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With Round 1 of the Six Nations kicking off with Wales V England on 6th February, now is the perfect time to look at rugby union in schools. As of 2010, 66% of primary and secondary schools were providing rugby union sports provision.

Besides enjoyment and fitness, rugby union can develop a wide range of skills and values such as working in a team, determination, respect and sportsmanship. In the DfE publication, Evidence on Physical Education and Sport in Schools, (June 2013) results were drawn from Quick et al.’s 2010 survey on sport participation in schools.

The DfE document also lists sports participated in by certain age groups. It revealed that 2.4% of 5-10 year-olds participated in rugby, with 22.7% of 11-15 year-olds also participating in the sport. Besides this, it is apparent that there has been a degree of a gender divide in the offering of rugby union.

‘Sports that were the most likely to be offered only to boys were softball, baseball and rugby union’. According to the results of the survey referenced in the DfE publication, in secondary schools 85% was provided to boys and 70% provided to girls.

However, it is evident that women’s rugby is growing in popularity. As identified by England Rugby, more than 18,000 women and girls play rugby regularly in England. This is partially attributed to events such as ‘the success of the England team at the 2014 World Cup’ (BBC).  Rugby Union is an inclusive sport that can incorporate all ages and abilities due to the numerous variations of the game.

Premiership Rugby launched an initiative last year to promote the game:

‘As part of this new programme Premiership Rugby is committing to recruit and train 480 female teachers and volunteers to support the growth of girls’ rugby while providing 7,200 secondary school girls with rugby in appealing formats – Touch (non-contact) and 7s – in and out of school’.

Touch rugby provides a safe game suitable for all abilities and younger ages, where you touch a player instead of tackling them. This serves to increase participation as it can be played by either or both genders. This therefore provides a perfect introduction to the game, enabling a positive experience of rugby from an early age.

Rugby 7s has also been chosen to be included in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, which will hopefully provide a legacy and uptake for more pupils to participate.

England second row Tamara Taylor, ‘Winning the World Cup was a huge achievement. I believe it has presented the game with a golden opportunity to introduce rugby to a new generation of women and girls.’

Having positive role models is a key element in increasing participation of girls in rugby union, encouraging aspiring youngsters to take up the sport.

Ensuring pupils receive a good experience of sport encourages their physical literacy and encourages the participation in physical activity later in life.

Does your school offer rugby union? How do you encourage participation? Let us know in the comments below!