Youngsters from Haywards Heath RFC played a part in creating history as they participated in this weekend’s Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, hosted by Harlequins, writes Richard Dore, Sportsbeat.
Since being launched during the 2008-09 season, the nationwide grassroots rugby event has seen more than 70,000 children take part.
This season sees the tenth anniversary edition of the event – the ‘Testimonial Season’ – with Harlequins hosting their festival in the shadow of Twickenham on Saturday.
Haywards Heath RFC Under-12s were one of more than 30 under-11 and under-12 teams in attendance, and even got the chance to strut their stuff in front of Harlequins players Dave Ward and Kyle Sinckler, who were casting their eyes over the next generation of stars.
And while they missed out on the chance to attend next May’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Final, despite displaying plenty of skill and effort, 11-year-old Oliver Mathews insisted he had loved every minute of the experience.
“It’s good just getting involved with the games themselves,” said Oliver. “As a club we all have each other’s back, we all know what we can do and then we just play off that.
“There’s one team here called Rosslyn Park who’re a very strong team but we don’t know too much about the others.
“There’s a couple of teams from our area that we play against quite a lot but we don’t know the local teams around here – it’s great to test ourselves against them and play with my mates.”
Teams from across the county will compete at various festivals hosted by the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs this season, with the opportunity to earn a trip to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on May 26, where they will meet a Land Rover rugby ambassador, join in a Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup Parade at half time and hear which of them has won a club MVP award.
And despite missing out, Haywards Heath RFC did at least get the chance to rub shoulders with rugby’s elite in Sinckler and Ward, with the former admitting he had been impressed with what he had seen, in particular stressing the importance of grassroots rugby.
“Me and Dave [Ward] have come down to have a look at the local talent and it’s been a great day out,” said the England, Harlequins and British & Irish Lions prop.
“The main thing is enjoying it and you can see the kids are happy and it’s all about the sportsmanship of the game and playing it in the right way. You can see them all doing three cheers for each other.
“It’s about coming out on a Saturday or Sunday and giving it your best, if you win you win, and if you lose so be it, if you gave it your all and had a good time – you’ve got to make memories with your friends.
“Without the grassroots rugby there’s no elite level – if you speak to any guy in any professional team they all started at grassroots level.”
- Land Rover is celebrating its ‘Testimonial Season’; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. The national series of grassroots rugby festivals is testament to Land Rover’s continued support of grassroots rugby through its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal