A former World Cup rugby international is backing Coventry’s aim to become a world leader in the sport.
Former Wasps and England winger Paul Sackey – who scored four tries at the 2007 Rugby World Cup – paid a surprise visit to more than 100 primary school children who were taking part in the Engage! Tag Rugby Festival at the Alan Higgs Centre.
Sackey joined Paralympian and former GB wheelchair rugby player and triple Paralympian, Mandip Sehmi to hone youngsters’ rugby skills try their hand at officiating, before answering questions in a Q&A.
The visit came about as the city gears up for a Six Nations double-header finale at the Ricoh Arena on Friday, March 16 between England Women and Ireland Women (5.30pm kick-off), followed by England Under 20s against Ireland Under 20s (8pm kick-off).
News of the double-header at the Ricoh Arena is also a boost for Coventry’s City of Rugby project – which has so far introduced more than 60,000 people to rugby as the project strives to make the city a world leader at every level of the sport by 2023.
Sackey said: “Schools are central to the long-term success of rugby as we need to be generating children’s interest in the sport from an early age before sign-posting them to their local club.
“Engage! do a brilliant job at going into schools to introduce youngsters to the sport and hold these tag festivals at the end of every term, so I wanted to come along and show my support for the work that’s being done.
“To have some of the country’s best up and coming talent performing on our doorstep in the Six Nations next month is another plus – as these sort of events can help to maintain youngsters’ interest in the sport alongside having Wasps and Coventry Rugby in the city.”
Tom Clift is the Programme Manager for Coventry Sports Foundation’s Engage! Values Programme – which delivers the tag festivals after teaching children the sports core values of team work, respect, integrity, enjoyment and discipline by combining classroom activities with games of tag rugby.
He added: “Since the New Year the Engage Values Programme has introduced a further 400 school children to the sport.
“By the end of this academic year we will have reached over 65 primary schools across Coventry and to see over a hundred youngsters here today from this term’s programme is really promising.
“The challenge now is to encourage as many of these youngsters to develop this interest further – whether it is going along their local club or signposting them on where they can watch, volunteer or referee in rugby locally.”
For more information about the Engage Values Programme visit www.engagecoventry.com and sign up your school to receive the programme for FREE now!
Tickets for the Womens and Under 20s Six Nations double-header between England and Ireland at the Ricoh Arena are just £10 for adults for both games, and can be purchased from www.eticketing.co.uk/ricoharena