Rugby Stars in Training

Rugby at Eversfield is riding high. This year we have not one, but two teams through to the national schools’ finals due to take place at Epsom College in the spring. These achievements are testament to the continuing passion and commitment shown at every level by Mr Sliney and his colleagues in the Games Department, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where the children’s rugby journey starts, down in Form 1. As they say, from little acorns, great rugby playing oak trees grow…

I never played rugby as a child, and the sport still seems incomprehensible to me, not least what is happening underneath a scrum! These days, tag rugby is used to help children right up to Form 3 learn the basic skills of the game without the complications of scrums or tackling.

When I went out to the playing field last week, Mr Sliney was demonstrating the basic of passing the ball, and had recruited Mr Leonard to help him. One thing I do know about playing rugby is that you are only allowed to pass the ball backwards, so Mr Sliney quickly organised the children into twos to work on that skill. To replicate the idea of running into opposition territory on the rugby field, both children had to face the same direction, as you can see the teachers doing in the photograph, only turning the upper part of their body when throwing and catching the ball. Mr Sliney was keen to ensure that the ball was propelled at the correct trajectory, so he insisted that fingers should be outstretched and pointing at their partner. These hands, Mr Leonard added helpfully, should be like Harry Potter magic hands.

Watching the children in action, I could tell that they quickly mastered the finger action, and I was impressed at how good they were at estimating the distance apart they should stand. Remembering not to face each other was much harder for them to understand, and both Mr Sliney and Mr Leonard moved amongst the pairs working on this until the throwing and catching was more accurate.

Later, Mr Sliney led the group in a game of Angles versus Saxons. Proud Angle Mr Sliney knows just how to ignite the competitive instincts of young rugby players. Referring to each half of the pitch as either Angleland or Saxonland, he encouraged the children to grasp the importance of defending their territory, whilst at the same time trying to make incursions into that of the opposition. As Mamoun and Melody explained, “The Angles were trying to get into Saxonland to get the golden rugby ball. Guards were trying to tackle them and get the tag.” Once a tag had been captured, they added, players had to return to their own land. Sarah pointed out that, if you don’t have the ball in your hand, you can’t be tagged.

In a cunning ploy to distract the children from the muddy slipperiness of the rugby balls, Mr Sliney rebranded them as golden eggs that needed to be stolen from the opposition. This idea appealed to Liora and Amy, whilst Asher reported afterwards that Saxons secured five eggs against the Angles’ vast total of fifteen.

The children were proud of the skills they demonstrated during the game. Julian felt that his quick thinking had enabled him to release the ball to his team mates in the nick of time, just before he was reached by a guard, thus earning him an assisted try. They will be moving on to different sports next term, but can look forward to developing their skills further when they play rugby again in Form 2.