- England players connect with youngsters
- Druid’s Park session an inspiration
England Saxons may have left the North East feeling disappointed at losing to Scotland A last Friday night, but they left behind a huge fund of goodwill and gratitude among a group of Tyneside youngsters who met them during their brief stay.
It says much for the collective mood of the Saxons that when manager John Callard asked for volunteers to do some work with a group of children who have been involved in the RFU’s All Schools Programme, the entire squad of 24 players stepped forward and reported for duty at Druid’s Park.
Not only did they sign up for the coaching session, they also involved themselves with real enthusiasm, prop forward Matt Mullan displaying an exceptional empathy with the kids that his team-mates worked hard to replicate.
“To be honest, the Saxons lads were just as enthusiastic as the youngsters when they divided into teams and had four players coaching each school,” said Rugby Development Officer Dave Reed.
“When the request went out for volunteers, skipper Jordan Crane volunteered the whole squad and the way they interacted with the kids confirmed they were there because they wanted to be, which was fantastic for the schools.
“There was a really good, friendly atmosphere. The players couldn’t do enough for the lads and they were there to present the medals at the end.
“We invited the coaches down from the clubs we’ve linked with the schools on the All Schools programme and they couldn’t believe how amenable the players were. Matt Mullan was absolutely outstanding with the kids and went far beyond where he needed to go.
“On a wet and windy day it was great to see them engaging with the kids as well as they did and especially when there is no commercial element to it. They were there because they wanted to be and it was great to see.
“The icing on the cake came at a club session on Sunday when the All Schools youngsters were encouraged to attend. The Wallsend club signed up four new players from Burnside School, which is tremendous for us.
“We know we won’t get hundreds coming out of the woodwork all at once, but picking up a few new players each week and achieving sustainable growth is where we want to be.”
Endorsement of Reed’s comments came from another Tynesider who was involved in the Druid’s Park session, Saxons Backs Coach and former Falcons Director of Rugby John Fletcher.
“It was good to be back doing some coaching in the North East, particularly when we were involved with youngsters who are new to the game. The children involved are nearly all new to rugby and they bring with them a real excitement and enthusiasm, especially when they are working with players from the elite end of the game.
“I’m sure the Saxons lads remember when they started out and will have enjoyed the session. As a Hexham lad, it’s great to see a new wave of youngsters from the North East getting involved in the game and it’s been fun helping them.”
The All Schools youngsters involved were from Burnside School, with Richard Coates School, Ponteland, Bede Academy, Blyth, Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington, Kenton School, Newcastle and Berwick Middle School completing the line-up.