their diets and their nutrition, which is very important to us too so we are in the best health that we can possibly be in so the similarities are there for all to see.

“Since winning in Tokyo, things in the camp have been great. We have always focused on winning tournaments and it came to fruition in Japan. This has been epitomised by our hard work and it was great to see it pay off.

“Going forward, we are hoping this can instil further impetus ahead of London as we are in a positive frame of mind. I can’t remember the group being this positive since I have been involved.”


And after strutting his stuff in front of his international idols, nine-year-old Andrei Dipper insisted the experience had been out of this world.

“We first did the reaction tests and other activities, I think one of my favourite ones was trying to make a jigsaw puzzle with really thick gloves on,” the Year 5 pupil said.

Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills at the UK Space Agency, added: “What has become obvious to me as I’ve been talking to some of the rugby players of the England Sevens is quite how similar their training, and fitness level requirements are to astronauts.

“They both have to put in a lot of training, work on their strength and make good decisions under pressure. Meeting these top rugby players has also brought to life for the students the importance of teamwork and dedication.”

Kids (under-16, accompanied) travel free at all times on Heathrow Express with our ‘Kids go free’ deal. Visit or follow @heathrowexpress on Twitter to find out more.

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