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Spanish delegation visit Tyneside school as part of Unity Project

07 April 2014

  • Party of seven Spanish officials visit St Joseph’s School
  • St Joseph’s is one of the early success stories of All Schools initiative
Spanish rugby officials

Photo: RFU Archive

A delegation of Spanish rugby officials have been learning about the growth of the game in the north-east during a three-day long visit to the region.

The party of seven Spaniards were hosted by the Durham and Northumberland Rugby Football Unions, and their trip included a visit to St Joseph’s School in south Tyneside, where they were greeted by all the pupils before observing a coaching demonstration.

The trip formed part of the “Unity Project”, which was launched earlier this year by the RFU in partnership with the International Rugby Board (IRB), FIRA-AER (the European Rugby Association) and UK Sport, and involves them working with 17 European nations to grow the game of rugby ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015. The project forms part of the legacy plans being implemented by the RFU and falls under the wider work of the IRB’s RWC 2015 rugby legacy programme, 'IMPACT beyond 2015.'

Durham County and Northumberland have been paired with Spain and this visit marks the first of what will eventually be numerous trips both ways over the course of the project, which is scheduled to run until June 2016.

The Spanish party were accompanied by RFU officials including Robin Wannop, the RFU Council member for Durham who is also Chair of the Legacy Group, and Dr Jim Coulson, the Council representative for referees.

Mr Wannop said: “The whole visit went extremely well and we achieved what we set out to do, in that last night we sat down with the Spanish party and drafted a Development Plan which we felt was appropriate for them for the next three years.

“Talking with them, it became evident that the issues they face are very similar to the issues we face as well. It’s just that we have got so many more clubs so our issues are on a bigger scale.

“The St Joseph’s session was probably the most impressive part of the visit,” he added. “They saw how the school had gone from zero three years ago in terms of rugby provision to where they are now, with so many classes playing rugby.”

St Joseph’s only started offering rugby to its pupils in 2012, having signed up to the RFU’s All Schools programme, which aims to spread the reach of the sport into areas where it has not traditionally been played. The target is for 400 schools to have signed up by the start of next year’s World Cup in England, and for that number to have grown to 750 by 2019.

“St Joseph’s is very much a success story,” said Matt Bryan, Rugby Development Officer for Durham County. “They are in their second year of the All Schools programme and they now play rugby in every age group from Year 7 right through to Year 11.

“It was great to be able to share this work with the Spanish group. They had a former PE teacher, Mar Alvarez, in their delegation who now works with their national squad, and she was swapping ideas of how they use rugby in their curriculum.”