Last season, alongside the launch of BUCS Super Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) further strengthened its commitment to supporting and growing the game within the higher education sector by investing and supporting universities through the RFU University Partnerships programme.
Partnering with 14 universities across the country, the RFU pledged to invest £220,000 to help those instituitions provide students with more quality playing opportunities and grow the number of players continuing their rugby journey into community clubs following their graduation.
Now in the second year of a three-year agreement, there has already been a number of successes including the creation of 25 new 15-a-side university rugby teams and over 30 links with local community rugby clubs either formalised or strengthened.
Mark Saltmarsh, RFU Head of Education Development, said: “Our university partners have made a strong start in year one and, alongside the first year of BUCS Super Rugby, 2016-17 was a further step-up for our work to support the game in universities. But I know there is more to come. The planning that has been put in over the last few months on all fronts by everyone involved has been huge and reflected all that has been learned from year one of this agreement and BUCS Super Rugby.”
Mark added: “This is enabling us to go the extra mile to provide rugby opportunities that will encourage and help more students of all levels and motivations start and stay in the game for longer. It’s an exciting time for rugby union in the sector.”
In addition, the university partnership has also educated hundreds of student players on anti-doping and concussion and two student referee programmes have been developed to build suitability in intra mural programmes.
Official strategic partnerships have been signed between universities and professional clubs with two new partnerships agreed over the past year with Newcastle University and Newcastle Falcons and Loughborough University and Leicester Tigers
The closer relationship between universities and Academies is already starting to see results.There are two university partner teams in the new women’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s competition and three students from partner universities representing England U20s at various national competitions.
From a grassroots perspective, five new recreational sevens events have also been successfully delivered this year, engaging the local community and linking in with RFU’s Secure Trading 24/Sevens tournament.
As part of the RFU’s enhanced commitment to rugby within further education, the RFU has also funded a new rugby union support officer in the BUCS office, providing extra capacity to support the growth of BUCS Super Rugby and the broader BUCS rugby union programme across all levels.
Phil Attwell, Council Member and Chairman of Student Rugby Football Union, said: “The Student’s Rugby Football Union have been delighted by how the first year of BUCS Super Rugby has gone, and are excited about the coming season. There are many high-quality rugby players who want to go to university before they pursue professional contracts, and combine their rugby development with their academic studies. We are delighted that BUCS Super Rugby is a competitive programme where these players can develop and prove themselves, while at the same time setting the bar for other aspirational players.”
See a full list of university partners below:
University of Leeds
University of Essex
Bishop Burton College
Leeds Beckett University
University of Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University
University of Exeter
University of Bath
Hartpury University Centre
University of Bristol
Report courtesy of the RFU