The first of the U12s cluster festivals took place at Sandbach, Stockport and Wirral rugby clubs, with players taking charge of team selection, subs, half-time chats and full-time feedback.

The events were a great success with teams sharing players. With no scores, leagues or trophies to win, the pressure was off for all to simply enjoy the day and their rugby. At the Sandbach event, two pitches were officiated by three girls and three boys who had just recently completed a referee course as part of a new ref hub initiative at the club.

The day saw the core values truly on display, together with some fantastic rugby. Barbarian teams were formed, players helping and supporting new team mates, and young officials getting involved in a really positive atmosphere. This was followed by the U13s Quilter Kids First Festivals hosted by Caldy, Wilmslow and Lymm rugby clubs under the same format.

Coaches comments included: “Thank you for your sportsmanship and the loan of players, everyone who played with us today really helped and made a difference. Our team has come away from today with a real positive attitude and for me, that’s rugby!”

“I have to admit I had my reservations about the new format to the festival with the boys making all the
decisions but I thought it was great and saw marked improvements with the lads and their approach to dealing with substitutions and team talks with each game. It was great to see.”

“I thought the format worked really well, I think the boys had more fun and it didn’t seem to affect the performance of our better players, while it was noticeable that some of our developing players really performed well (less pressure?). All our parents were very positive and I felt the atmosphere among the parents and towards the referees was great.”

Each festival is being supported by RFU Community Rugby Coaches (CRCs) and most of the host clubs had a CARDS session run prior to the event.

Said CRC Simon Verbickas: “It has been amazing to see young players, coaches, parents and clubs embrace this new festival format and the enjoyment and core values that have resulted. I think that everyone in Cheshire is convinced that this works and should keep more youngsters enjoying their rugby for longer. After all what they all want is to enjoy playing alongside their friends and that’s exactly what’s happening thanks to the support of all the clubs and the CRCs involved.”