Source: Rugby Black List

Winners of Rugby Black List Awards announced

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On 30 April, the black rugby community was celebrated at Twickenham Stadium

The Awards, attended by a host of current and former international players including the likes of Ugo Monye, Shaunagh Brown and Andy Christie, saw a total of eleven winners across eight categories, celebrating the contribution of the Black rugby community to rugby union and recognising their achievements across the game in England.

The full list of winners is:

Performance Coach, sponsored by Thompson Plexus – Joe Shaw
Joe Shaw spent 11 years in professional rugby with Sale Sharks, Northampton Saints and Newcastle Falcons, as well as playing internationally for England Sevens. Coaching was always an interest and long before his retirement Joe coached Northampton Ladies, Newcastle University and Westoe Rugby Club.
Joe joined Saracens initially as an Academy coach and moved into his role as Skills Coach for the senior men’s side in the summer of 2013. Ever since, he has played a key role in Saracens skill execution and has been integral to the club’s successful coaching team. He is now Head Coach at Saracens and setting an example to players and coaches as a role model within the coaching world.

Community Coach, sponsored by Trueline – Aaron Lowe
Throughout his coaching career, Aaron has demonstrated outstanding levels of care, empathy and understanding. Currently working with Henley College to build strong links between grassroots rugby and the pathway, Aaron has committed huge amount of time and effort to players he works with. Aaron’s work has resulted in the Henley College Girls Programme becoming a leading partner to Ealing Trailfinders and Brunel University. He also is on the RFU Coach Education workforce and represents Jamaica 7s.

Community Leader, sponsored by ONYX Talent Team Culture – Southwark Tigers RFC
Southwark Tigers rugby club has established itself as a key community asset over its 25 year history, striving to provide the young people of inner-London with an opportunity to receive the same access to community sport that many in rural areas take for granted. Despite barriers to access and facilities that clubs in London have, every Sunday over 150 boys & girls come down to pitches in Burgess Park to play a sport that none of them would have the opportunity to play had Southwark Tigers not existed.

Since 2018 Southwark Tigers have proactively been working with local secondary schools to provide them with weekly professional rugby coaching.

Future Leader, sponsored by UK Flooring Direct – Ulundi Makhanya
Ulundi is Director of Commercial Partnerships at Northampton Saints. Brought up in the UK, to South African parents, he attended Dulwich College after playing throughout his school and university career and had a stint at Exeter Chiefs.

His career began at the RPA with a communications role, before working with British Triathlon for the best part of ten years in the commercial team. Ulundi began working at Northampton Saints in 2018, and has risen from Head of Commercial Partnerships to Director of the department.

With support from Sporting Equals through the LeaderBoard programme, he has been vocal about the importance of Inclusion and Diversity within sport.

Rising Star, sponsored by Sporting Equals – Asher Opoku-Fordjour & Sharifa Kasolo
Opoku-Fordjour: After moving to Sale Sharks in November 2022 after Wasps’ administration, Asher’s rise has been meteoric. Just a year after joining he made his senior team debut in the Premiership Cup. He made his Premiership debut a few months later still at the age of 19.

Eye-catching performances followed against Harlequins, Leinster and Saracens with Joe Marler co-signing his credentials as a future star. A mainstay in the England U20s team, he was a huge part of the 2024 Six Nations winning team and there are big things to come.

Kasolo: Sharifa was a late starter to rugby compared to many playing for the first time when studying at Loughborough University. Sharifa joined Saracens at the start of the 2022/23 season and has made her presence keenly felt with a series of barnstorming performances which resulted in her being named as the club’s Players’ Player of the Season.

Performance Player: Premiership Rugby, sponsored by Connor NFP – Immanuel Feyi-Waboso
At 18 years old, Immanuel made his first team debut for Cardiff Blues against the Ospreys. With time at Wasps and now Exeter in the Premiership, he now balances a professional rugby career with a medical degree.

Immanuel was capped in the 2024 Six Nations for England and scored his first international try in his third appearance in the game against Scotland this February.

Performance Player: PWR, sponsored by EBC – Babalwa Latsha
Babalwa made history when she became the first African women’s rugby player to turn professional in January 2020. Born in Cape Town, Babalwa started playing rugby out of curiosity and fell in love with the game.

Babalwa has made an impact in the front row for Harlequins and holds values very important to the Rugby Black List; she is passionate about inspiring the next generation of women’s rugby players, investing her time in community projects, coaching and mentoring.

Life in Sport, sponsored by Rebel Kitchen – Martin Offiah, Debbie Innes-Turnhill & Ralph Knibbs
Offiah: A true legend of the game across both codes of rugby. Martin’s rugby union playing career spanned the amateur and professional eras and was booked ended an outstanding professional rugby league career. He played across the three decades of 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Innes-Turnill: Debbie Innes-Turnill became a rugby referee in 1991. She was a referee for 26 years, officiating both men’s and women’s rugby. Representing her country at three women’s World Cups and becoming the first woman on England Rugby’s National Panel as an assistant referee.

Knibbs: A trailblazer as a black rugby player for Bristol, Knibbs helped carve the pathway for all future players of colour to play in the South West. Ralph’s involvement in setting up the Rugby Black List, volunteering on the RFU Council Inclusion & Diversity Working Group and most recently, working with the charity star scheme, show how passionate he is about inclusion and opportunities within rugby.

The awards charity partner was ACLT, raising awareness about stem cell, blood, and organ donation, registering potential donors from all ethnicities, highlighting the extreme shortages of potential African and Caribbean donors, and providing support and advice to patients and families. In partnership with Old Redcliffian rugby club’s Try for Ellis campaign they were taking swabs from potential donors at the awards. @acltcharity.

Rugby Black List is positioned to help shine a light on Black professionals and volunteers working, playing and participating in rugby union. The group includes decision makers from the community game, leaders within talent pathways, volunteers and elite game representatives.

To find out more, visit

With thanks to New Reach PR

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