One year on from the Rugby World Cup 2015 final, the tournament’s legacy continues to inspire, with 190 new men’s teams launched this season, in large part due to the success of England Rugby’s Return to Rugby programme.
This year’s Return to Rugby follows last year’s Sport Englandfunded inaugural programme which saw 2,500 people sign up for sessions and 800 go on to play regular, competitive rugby after being brought back into the game.
Return to Rugby offers former players a light reintroduction to the game, with a strong focus on rugby’s social side, and refreshing basic skills in a relaxed and fun environment. Each session is tailored to suit a range of goals, whether people wish to play socially with low commitment, get back into competitive playing, or simply up their fitness.
Since launching during Rugby World Cup 2015, Return to Rugby has attracted 4,000 returning rugby players to sessions at their local clubs.
England Rugby’s ambition is to get 5,000 players participating in Return to Rugby sessions nationwide by the end of the season. Since launching on August 18, 100 rugby clubs have been offering weekly training sessions for returning recruits through the programme.
Steve Grainger, Rugby Development Director, England Rugby, said: “Our ambition was to use the excitement of the tournament to inspire people, particularly 18-24 year old men, to round up their friends, pick up a rugby ball at their local club and get back in the game. Now in the programme’s second year, we’ve doubled the number of participating clubs to 100 and aim to double our playing numbers, which we are well on our way to achieving.
“So far we’ve seen some great examples of rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, sportsmanship and enjoyment being put into practice, with clubs embracing returning members into their rugby families and growing the quality of their club as a result. This, for me, is what the legacy of the Rugby World Cup is all about.”
Return to Rugby has had a positive impact on clubs across England, boosting their playing numbers, strengthening their existing teams and enabling them to create new teams as a result of the influx of returning players.
Plymouth Argaum RFC, now in its second year of the programme, has not only secured 34 returning members through Return to Rugby but has also unearthed a new coach, Chris Mills. Mills has spent most of his life playing rugby, including while serving in the Navy as well as for clubs across the country. When he heard that his local club Argaum were holding Return to Rugby sessions, he decided to get involved – this time as a coach. The programme has proved a huge success at the club, much down to the passion and enthusiasm of Mills who is now aiming to continue his coaching journey by taking his coaching qualifications.
Return to Rugby has had similar success for the Aylesford Bulls and Crawley RFC, with 30 Return to Rugby players at Aylesbury Bulls, nine having now made an appearance for the third team, and 45 players attending one Return to Rugby session at Crawley RFC. Crawley RFC’s ambition is to transition players over to the senior squad to help push for promotion. Chiswick RFC’s sessions have proved so popular that they were able to field a 4th 15 this season, made up almost entirely of returning players.
To sign up for Return to Rugby sessions in your area, click here.