Warriors stars Justin Clegg and Willi Heinz stressed how important grassroots rugby was in their development while attending the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup at Sixways Stadium.
Sixways hosted an exciting Under-11 and Under-12 grassroots developmental festival on Saturday as youngsters finally got the opportunity to lace up their boots again, with 35 teams from 28 clubs across Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire and Greater Birmingham locking horns.
This successful series of nationwide events, now running for nearly two decades and organised by Land Rover – the Official Vehicle of Premiership Rugby – has seen more than 100,000 children take part to date, with some realising their dreams of going on to play for Premiership Rugby clubs.
Lock Clegg said: “I grew up in the area so I’m seeing a lot of clubs that I’ve been to in the past and it’s nice to see them coming together.
“It’s been great. I’ve seen a lot of smiles on faces today. I think that’s the main thing we want for the kids, to be able to get back out and spend some time together. That’s what makes rugby so great.
“It’s not all about the playing, it’s about camaraderie and learning the key values that rugby teaches. It’s great to be able to get out and see the kids play again.”
“I mainly started playing at school but went to a lot of community camps, especially at Worcester here, and playing against a lot of the clubs around here so I think for me it’s a very familiar atmosphere, a lot of things I did growing up, so it’s good to get back involved and watch it again.”
Scrum-half Heinz was raised in New Zealand and rugby was an incredibly important part of his life growing up.
He said: “I grew up in New Zealand so rugby is a huge part of growing up. I can just remember the excitement each week.
“You’d have training on a Wednesday afternoon and look forward to the selection draw coming out on a Thursday. It used to get printed in the paper so I’d wake up on a Thursday morning and be eager to see what team you’re playing at the weekend.
“Cold, frosty Saturday mornings, getting up and itching to go, and getting down there and playing alongside your friends. I lived through every minute of it. It’s some of the best memories of my life.
“It’s great to come down and see clubs from all around the area coming in and taking part in the competition. I think as professional players it’s nice to come down and see where it all begins.
“We all played at this level at some point in our rugby journeys and to see the kids with smiles on faces and out there compete, playing alongside their friends is what the game is all about.”
There was also the prize of attending next year’s Gallagher Premiership season finale at Twickenham Stadium at stake, with the winning team from the U11s decided by nominations based on their sportsmanship and dedication to rugby’s core values.
It was Bredon Star who were chosen and will head to south west London next spring.
Bredon Star player Kobi Thomas, the ten-year-old son of Warriors Head Coach Jonathan Thomas, said: “I was very excited about today, because I love rugby. I love watching professional clubs play.
“I want to play when I’m older. My favourite player is Ian Madigan.”
Kobi’s father is also part of Bredon Star Under-11s’ coaching team.
Meanwhile, it was Chipping Norton that were successful in the U12 category.
Chipping Norton star Joe Williams, 11, said: “I love rugby as it’s a team game. I want to be a player when I’m older, like Shane Williams or Cheslin Kolbe.”
Land Rover has been supporting grassroots rugby in the UK for nearly two decades, through the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. Follow the latest Land Rover rugby activity on Twitter