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London Welsh coaches convert Oxford kids to rugby
Buy this photo » London Welsh community development officer Alan Awcock with pupils from Sandhills Primary School
HUNDREDS of sporty youngsters have tried out rugby thanks to a scheme run by London Welsh.
So far 32 schools have taken part in free tag rugby sessions held by coaches from the Oxford-based club.
They plan on visiting 40 schools by the end of the academic year, to run taster lessons for years three and four.
It is hoped the classes will spark an interest in the sport – and children can continue playing by attending free sessions at Littlemore Rugby Club every Sunday.
Alan Awcock, community development officer for London Welsh, which moved to Oxford’s Kassam stadium in September last year, said: “Oxford is a new untapped area for premiership rugby. We want to get the kids involved in the programme and see if we can create a bit of hype about premiership rugby in the area.”
The Chilton 24-year-old added: “The kids all enjoy it. Some of them have not played rugby before so it is a good opportunity to provide a different sport.”
The project in Oxfordshire schools began in October and the free Littlemore rugby sessions started at the end of December, but new members are welcome.
Matt Walsh, London Welsh community development officer, said: “Littlemore has never had a mini or junior section – they have only ever had two men’s teams.
“The aim is to introduce rugby to schools and kids who wouldn’t usually have the opportunity.”
The Wantage 22-year-old said: “As a premiership club it is nice for us to go in and really build a fan base and make contact with the local community.
“London Welsh is now in Oxford and we are here to stay.”
Margaret Stevens, sports development officer at Oxford City Council, said the sessions began after a gap was spotted in the provision of mini rugby in the Littlemore, Cowley, Blackbird Leys and Rose Hill areas of the city.
She said: “Children attending the tag sessions at Littlemore RFC are enjoying learning more about the game despite the very cold, wet weather we have had since the club started.
“The link to London Welsh is great as the community coaches have arranged for the Littlemore minis to be part of a Guard of Honour at the match against London Wasps and have been able to provide some free or discounted tickets to matches at the Kassam.”
Ms Stevens added that members of the minis club formed a Guard of Honour at Oxford University Rugby Club’s home game on Wednesday and acted as ball boys and girls.
She added: “This new club is a great example of local sports organisations working together to promote their game and provide opportunities for young people in their community.”
The free Sunday rugby sessions at Littlemore Rugby club’s Oxford Academy base are for children aged seven to 11 years old and run from 11.30am-1pm. There is no need to book.