Northampton Saints, in conjunction with Gallagher and its partner Premiership Rugby, last Thursday brought together 100 young members of local grassroots rugby clubs for an exclusive and interactive virtual session, held as part of a community programme aimed at keeping young people engaged with the sport while lockdown restrictions are in place.
Northampton Saints centre Piers Francis hosted the latest instalment of ‘Project Rugby at Home’ – a new community initiative featuring each of the 12 Gallagher Premiership clubs, designed to help young people keep active while grassroots rugby is suspended, stay connected with their local club and teammates, and provide them with the opportunity to meet some of their local Gallagher Premiership heroes.
During the session, youth players from local grassroots rugby clubs, including Old Northamptonians RFC, Brackley RUFC, Long Buckby RFC and Stewarts & Lloyds RFC were given the opportunity to ask Piers questions, with Saints’ community programmes manager Ben Lawrence acting as question master – covering topics including tips Piers would give his younger self, individuals who have inspired him in his career, his career highlights and the opponents he has faced.
The latest event in the Project Rugby at Home series follows the first hosted on 3 February by Wasps star Jacob Umaga, with further instalments scheduled for the coming weeks, involving players from each of the Premiership Rugby sides.
The initiative forms part of Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programme, Project Rugby, run in partnership with England Rugby and Gallagher, which is designed to increase participation in the game and champion rugby at the grassroots level as a truly inclusive sport. Since launching in 2017, more than 50,000 young people have been introduced to rugby, through initiatives delivered by Premiership Rugby clubs in over 200 locations across the country.
Chris Noah, Gallagher Client Services Manager and club liaison for Northampton Saints, commented: “The Project Rugby at Home series is an absolutely fantastic initiative that we’re very proud to help deliver at a local level as part of our wider programme of community engagement with grassroots rugby. Northampton Saints have a strong presence across Northamptonshire and the wider East Midlands area, and the enthusiasm we saw from participants in the session has highlighted just how engaged younger members of the community are with the sport, which is heartening to see.
“All the Gallagher Premiership clubs sit at the heart of their local communities, and feeling connected to your community is more important now than ever. During these challenging times, our Project Rugby at Home sessions are all about keeping young people engaged with their local club, excited about all that rugby can offer and enthusiastic to return to the pitch as soon as possible.
“As the title partner of Premiership Rugby, we are passionate about giving something back to the grassroots game. We hope that by giving local young players the chance to interact with some of the stars of the game, and provide an up-close insight into what passion, commitment and hard work can lead to, we take rugby to an ever-wider audience and inspire the next generation of rugby players, whatever level they ultimately play at.”
Wayne Morris, Community and CSR Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “Collaboration is the key to our Project Rugby at Home sessions and we were delighted to see so many young people attend the Northampton Saints event last night.
“It wouldn’t be possible to stage such valuable events without the support of our partner Gallagher. Like Premiership Rugby, Gallagher believes in the power of sport to change lives and I’m delighted to confirm that, thanks to Gallagher’s support, we will staging these Project Rugby at Home sessions across the country in the coming weeks as we work together to ease the burden of lockdown.
“Closures of sports facilities during the Coronavirus pandemic has contributed to significantly reduced physical activity levels, leaving young people feeling disconnected, a major impact on mental and physical health.
“Project Rugby At Home, with the support of Gallagher, will help young people reconnect with their grassroots club and teammates, stay active and engaged in sport helping mitigate the damage being done to a generation of young people during these challenging times."
Piers Francis added: “It was a real privilege and a pleasure to host the latest Project Rugby at Home session - a brilliant initiative to engage young players during lockdown, and enable them to stay connected with their rugby clubs.
“Being involved with rugby from an early age has done so much for me as a person, and is a fantastic way for young people to build confidence, resilience and other key life skills, which I is why I am so keen to help inspire young talent.”