Young Londoners represent Harlequins Foundation at Exercise Rugby Challenge

Designed by the British Army & Premiership Rugby, ‘Exercise Rugby Challenge’ is an intensive residential engagement initiative developed by the British Army’s Regional Command in a bid to harness the game’s ability to enhance the skills, attitudes and aspirations of young people.

During the summer holidays, Project Rugby participants were invited by Premiership Rugby to take part in the first edition of what will hopefully become an annual event. Over 20 young Londoners who’d been first introduced to the sport by the Harlequins Foundation’s Project Rugby’ coaches last season were lucky enough to attend the residential at MOD Kineton in Warwickshire.

Together with the Royal Signals, Royal Logistics Core, Royal Monmouthshire Engineers and Fusiliers at MOD Kineton, Premiership Rugby coaches from the Harlequins Foundation and Wasps Foundation teamed up to deliver a blend of military themed exercises alongside rugby training and competitions.

Throughout their time at MOD Kineton, the young people were fully integrated into military life, staying in army accommodation and taking part in field-based exercises such as orienteering and bush craft. Alongside these exercises, they were also taken through a series of intensive rugby skills sessions where both participants from both Gallagher Premiership clubs were put through their paces culminating in a mixed festival.

Harlequins Foundation Participation Manager, Matthew Williams said of the event: “It’s been amazing to see how well these young people have adapted to the challenge of being taken well outside of their comfort zone. For most of our guys, it will be the first time they’ve set foot on a working Army base, and so they’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed by it all. In fact, they’ve loved every minute, some have even asked to come back next year!”.

Corporal Louise Dodd, 25, who helped lead the sessions, was delighted to share her experiences to the group, explaining how a career in the army can go hand-in-hand with sporting success: “We want to highlight the sporting opportunities available in the army before it’s too late,” said Dodd. “There are so many opportunities for sport in the army and rugby helps with communication, teamwork and dealing with conflict. Rugby can help teach you how to deal with something that isn’t going your way, which is something you may not learn properly in other sports like football.

“Rugby teaches you to remain calm in stressful situations. It also teaches you how to get rid of your stress and anger. It can help young people develop so many important life skills.”

Tim Mathias, Premiership Rugby’s Inclusion and Accessibility Manager added; “We are very grateful to the British Army’s engagement team and MOD Kineton for hosting us. Alongside specialist rugby coaching, the young people have been given a unique insight into the Army and developed their confidence and leadership. Exercise Rugby Challenge was an application of the shared values and ethos of Premiership Rugby and the British Army, and we look forward to building on this relationship.”

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