It’s been over a week now since the Rugby Union World Cup final, where New Zealand became the first team to retain the Web Ellis trophy. The tournament will live long in the memory of Rugby Union fans the world over for its wonderful matches and magical moments, including Bryan Habana equalling the World Cup try scoring record, Argentina reaching the Semi-Finals and perhaps one of the biggest upsets in sporting history with Japan’s victory over South Africa.
Unfortunately for England, there was little to cheer on the field; however off it was a different story with over 2.4 million tickets sold and commercial reunions up 50% from the previous tournament. Sky Sports News HQ is reporting that the country’s economy has benefitted to the tune of £1 billion through hosting the tournament and the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the body that runs the sport in this country, is set to make a profit of £15 million.
It is no secret that Rugby Union is not the most popular sport in the country. Average attendances at Aviva Premiership matches are not as high as that seen in football’s Barclays Premier League. In addition the annual Active People Survey from Sport England shows that participation in Rugby Union is well below that of Swimming, Football and Running. However, in spite of these figures it cannot be ignored that the successes of the World Cup show that there is an interest in the sport in the UK. The question now is how can the RFU capitalise on this success to maintain this interest and generate a legacy from the tournament.
One such way is through the RFU’s All Schools programme which plans to increase the number of secondary state schools playing Rugby Union and to encourage new players to join local clubs. Established in 2012 and run in partnership with the Rugby Football Federation, the programme has seen Rugby Union being introduced into 400 state secondary schools and the aim is to increase this number to 750 by 2019. A recent report on the BBC website highlighted the success of this programme at Loreto High School in Greater Manchester, where the school has gone from many of their pupils having never touched a rugby ball to now fielding a boys’ Rugby Union team at every age level.
Hopefully the success seen at Loreto can be repeated all over the country and the All Schools programme will be credited with helping to generate the legacy the RFU hopes for from the World Cup. Legacy and the effect of it though is not something that can be measured easily and certainly not so close to the end of a tournament, so this will have to assessed and re-visited over the years to come. One test though will be England’s performance in four years’ time at the next World Cup in Japan and wouldn’t it be nice if some of the England team in that tournament started playing Rugby through the All Schools programme?
If you are interested in finding out more about your local Rugby Union clubs, we at Dancing Giraffe have set up a sports section on the site to publicise local sports clubs/venues and their facilities for disabled people. Both Colchester RFC and Southend RFC have agreed to be part of this. To find out more, view our page on Rugby Union clubs in Essex.
Written by Daniel Worth