A new rugby programme is being launched in Coventry aimed at university students and staff who are at risk of dropping out of the sport.

Coventry Sports Foundation’s Engage! programme, working with the University of Warwick and Coventry University, will receive funding from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for the next three years. The funding will support a rugby development cluster at both institutions for students and staff wanting to try, return or stay in the game.

The aim is to create a male and female development squad at each University in addition to the participants who are already selected for Wednesday afternoon activity in the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) season.

This is so that individuals can remain in the sport, but continue to take part in sessions on a less regular basis when it suits them, with a view to the Universities competing against each other throughout the year and other cluster programmes across the UK’s higher education sector.

Coventry has been selected as one of ten areas in the UK to receive funding for the cluster programme as the RFU steps up its focus on the university sector.

The partnership also strengthens Coventry’s City of Rugby project, which is on track to make the city a world leader at every level of the sport by 2023.

Tom Clift is Programme Manager at Engage!, and will oversee the cluster programme alongside Rob Wells, Sport & Active Lifestyles Manager at the University of Warwick and Natalie Goulder, Sports and Societies Manager at Coventry University.

Tom said: “We want to encourage anyone with an interest in rugby to continue in the sport in addition to their studies during and after university, and this programme will help to achieve this whilst also offering a route to local clubs for people to join if they so wish.

“Over the next three years we will be breaking down any participation barriers for students, while supporting both of the University’s existing rugby clubs by expanding their training programmes and sustaining sessions when there might normally be a break, such as at the end of the British University Championship season.

“Crucially, we will also be helping to transition graduating students into their local rugby club to avoid them dropping out of the sport.

“It’s important that interest in rugby is reflected out on the pitch as much as possible, and this university cluster brings us a step closer to creating a clear pathway for players through school, college, university and on to playing for a rugby club.

“Since we launched the City of Rugby project last year more than 60,000 people in Coventry and Warwickshire have participated in or watched the sport, and this programme will help to reinforce the city’s aim to become a world leader in rugby.”

Lisa Dodd-Mayne, Director of Sport & Active Communities at the University of Warwick, added: “One of the main reasons Warwick and its partners were asked to be part of the programme was because the RFU recognised the excellent work already being done within the city around rugby.

“We are really keen to work with our partners to embed these pathways into our rugby activity.  Being active is a critical way of dealing with the demands placed on our students as they try to combine their studies and their sport.  Warwick also has a role to play within its local community to encourage sport for life and to provide opportunities for people that they would not otherwise get.”

Students or staff wanting to join the cluster programme and attend sessions should contact their respective Students’ Union at:

Coventry University – Natalie Goulder: ab2413@coventry.ac.uk 

University of Warwick – Matt Nicholson: M.Nicholson.18@Warwick.ac.uk