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Lancaster praises club volunteers

26 February 2014

  • Outstanding service recognised with trip to England training session
  • England head coach pays tribute to unsung heroes
RFU club volunteers with some of the Senior England men's team and coaches

Photo: Leo Wilkinson Photography

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has paid tribute to the army of volunteers who underpin rugby in England.

Twelve volunteers from clubs across the country were invited to watch the England senior squad train at St George’s Park, the Football Association’s centre of excellence in Staffordshire, earlier this month.

The volunteers toured the training facilities, enjoyed a four-course lunch, watched the England players train and then had the chance to meet the players and coaching staff.

Afterwards Lancaster thanked the volunteers for their work in supporting England’s success at international level.

“We were delighted to be able to welcome this group of volunteers, whose outstanding contribution to rugby has been recognised by the RFU, to St George’s Park,” Lancaster said.

“They are an inspiration to all of us and a reminder that every player who has the honour of representing England has got there with the support of club or school volunteers.

“This group of volunteers typifies the work carried out across the country, whether it is coaching, organising kit or providing food, which helps clubs to flourish and for players to enjoy their rugby.”

The visit was enjoyed by all the volunteers, particularly Jerry Brookes, from Tetbury in Gloucestershire, whose wife Christine taught England wing Jonny May as a youngster.

“My wife taught Jonny when he was about 13 at the Ridgeway School in Swindon,” Brookes said. “He remembered her so it was nice to be able to make that connection with him.

“Having the opportunity to be able to meet with and talk to the England squad was fantastic. The players and coaches were brilliant. They spent a lot of time talking to us and they were excellent ambassadors for rugby.”

Deborah Mandell from Old Salteians RFC in Birmingham, had a shorter distance to travel to St George’s Park near Burton but also enjoyed her day out with the England squad.

“My daughter said that it was the most excited that she had seen me about a day out. I felt very privileged to be asked to go and it was a lovely day,” said Mandell, who was the first woman to win the North Midlands RFU’s Volunteer of the Year Award last year.

RFU club volunteer with England centre Billy Twelvetrees

Photo: Leo Wilkinson Photography

“The players and coaches very honest and open with us and they spent a long time talking to us about the jobs that we do in our clubs.

“We wished them all the best for the rest of the Six Nations and Stuart Lancaster thanked us for what we do for grassroots rugby at our clubs.”

The 12 volunteers who were nominated by their Constituent Bodies for their outstanding contributions to grassroots rugby in England were:

Brookes, a former player and captain of Tetbury RFC, organised a “Save our Club” match in October 2012 to help prevent the club from closing two years ago. Tetbury have now regrouped under Brookes’ leadership and have applied to rejoin the Gloucester Three league next season.

Nick Barnes of Reading Abbey RFC, who serves the Berkshire club as events coordinator and uses knowledge from his day job as an electrician to ensure that all of Abbey’s electrical appliances, from kettles to floodlights, are in working order.

Paul Settle, who is a driving force at The Mount RFC, a club for prison officers and inmates of The Mount prison in Hertfordshire. The club competes in the Hertfordshire and Middlesex Merit Leagues and uses the RFU’s Core Values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship to help rehabilitate people to ensure they are in a position to return into the wider community.

David Clent of Old Elthamians RFC, who has been chairman of Kent’s Youth Management Committee for ten years and a member of the Kent Schools’ Union. His many other roles include president of Old Elthamians having previously served as secretary, chairman and youth chairman. He is also secretary of Pups RFC, an invitational side for up-and-coming players.

Anastacia Long of Graveney School and Old Rutlishians RFC in Surrey who has successfully introduced rugby into the school. There are now nine rugby teams, one at every age group, with two at under 15 and girls teams at under 13 and under 15. Long also coaches at Old Rutlishians where the club had only 15 players at under 15 level when she took over but now caters for more than 70. She was also a Field of Play Manager at the 2012 London Olympics in charge of a large group of volunteers.

Louise Jones of Saffron Walden RFC, who has helped to raise more than £30,000 through a number of initiatives including a “Calendar Girls” style calendar of the players. Jones, the sister of Munster and Ireland full back Felix, has also helped in clubhouse maintenance and serving match-day teas.

Chris Robshaw and Joe Marler with RFU club volunteers

Photo: Leo Wilkinson Photography

Nick Langridge of Lutterworth RFC, who took over as volunteer coordinator of the Leicestershire club this season. He conducted a study of what roles were being undertaken by volunteers at Lutterworth and found that the chairman was doing nine of them. Langridge has since found other volunteers to ease the workload.

Deborah Mandell from Old Saltleians RFC, who serves the north Birmingham club in a number of roles including safeguarding officer and organiser of catering for the club’s thriving mini and junior section. She is the main point of contact for all schools using the club’s facilities.

Eric Field of Willenhall RFC, who has been coaching in Staffordshire since 1976. He joined Willenhall as player/coach in 1978 and is now the club’s director of rugby. Having played for Staffordshire at Under 21, Under 23 and senior levels, he has since coached the county’s Under 23, Under 21 and Under 20 squads.

Wayne Finney of Billingham RFC, who has coached the club’s age group sides for 10 years and who is now chairman of Durham’s coaching committee. He has been a key contributor to the improvement in performances of all Durham’s county sides.

David Townend of Doncaster Phoenix RFC, who was a founder member when the club, then Danum Phoenix, was set up 33 years ago.  He serves as treasurer and also helps to organise kit and to run touch. He also attends South Yorkshire meetings and is a South Yorkshire Volunteer of the Year.

Lieutenant Paul Clark, who is head coach of the Royal Navy representative team. He began his rugby career as player/coach of the Britannia Royal Naval College side at Dartmouth and has been involved in playing and promoting rugby on tours of duty around the world including the Falkland Islands and the Caribbean. He is also involved in coaching at Dartmouth RFC.