Young rugby enthusiasts descended on Sixways Stadium to have fun and play with Premiership passion in the largest community rugby initiative of its kind on Saturday (May 16).
The International npower Tag Inclusive Festival, hosted by Worcester Warriors in partnership with principal community partner npower and the English Federation of Disability Sports, saw 26 teams from four countries take part in the one-day tournament.
Launched two years ago with only six teams taking part, the inclusive tag festival has continued to grow and provides an alternative route for children who may be excluded from mainstream coaching sessions, and focuses on providing the children with the opportunity to improve interpersonal skills and participate in sport in a fun, flexible environment.
The event was played out in three rugby-themed competitions: the Six Nations, the Premiership and the Celtic League, where teams are allocated to play against similarly skilled players.
Activities kicked off in the morning with children exploring different elements of tag through a tailored circuit of games on Worcester’s training ground. The teams then put their new found skills to the test when they met on the stadium pitch to take part in a total of over 50 matches in the afternoon session.
The Under 15 age group saw a clean sweep for Worcestershire schools as Vale of Evesham (Six Nations), Stourminster (Premiership) and Regency (Celtic League) took the honours. The over 15 age group saw Holyport (Six Nations), White Spires (Premiership) and Shropshire Rugby Rebels (Celtic League) take the top spots.
To conclude the day’s festivities, special guests from the international paralympic world and the Warriors presented the youngsters with awards and congratulated them on their achievements.
Members of the English Deaf Rugby Union team and Tony Stoyles, Director of Rugby, were joined by Ian Rowberry, Welsh Deaf Rugby Union, Chris Ellis, GB Wheelchair Rugby, Liz Johnson, Paralympic gold medallist in the 100m breaststroke, and Craig Gillies, from Worcester Warriors.
Steve Joslin, Community Rugby Manager at Warriors, said: “Tag rugby allows youngsters of all abilities to have fun while increasing spatial awareness, highlighting evasion techniques, and most importantly raising self esteem – all skills needed to enjoy sport and everyday life to the full.
“Crucially, this festival opened up tag rugby to many youngsters who have not previously had the opportunity to take part because of their disability. It was fantastic to see the smiles on their faces and the sheer joy they took from being able to play a part and be part of a team.
“This was the third year the event has been held and it’s grown from six teams in Droitwich to the 26 that took part at Sixways. It was very well attended and already plans are in place to hold it again next year in Swansea after previous events in Northern Ireland and England.
“We had tremendous support from npower and also had members of the Warriors AASE scheme and Academy helping out, after they attended courses, so they could come and take part in the morning coaching and events. We also had three senior squad members in Matt Cox, George Crook and David Lyons who came along to do some coaching and really threw themselves into the day.
“The afternoon saw the tournament take place with games very closely fought and the skills levels shown very impressive. The feedback we have received has been fantastic and, as a club, we are just delighted that we were able to host such an important and worthwhile event.”
Comments from parents and team managers have already started to arrive at Sixways Stadium:
“We had a wonderful time. It was such a joy to see all of the children putting their all into the rugby and enjoying every minute of it.”
“It was a wonderful experience for the children and all the staff. The kids were buzzing on the way home and definitely want to go next year! A lovely atmosphere was created – supportive, positive and challenging at the same time.”
“A fabulously fun day that was clearly well organised and executed with real enthusiasm. As a parent of a child with autism, I often see so many opportunities disappear, so an event demonstrating inclusion was a delight.”
“As usual you have inspired so many people with your complete understanding and professionalism for this unique event.”
“It was so inspiring for all the players to take part in this event in a real rugby stadium, a real confidence booster.
“All the pupils were on a high. It was great to see our children mixing with pupils from various backgrounds and with ranging disabilities. Well done for hosting this event.”
For more information on the International npower Tag Inclusive Festival please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org