Bath Rugby star Jack Walker hosted an online question and answer event which brought together young grassroots rugby players from local clubs, as well as shining a spotlight on local rugby enthusiasts whose lives have been changed for the better through Project Rugby, Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programme, run in partnership with England Rugby and Gallagher.
Bath Rugby, in conjunction with insurance broker Gallagher and its partner Premiership Rugby, this week invited young members of local rugby clubs to participate in a live and interactive virtual session, as part of a community programme aimed at keeping young people engaged with sport during lockdown.
Bath Rugby hooker Jack Walker hosted the latest ‘Project Rugby at Home’ session – an ongoing community initiative featuring each of the 12 Gallagher Premiership clubs, which aims to help young rugby enthusiasts keep in touch with their local rugby clubs, as well as providing them with the opportunity to interact with local Gallagher Premiership stars.
Jack took part in a question and answer session, with questions fielded by young participants from grassroots rugby clubs including Walcot RFC, Bath RFC and Bath Old Edwardians. Topics covered included his own journey into rugby and his career highlights, including being part of the England teams which won the 2014 and 2016 Junior World Championships, along with offering advice to the young players on how to improve their game.
The initiative forms part of Project Rugby, Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programme, 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. The programme engages thousands of participants per year, and since launching in 2017, more than 50,000 young people have been introduced to rugby, through initiatives delivered in over 200 locations across the country.
Jack was joined by two local players, whose participation in Project Rugby has been life-changing. Todd Burge, captain of the Walcot Warriors, the South West’s first mixed ability rugby team, which came together through Project Rugby, has learning difficulties and faced many challenges in his young life. Having taken part in various Project Rugby programmes, Todd spoke about how he has not looked back since, having developed the confidence and skills to lead the Walcot Warriors and take part in professional coaching opportunities.
Joining Jack and Todd was Caitlin Roy, who plays for Bath Ladies Trojans, the UK’s first all-female mixed ability team. Although Caitlin found that her spinal condition and dyspraxia meant that she struggled to find opportunities to participate in the game while growing up, she spoke about how her involvement in mixed ability rugby through the Walcot Warriors, and eventually the Trojans, has enabled her to build her confidence and widen her circle of friends.
Bath Rugby’s involvement in Project Rugby forms part of the programme of initiatives delivered by the Bath Rugby Community Foundation, the charitable arm of the club. As part of the Foundation’s commitment to empowering children and young people in Bath and the surrounding area to succeed, the club offers a range of programmes, geared towards addressing four key areas: health, education, employability and inclusion.
The latest event in the Project Rugby at Home series follows sessions hosted by Wasps, Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Sale Sharks, with further instalments scheduled for the coming weeks while grassroots rugby is still on hold, involving players from each of the Gallagher Premiership sides.
Chris Howard, Gallagher Development Executive and club liaison for Bath Rugby, commented: “We’re delighted to support the Project Rugby at Home series on a local level. During these testing times, these sessions are all about keeping young people engaged with their local club, as well as allowing them to look forward to a return to the pitch as soon as possible.
“Bath Rugby is a key pillar of the Bath community, and it was really positive to see so many youngsters taking part – emphasising just how enthusiastic younger members of the community are with the sport.
“As the proud title partner of Premiership Rugby, encouraging people to get involved in rugby – regardless of background, gender or ability - is something we’re passionate about. We hope that by giving local young players the chance to quiz their rugby heroes, as well as providing an up-close insight into what passion, commitment and hard work can lead to, we’ve been able to do just that.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, said: "The last 12 months has been an incredibly difficult time for many but Gallagher's support during this time has been unwavering. They have been incredibly supportive and flexible, allowing us to utilise our partnership in different ways to adapt our Project Rugby programme content and delivery models so that we can continue to support and engage participants during lockdown. There is a shared commitment between our two organisations to help change people’s lives, this means that together we are making a real positive impact in the wider community.
“Working together on Project Rugby at Home has only deepened our relationship, creating a great bedrock for the future of Project Rugby as the programme returns to the pitch late this year."
Jack Walker said: “It was a pleasure to participate in the latest Project Rugby at Home session, and answer questions from so many of the local young rugby players who took part, as well as speaking about how my involvement in grassroots rugby has helped me to get where I am today.
“Having started playing rugby at the age of six, I know what an amazing impact the game can have on young people, in terms of boosting their mental, social and physical agility, and helping develop important skills such as teamwork, resilience and decision-making.
“It’s brilliant to see the impact Project Rugby is having in terms of challenging barriers to participation in the game, and engaging so many youth players at grassroots level - with a number of stars emerging, including Todd and Caitlin – which is helping transform young lives.”