Girls growing up near Twickenham Stadium have been given the chance to try rugby, many for the first time, thanks to Premiership Rugby’s award-winning Project Rugby community programme which is igniting a passion for the sport ahead of England hosting the Women’s Rugby World Cup next year.  

Pupils at Brentford School for Girls were given the chance to experience the sport when their local Premiership club, Harlequins, came in to deliver a six-week Project Rugby programme with transformative results.

Among those to take part was 11-year-old Ariella, who said: “It has been really good because anything that I was unsure of when I first played, I now understand how to do it better. It reminds me how much fun rugby is as a sport.

“We started by doing different techniques which was good because it meant even those who hadn’t ever played rugby before got a chance to understand the basics before we went into actual match play. I had never played with this much support.”

Girls of all ages at the school participated across a half-term, opening up the opportunity for those who have never played the game before as well as those, like Ariella, who were looking to develop their existing skills to reap the benefits of playing the sport.

Premiership Rugby deliver the Project Rugby programme in conjunction with title partner Gallagher and the RFU to schools with the aim to increase participation in rugby by traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women and girls, people with a disability or from ethnically diverse or low socio-economic backgrounds.

With a specific focus on engaging participants no matter their background or ability. sessions introduce rugby to novices at easily accessible, familiar locations within local communities. Sessions are run by coaches and volunteers from Premiership Rugby Clubs and Club Foundations spread across the nation.

Project Rugby at Brentford Girls School focused on touch rugby to ensure it opened up the sport to as many potential players as possible.

Sheree Cooper, Schools programme Coordinator at Harlequins, said: “We try to make sure that the lessons are for everyone. A lot of people think about rugby as a contact sport, but we make sure our lessons are predominantly touch-focused.

“With these groups of girls, we did do a little bit of contact work on crash pads so they got a bit of exposure to contact being safe and to give them that confidence that it’s not about somebody wanting to hurt them.”

“In an all-girls school, rugby may not have been a normal sport they would have done so it is good to come in and give them the exposure to something different.

“Not every school has rugby as part of their core syllabus, so to be able to give expertise and support to teachers is vital.

"Without the programme, those opportunities wouldn’t happen because there just isn’t enough time or funding. Project Rugby is vital to get more people to try the game, and if they want to transition to a school team or a rugby club then even better, but at least everyone has had the opportunity to give it a try.”

Since its inception in 2017, over 100,000 young people have participated in Project Rugby sessions held at over 200 different locations across England.

“The sport is growing but it also grows people as individuals," Cooper added.

"We have the World Cup next year so getting rugby into more schools, especially girls’ schools but all schools, to give them that exposure is so important.”

Simon Waine, Regional Managing Director of London and the Southeast at Gallagher, said: “We’re delighted that Project Rugby is having such a positive impact on the lives of young girls.

"It is brilliant to hear stories like Ariella’s and to see that the initiative is helping to create more diversity in the sport. Gallagher is very proud to support Project Rugby as it is helping to make a real difference in communities and schools.”