Hundreds of people got the chance to celebrate rugby at the two headline events of the first weekend of the Festival of Rugby 2015.
England Women’s Rugby World Cup winners Marlie Packer and Tamara Taylor were on hand to lend their support – Packer returning to her first club for Yeovil RFC’s inaugural 7s tournament and Taylor heading to Millom RUFC in Cumbria for a Social 7s event.
Any event that has a link to the game or a rugby theme can become part of the Festival of Rugby 2015. Developed in partnership between England Rugby 2015 and the RFU, the Festival is being hosted across the UK between June 10 and October 31, 2015.
RFU Rugby Development Director Steve Grainger said: “We have been delighted with the impact the Festival of Rugby is making already, and it was great to hear of so many people coming out over the weekend to meet Marlie and Tamara in Yeovil and Millom, as well as enjoying everything that rugby has to offer.
“The interest and excitement that is building around Festival of Rugby 2015 has been terrific, the variety and geographical spread of the over 420 events submissions we’ve received really reflects the inclusiveness of our sport. We are set to engage with over 300,000 people across the country between now and the end of the Festival on October 31, and want to encourage everyone to get involved in celebrating the biggest year in rugby history.”
England Rugby 2015 Managing Director Steve Brown said: “The events this weekend launched the Festival of Rugby 2015 and are just two of many taking place from now right up until October 31. From the World Wheelchair Rugby Community Day at the Copper Box Arena in The Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to the TAKEPART Festival in Brighton this Saturday which includes more than 70 different types of sports and activities, there’s something for everyone. Whether spectating, participating or hosting events, we want to see communities coming together in celebration for what we hope will be rugby’s greatest year.”
Fifteen teams competed at Yeovil, with an ’80s theme adding to the fun on the day, and there was plenty of support from the local community. Packer, who helped England Women lift the Women’s World Cup in Paris last September, was especially delighted to be returning to the club where she began her rugby journey.
“I love coming back to the club, this is where my roots are and I have really fond memories of my times here,” she said. “This is a massive year for our sport and especially for English rugby, and we want everyone to get involved in celebrating our sport and supporting England. It’s just the first week of Festival of Rugby events but it’s great to see so many events already registered, it’s a massive opportunity for clubs and local communities to sign up and join in the festivities.”
Alice Edmonds, event organiser, said: “It’s great to be one of the first Festival of Rugby events and to play our part in kicking off the celebrations of the biggest year of rugby. It’s the first year we’re running this tournament and we are hoping to make it biggest and better in the years to come.”
Over at Millom RUFC, a Social 7s event featuring men’s and women’s teams from as far afield as Edinburgh and Northwich was combined with a beer festival and drew in large crowds to the picturesque seaside club on the edge of the Lake District National Park. The event was also combined with a grand opening for the club’s refurbished clubhouse, which was part-funded by a £10,000 Social Spaces Grant from the RFU.
England Women’s ace Taylor made the journey across from her base in County Durham to be there and said: “There is a nice community atmosphere here and it’s good to see so many supporters and especially so many kids. It’s great that they have got involved in the Festival of Rugby and there are clubs across the country embracing it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Beer Festival, a Food Festival or a rugby tournament; there is something for everyone in what is rugby’s biggest year.”
Bill Dowbiggin, Millom RUFC’s Facilities Manager, who helped organise the event, added: “We registered for the Festival of Rugby as soon as we found out about it. When we got a phone call to say we would be one of the featured events we were really pleased, and we were ecstatic when we were told Tamara Taylor would be coming across. We’d never had a current England international visit the club before so it was very special.”