Ex-international wing Lee Jones is encouraging the nation to get behind a new Scottish Rugby initiative called ‘Everyone’s Game’ as grassroots clubs prepare to welcome the community back for the first time since the pandemic.

The project, which is supported by The National Lottery, aims to help clubs and societies open their doors to their local community, and increase participation across the board.

This is for all roles within the game, whether playing, coaching, refereeing, or volunteering, and promote rugby’s health and wellbeing benefits.

Speaking at the Leicester Tigers’ training ground, which is also the home ground of amateur club Oadby Wiggestonian, Jones highlighted the work of The National Lottery and Scottish Rugby, believing it is hugely important for grassroots players to get back on the pitch after so long away.

“You get so many social benefits, as well as the physical, from playing grassroots rugby, that is why it needs supporting,” said Jones, speaking as research revealed 86% of players and volunteers feel being part of a community rugby club has a positive impact on their mental health and 36% of the rugby community say changing room chats post-match are their favourite part of the club experience. 

“I think you join a rugby community, whatever level you play at, and that is something that lasts for life, but it is grown from the grassroots.

“There are all different levels of rugby that people can play at, everyone can get involved. You can also still have a goal to work towards, whether it be winning on the field or feeding the players their tea after the match.

“I grew up playing for my local rugby club, Selkirk RFC, I think I was about eight years old I first went down.

“A lot of people from the town were involved, not just players, but volunteers and referees. They are vital to any grassroots club and ‘Everyone’s Game’ highlights how important they are.

“When you’re that age you just love running around and chasing the ball, it’s not even so much about the rugby itself, just getting out and being part of a team. Having fun with your friends is one of the biggest strengths of community rugby.”

Many clubs and players had to press pause on their rugby lives back in March 2020 when lockdown struck.

The campaign aims to ensure that all ages and abilities are welcome and encourages clubs across the country to open their doors to their local community.

With clubs having done so much to guide their communities through the pandemic, ‘Everyone’s Game’ gives the opportunity for players, coaches, volunteers, and officials to show support in return.

Ealing Times: Jones was speaking at Leicester Tigers’ training ground, which is also the home ground of amateur club Oadby WiggestonianJones was speaking at Leicester Tigers’ training ground, which is also the home ground of amateur club Oadby Wiggestonian

In a study commissioned by the England, Wales, and Scotland Rugby Unions with the National Lottery; research showed that for 75% of players revealed no club rugby had a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, while over half (58%) stated that what they missed the most was the team chats and camaraderie, and a further 38% said that they missed having rugby as an outlet for day-to-day stresses, exacerbated by the pandemic.

Jones added: “It (the campaign) will be really helpful for younger grassroots players as well. As a kid when you’re that age you turn up at a session wanting to tackle and always ask the coaches.

“It is a big part of the game, and great to see it coming back.

“Grassroots supports the whole nation’s game. If you’ve not got guys coming through at grassroots, you won’t get many playing at that top level.

“It is fundamental to the sport across the board, especially in Scotland where I’m from, we need as many people playing as possible to be successful.

“So, the more we get down to grassroots level the better.”

Scottish Rugby want as many people as possible back to their clubs to play, watch, coach, referee, volunteer and get involved in any way they can. They can do so at: https://www.scottishrugby.org/clubs-and-schools/everyones-game/

The National Lottery is supporting Scotland's return to community rugby and Scottish Rugby's Everyone's Game initiative. For more information visit: https://bit.ly/EveryonesGame2021