With hundreds of people across the country being reintroduced to the sport through the Return to Rugby programme, here’s the journey of some of the clubs and players taking part.
When Chiswick RFC hosted their first Return to Rugby session at the end of August, even the most optimistic of coaches couldn’t have foreseen how popular it would be.
“It was quite unprecedented the numbers that turned up to the Return to Rugby sessions with RFU coaches Rory Greenslade Jones and Ty Sterry. Player feedback has been fantastic. I haven’t seen such positivity at our training sessions for a number of years,” says club coach Gerry Cottrell.
On average 30 people were turning up for training sessions each week, with the programme so popular that Chiswick were able to field a 4th 15 made up almost entirely of new players.
Returning player John Kelly gave up the sport at 18 after finding it too competitive but is now a regular player at Chiswick. “I didn’t realise how much I had missed it,” says Kelly. “Every player is able to progress as quickly as they want, and from a personal perspective, once I got the bug back there was no stopping me.”
This year’s Return to Rugby follows last year’s inaugural programme which saw 2,500 people sign up for sessions and 800 players re–introduced back into the game. One of those was teacher Ed Seymour
who joined a Return to Rugby session at Aylesford Bulls having stopped playing the sport a few years earlier.
“I was watching the Rugby World Cup on TV and decided I wanted to get back involved. I was expecting to find a few old blokes playing a lot of touch but actually it had a great structure and catered for lots of different levels. The most important thing is they made it fun. Every session was different and it was mainly game–based activities which we developed skills from,” says Seymour who is now a regular player at the club.
Milton Keynes RFC had huge success running the programme last year and the sessions this year have proved even more popular. “We had 49 participate in our first session which is just incredible,” says Community Rugby Coach Bob Hardman. “The reaction from the players has been amazing. The overwhelming response has been that they wished they had come sooner.”
This year’s Return to Rugby sessions have been hosted at 100 clubs and there is still time to get involved. To find a club and session near you by clicking here.
If you have a Return to Rugby story you’d like to share click here.