GRFU message on the return of Age Grade Rugby

Further to the recent GRFU statement, we wanted to write to everyone as rugby is progressing through the RFU roadmap, in line with the Government guidance and roadmap. Of course it is great we can start having our young people outside, moving, socialising and playing the game we love. 

However, we are conscious it has been a considerable amount of time since they would have last done contact, let along played a game of rugby. We would urge coaches, administrators, clubs, schools and colleges to think about how they are programming their age groups as we navigate through the next few months.

Seriously consider if what we are planning is what the players want or what we think they need. Think about the activities - are they Active, Purposeful, Enjoyable and Safe?

There are a number of reasons we would suggest caution against straight back into full contact and matches: 

Players have not trained properly and lost movement skills, conditioning and the muscle memory of those contact skills. They would have also grown as part of their development and might not be as coordinated as before - increasing injury chances.

As the weather turns, the grounds are considerably harder - that increases injury risk and put players out for longer. 

We see little reason to arrange games before the end of this season due to the impact it may have. Arranging the first game back and the team loses disastrously and/or there are injuries to players. What are those players thinking in their first rugby action for months? Enjoyable or rather do something else? Will this positively or negatively impact upon our recruitment and retention of players 

The mental strain of not playing sport for a period of time, not seeing their friends, potentially being isolated and not forgetting they may have lost family members and friends. 

We cannot forget that COVID is still out there. Whilst it is becoming less prevalent in the community, it hasn’t disappeared. Therefore, there will be some anxious players and parents about going straight back into training. How can we get players back involved that they feel comfortable in doing so? 

Some of the older age groups will be under increasing pressure from schools to work hard to plug gaps in learning and complete assessments to get their grades - this will undoubtedly have an impact on mental well-being. 

With this in mind, we don’t want to scare people off but we want people to think about one of our main values in rugby - enjoyment. Our main aim at GRFU is to have more players playing and for the short term loss of playing a few games, let’s think of the long term gain of having lifelong participants.

Any questions or issues, please feel free to get in touch with one of us.

Kind Regards,

Connor Thompson, AgeGrade@GRFU.org

Mark Nicholson, Schools@GRFU.org