Ritchie and Grainger begin cross-country visits
Top brass interviewed by local young journalists
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Ian Ritchie, the new RFU Chief Executive, began a series of ambassadorial visits across the country with a successful and busy day in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire & Derbyshire (NLD).
Ritchie, who joined the RFU earlier this year from the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, and Steve Grainger, MBE, the RFU Director of Rugby Development, were accompanied by Alex Murphy and Mike Waplington, the RFU Council Members for NLD, on their visits to the Dronfield, Nottingham Casuals, Nottingham University and Kesteven clubs.
The RFU party watched a Tag Rugby event at Nottingham Casuals, a Students Touch Rugby event at Nottingham University and the NLD Girls Under 13 Festival at Kesteven, near Grantham.
The NLD was the first of regular visits to the Constituent Bodies that make up the RFU in the build-up to the 2015 Rugby World Cup which will be staged in England.
During their visit to Kesteven Ritchie and Grainger were interviewed by Craig Hockenhull and Jonathan Gough, two members of the Lincolnshire Young Journalists Academy and keen rugby players themselves.
“What I think I am about is trying to enthuse everybody about playing rugby and making sure that everybody wants to participate in what a great a sport this is,” Ritchie said.
“That’s at every level from the England team to mini rugby to women’s rugby to sevens. I’m openly trying to be an ambassador for the game throughout the country.”
Ritchie may have switched sports but there are strong similarities in the values and ethics of rugby union and tennis.
“The ball is a different shape but there are certain similarities. Everyone at Wimbledon plays in white so I am quite comfortable with an England team playing in white as well,” he said.
“Great sportsmen, great respect, great discipline. It’s important that the players at the top are fantastic role models because everybody who is watching them wants to emulate them. They have got a huge responsibility and that very much applies to tennis.”
Rugby’s values are shared by everyone who plays the sport including the England team led by head coach Stuart Lancaster.
“The great thing that Stuart has brought to the England team is playing as a team, playing for each other and being humble about how you react with the public whether you win or whether you lose,” Ritchie said.
“I think the fundamental values that Stuart has brought into the England set up and England coaching are the same fundamental values that apply to everybody who plays the sport whether they are playing mini rugby or playing for England. The values are shared and are exactly the same.”
While Lancaster’s task is to build an England side capable of winning the Rugby World Cup in three years time, Grainger’s role is to ensure that rugby clubs around the country are well placed to benefit from the surge in interest in rugby that the tournament will generate.
“For Stuart Lancaster and the guys who work in the England team their focus is making sure that we have got the best team we can so that we can hopefully win the Rugby World Cup in 2015,” Grainger said.
“My job is to make sure we take best advantage of the opportunity that it is going to give us by making sure we have plenty of coaches and referees in the game and that facilities in clubs are the best they can be. When we get lots of new people wanting to come into the sport we have got to have everything there to cater for them.
“The most important things are that we keep people who are now playing the game. Our number one priority is to retain the players that are already there.
“But at some point they are going to stop playing so we have got to make sure that we recruit new players.
“The grassroots of the game and community level is where it all starts. We have got to make sure that we offer a game that is attractive to people of all ages, men and women, whether they want to play, or coach or referee.
“It’s crucial we do that and Rugby World Cup 2015 is a great opportunity to do that.”
The full interviews with Ian Ritchie and Steve Grainger can be heard on the Young Journalists Academy website