For players, International Rugby Board Age Grade tournaments are about what happens on the field, about their future, their career, their experiences. For the IRB it is as much a pathway as an educational opportunity not to be wasted.
Players are not only exposed to a higher standard of rugby than they may be used to, but also go through the Keep Rugby Clean Outreach Programme and have to participate in Legacy activities, some of which will become everlasting memories.
These Legacy activities have been part and parcel of tournaments for over a decade and one of the many goals is to leave something behind for the host country or city to build on.
At the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2011 in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the Legacy programme has been varied; from a beach rugby event in a purpose built sand pitch outside the Tbilisi Sports Palace to a visit to a juvenile detention centre where a rugby programme is gaining momentum.
This year’s JWRT Legacy programme has had a deep impact in the local rugby scene, according to former international and Georgian Rugby Union Rugby Development Manager, Nodar Andguladze. “It has been an incredible way to ensure rugby will leave a lasting impression on both our younger generations, players and coaches.”
The programme also included coaching workshops by representatives from the eight participating teams with each country given an area which they made presentations on at the Shevardeni Stadium.
- Attacking space, evasion skills, footwork – presented by Japan and Samoa
- Tackle skills, different types of tackle – presented by Georgia and Russia
- Breakdown, ruck of players, tackler/supporting first, second and third player role – by Canada and Uruguay
- Decision making, 2 v 1, 3 v 2, 4 v 3, running lines and angles – by Zimbabwe and USA
“We had more than 35 local coaches in attendance in both clinics and they were all very impressed with the lessons taught,” said Andguladze.
The Beach Rugby element saw players from the eight nations playing with young local kids with Andguladze revealing “they loved it; our kids and the visiting players. This was an important way to raise awareness with the local public.”
One of the projects that is dearest to the former Test centre cum wing is that at the Avchala Juvenile Colony, where children from 14 to 18 years old are detained, mostly for petty crime. Rugby has been brought to them in a joint-venture between the GRU, the local Probation Ministry and Unicef.
“We started with the programme in April in which we give the kids a physical activity and through rugby teach them values in rugby and for life. Messages such as healthy lifestyle, personal hygiene or our published codes of conduct are an integral part of what we give them. They train twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) and we already know it has been successful,” explained Andguladze.
Of the 160 kids detained from all over Georgia, 45 of them are now rugby players.
"Using rugby as an inspiration"
“The whole concept behind this project is to help kids reintegrate into society once they leave the Colony. When they finish their time, rather than going back to criminal life we want our local clubs to take them in.”
The first player will join Rustavi RC in August and will be followed in December but two more, who will join Kutaisi RC.
Representatives from Georgia, Zimbabwe, Japan and Canada attended this Legacy activity, along with Georgia national team coach Richie Dixon and Tournament Medical Officer and Lelos Doctor Peter Grimes who were accompanied by Project Coordinator Andguladze.
“We want to continue to establish rugby strongly in the juvenile detention centre. We want to make success story out of it; to get this guys out of criminal life. Use rugby as an inspiration,” admitted Andguladze.
The tournament itself draws to a climax on Sunday, but the memories will last long.
“The real Legacy will be rugby awareness in Georgia. Many more kids will join the game and this tournament will have inspired them, seeing they can represent their nation at a younger age. My son Luka (13) plays for the Chokosnebi Rugby Club; he and his team now know they have something to aspire to.”