- London South schoolgirls rewarded for enthusiasm
- England Womens stars Turner and Burford help in development
Photo: Getty Images
Local girls new to playing rugby union will have the chance of a lifetime to appear on the hallowed turf of Twickenham Stadium when they take part in a curtain-raiser to England's RBS 6 Nations match against France on Saturday (February 26).
Teams of Year 7 and 8, U12 and U13 girls players from Brompton Academy (Kent), Harris Academy South Norwood (Surrey), Helenswood Girls Secondary School (Sussex) and Ursuline High School for Girls (Surrey) will play Tag rugby on the Twickenham pitch before forming a guard of honour as the international stars of England and France take to the field for the national anthems.
It is a reward for the enthusiasm of the girls who have taken up the game of rugby in the last year, building on the success of the Women's Rugby World Cup staged in Guildford and Twickenham.
RFU rugby development officer Martin MacTaggart has spearheaded the development of girls' rugby in the London South region, and he said the schools were amazed to find out they would be running, passing and scoring tries at the world-famous arena.
"Three of the schools had thought they would be playing at the Twickenham rugby club nearby, then going to the stadium," said MacTaggart.
"They could not believe it when I told them they would actually be playing at the stadium, forming the guard of honour and staying to watch the big match after all that."
'Tag+' developed as transition game for years 7 and 8
The RFU's Community Rugby Coaches (CRCs), including Amy Turner and Rachael Burford from the England squad that reached the Women's World Cup final last September, have been delivering a transition game called Tag+ for year groups 7 and 8 across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Fellow CRCs Toby Seward, Paul Wilson and Jeremy Nobbs have also been instrumental in delivering Tag+, which has been developed to help the transition from Tag rugby into the contact game. It has the same rules as Tag but includes uncontested lineouts and scrums to restart the game. The schools have seen the girls, parents and staff discover that rugby is an engaging, inclusive and enjoyable game.
More than 80 schools across the region attended training sessions and county schools festivals, with nominated schools going on to regional and national finals.
With further projects such as Inter-Form Tag taking off at one school, a contact schools leagues planned and county knockout cups already in place, the future looks brighter for the girls' game in the region.
Martin MacTaggart, RFU Rugby Development Officer in Surrey, said: "Thanks to the success of the schools project and the importance put on formal school-club links we have seen a rise in schools playing and players joining clubs in the region.
"Our clubs have really bought into this new approach and have engaged with the schools and the RFU delivery team."