September 28, 2006
England Sevens coach Mike Friday will launch the Rugby Football Union's newest community club in London this weekend.
Friday has been developing England's stars of the future with a Sevens team that clinched a third successive Hong Kong Sevens title and won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games last season.
But on Sunday, October 1, the former Wasps scrum-half will be in Bromley to kick off first games played by the Whitefoot Lane Warriors.
The Warriors - the first rugby club for young people in Lewisham - are part of a major initiative that started taking rugby into new communities following England's victory at the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Friday said: "I'm absolutely delighted to be able to come along and help launch the Whitefoot Lane Warriors.
"I'm a local boy from South East London and it's great to see that so many people have worked together to give children in this area the chance to play rugby.
"I know they've already been hard at work learning all the skills and they'll get tremendous amount of enjoyment out of the game."
Since England's victory at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the number of players taking part in the game has grown by 25 per cent and thousands of children have been introduced to rugby for the first time.
In 2004 a new team of Community Rugby Coaches started work on estates and in primary and secondary schools throughout the capital.
They helped establish the Shoreditch Sharks, Brixton Bulls and Peckham Panthers clubs in Hackney, Lambeth and Southwark, followed last year by the arrival of Belsize Park Bears for kids in Westminster and Camden, the Hackney Bulls in Hackney and the Victoria Park Vikings in Tower Hamlets.
Lewisham Community Rugby Coach Rex Walker has introduced rugby to a dozen local schools over the last year and is now developing the skills of eight to 14-year-olds at the new club.
"Apart from one club that straddles the border between Lewisham and Greenwich, we'll be the only place for boys and girls wanting to get involved in youth rugby," said Walker.
"We've been working in local primary schools and there's no reason why we can't establish sides to play in regional festivals and against other nearby teams."
Walker's post is funded by the RFU and Lewisham Council with additional support from Royal Bank of Scotland RFC and Channel Your Energy.