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City Academy students play at Twickenham ahead of England rugby international

Eleven students from City Academy Norwich enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience on Sunday 26 February, as they played in a showcase 5-a-side touch rugby game at Twickenham ahead of England’s RBS 6 Nations fixture against Italy.

The Year 8 and Year 9 boys also formed part of the guard of honour that welcomed the international players on to the pitch before kick-off, where they remained during the national anthems, in front of 80,000 spectators and millions more watching at home.  

This unforgettable experience for the students was made possible thanks to the CBRE All Schools programme.  City Academy Norwich was selected for Sunday’s pre-match showcase, from hundreds of schools across the country, in recognition of all that the academy has done to develop rugby for its students.

The CBRE All Schools programme has brought a 3-year investment of £10,000 in a full-sized rugby pitch, new kit and equipment to City Academy Norwich, which has ignited students’ enthusiasm for the sport. 

Two years ago the academy didn’t have a rugby team, but now there are 5 school teams - 4 boys’ teams and a Year 8 girls’ team - with over 75 students regularly taking part in matches against other schools.

Some of the students have also started playing rugby outside school, with five currently training with, and playing matches for, the local Crusaders rugby club.   

Year 9 student Jake Roper, who is 13, was amongst those lucky enough to play on the pitch at Twickenham on Sunday.  Jake said: “The best bit was playing at Twickenham”, adding that he did not feel overawed by the experience, and that “I just tried to think of it as another match.”  He continued, “The overall experience was really good. The guard of honour was actually quite nerve-wracking because of how many people were there watching, but it was great to get a close up view of all of the players.”

Alfie Murdoch, 13, who is in Year 8, commented: “It was amazing that we had this opportunity out of loads of schools.  It was once in a lifetime.”

Crispian Ford, 12, who is also in Year 8, added: “It was unbelievable that we got chosen to have that opportunity.  My favourite parts were watching the game and being on the pitch in front of 80,000 people as part of the guard of honour.  Getting to play at Twickenham was amazing.”

City Academy Norwich’s Director of Sport, Neil Moggan, was delighted with a memorable day for all of the students who took part.  “The boys had an awesome time”, he said. 

Reflecting on the support of the CBRE All Schools programme to develop rugby at City Academy Norwich, Mr Moggan said, “It’s just been a brilliant programme.  The support has been really fantastic and made a significant impact on what we can do. I can’t thank the RFU enough.”

The benefits of students participating in rugby have extended beyond the pitch and into the classroom.  Mr Moggan continues:

“We’ve seen students really grow, in terms of their confidence, through rugby.  They have become more mature, taken on leadership roles across the school.  It’s been a really powerful force for good and helped develop the students’ character.  We put a big emphasis on the rugby core values of respect, teamwork, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, and that’s really starting to come through across the whole school.”

The CBRE All Schools programme, launched in 2012 by the Rugby Football Union, has now established rugby in an additional 500 state secondary schools, impacting some 450,000 pupils’ lives by making school life happier and healthier, reducing anti-social behaviour, enhancing learning and increasing students’ confidence and self-esteem.

The programme plans to take rugby to 750 schools by 2019 as part of the RFU’s Rugby World Cup 2015 legacy. Rugby participation has increased as the programme progresses. More than 175,000 students took part last season – up 35 per cent on 2014-15 – with 28,000 playing regularly in extra-curricular activity, a third more than last season. There were some 9,000 competitive games of any format played, an increase of more than 6,000 on the previous season (2,615 in 2014-15).

Sheffield Hallam University research has shown that 70 per cent of young people taking part in CBRE All Schools are more confident as a result (65 per cent in 2014-15).  Confidence has also built with another 2,800 students trained as ICAP Young Leaders joining the 1,600 who qualified last season.

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Pictures courtesy of the Rugby Football Union.