Northumbria University has been identified as a key player in the development of Rugby Union in England after the Rugby Football Union revealed plans for an exciting new partnership.
The RFU has announced it will work with 15 universities across the country, pledging to invest £220,000 into further strengthening the governing body’s commitment to supporting and growing the game within the higher education sector.
The carefully selected universities will plan and deliver a rugby participation programme which incorporates the student rugby club and provide activity for players in all formats of men’s and women’s rugby.
Since 2015, the RFU has worked in a close partnership with the Students RFU (SRFU) and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) to develop and deliver university partnerships, inviting universities across the country to apply for a partnership. The RFU carried out one-to-one interviews with universities in order to select the final 15 to be offered the three-year deal.
Mark Saltmarsh, Head of Education and Development at the RFU, said: “The 15 selected partner institutions will be leading examples of universities who will provide a high level of commitment and a quality standard of rugby that will help enhance the experience for players of all abilities. Their commitment to this concept has been excellent and we can’t wait to get started with them.
“Our aim is that the new partnerships provide fantastic playing opportunities for students of all levels and abilities and further grow the game in the sector and the numbers of players continuing to play in rugby clubs when they leave.”
The 15 institutions will have a set of annual KPIs set against five possible areas:
Partnership delivery –ways of working together and general rules of engagement
Participation development – growing and maintaining participation levels in their rugby union programme
Men’s 15-a-side rugby aligned to a competition model for those participating teams
Sevens – both at a performance and recreational level linked to the England pathway
Women’s rugby – hubs providing support for players in the 15-a-side and Sevens programme
The additional funding support from the RFU will assist in further developing player, coach and facility standards across the universities for the men’s 15-a-side teams. It will ensure a higher quality offer for a greater number of men’s teams in the institution as well as provide additional support to those participating in the new BUCS national league.
The England Women’s rugby programme has identified the university sector as a key potential source of support for its elite and emerging elite players. Working across six hub sites, the partnership will drive improvements in the women’s elite game through focussed support for talented players.
There will be four sevens hubs created with two further institutions delivering recreational sevens. The university sector has been highlighted in the RFU Strategy for Sevens as a significant contributor to the growth of sevens in terms of the engagement of more university students on a recreational basis as well as the identification, development and support of talented players within the England Sevens pathway.
Vince Mayne, BUCS CEO, said: “By investing in university rugby with this programme, the RFU has once again demonstrated their commitment to the future of the sport in this country and the pursuit of excellence. BUCS looks forward to working with the RFU to enhance student rugby, providing opportunities for athletes to forge a dual career on and off the pitch.”
Through strengthening existing teams and growing new links with community clubs and other rugby-playing institutions, the RFU partnership will provide additional playing opportunities and outlets for students to play the sport, creating over 30 new teams across the universities in the first year.
The partnership will also be able to track and record students involved in all rugby-related activities to enable the RFU to place rugby-playing leavers in community rugby clubs, ensuring players are integrated into the community clubs following their studies.
University of Leeds
University of Essex
Bishop Burton College
Leeds Beckett University
University of Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University
University of Exeter
University of Bath
University of Bristol