Last year rugby stars and celebrities played in a Rugby Aid match which saw the Rest of the World team narrowly defeat a select England side at the Stoop, raising funds for Rugby for Heroes. The charity has used some of those funds to launch a course, Transition Through Rugby, for service men and women leaving the military.

Leaving the armed forces community means considering career options, job prospects, geographic location, housing, education. Rugby for Heroes identified parallels between the UK’s armed forces and rugby. The Transition Through Rugby course aims to use their shared values to introduce service leavers to their local rugby community, offering a sense of belonging to which they can relate.

An intensive week-long course sees those taking part cover the RFU’s Rugby Ready, Scrum Factory and Level 2 Coaching, the 15-a-side game courses, as well as the Level 1 referee qualification. But it is about so much more than gaining rugby qualifications.

In 2011 the wider rugby community and professional player network recognised the similarities between a professional transitioning from a career in rugby and service leavers transitioning into the civilian sector. The rugby community, a staunch supporter of the armed forces, decided that they could provide opportunities for service leavers through the rugby network and, thanks to Rugby for Heroes funding, Transition Through Rugby was born.

WO2 Jefferies, a recent course graduate, says:
“After serving in the Army for 22 years that was the only community I knew. I moved to an area where I knew nobody. The course gave me the skills and confidence to walk into the local rugby club and offer to do some coaching. In no time I met a plumber, solicitor, estate agent and got my first job through a contact at the club. I basically met everyone I needed to know.”

SAC Pete McCarthy, who served for 11 years with the RAF, says: “On top of the coaching, the course showed me another community outside the RAF that I instantly felt at home with.”

Pete now runs a first aid business and adds: “Even though business is going really well, the rugby community have opened up even more opportunities to me and I am trying to give as much back to that community as they are giving me.”

RFU Community Rugby Coach Dave Barley felt the rugby community gained a lot by embracing and learning from the skills and experiences of members of the services. “Rugby is short of coaches and referees, so bringing in dedicated, committed professionals from the services into rugby clubs can only help the game develop. In turn the rugby community can give service personnel a sense of belonging and a network to assist them on their journey as they leave the military.”

If your school, college, university or rugby club is interested in supporting Rugby for Heroes please email info@rugbyforheroes.org.uk. There are four courses a year which are open to any member of the armed forces in their resettlement period, irrelevant of rank and service background. Further details are available at rugbyforheroes.org.uk or email info@rugbyforheroes.org.uk.