IRB sends 1,000 rugby balls to Africa

(IRB.COM) Wednesday 5 August 2009
 IRB sends 1,000 rugby balls to Africa
IRB Regional Development Manager Jean-Luc Barthes presented the Ghana Rugby Union with much needed balls at the recent tournament in Lomé

The International Rugby Board, in co-operation with the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR), is distributing 1,000 rugby balls to its Member Unions across the continent.
The world's governing body has 23 Full or Associate Member Unions in Africa, all of which will receive much-needed balls to help spread the sport in their countries.
"You can play rugby without boots, jerseys or posts, but you need that rugby ball," said Michael Collinson, Chairman of the Swaziland Rugby Union, one of those set to benefit.
"One thousand rugby balls will mean 250 more schools playing rugby, that's maybe 20,000 youngsters.
"Here in Africa we're at the front line of rugby, everything here is new, we're introducing rugby to youngsters in the rural areas who have never heard of the game, never seen the ball, often families will not have a television, mostly they won't have access to a paper, they may have a radio, so this is the first time that these children see a ball."

The initiative offers further proof of the IRB's desire to reach out to under-developed rugby markets and develop the global game.

"Africa is a vast continent and in some of the countries rugby has a rich history but in many more it is still a young sport just starting out in its development," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"We will do whatever we can to help our member unions, and directly support the fine work that CAR does in growing the game's playing numbers and popularity through competition and promotion."

SKRUM: Against all odds in Swaziland

Collinson's own grasp of the facts and figures comes as a direct result of an alternative approach he has taken to introducing rugby to the children of Swaziland in Southern Africa.

The country is facing up to the highest rate of HIV-AIDS in the world - 42 percent of the population is infected with the virus - so he has set up a charity, SKRUM, which runs alongside the Rugby Union educating the country's youth in AIDS awareness, gender violence and other social issues, while engaging them with rugby.

"Rugby being the game it is, and played in the spirit that it's played in, we're using it to get into schools, and once we're in the schools we're trying, and succeeding in introducing these issues and programmes that affect not just Swaziland but many countries in Africa. At the same time, the children learn this marvellous sport.
"So far, in 17 months we've introduced rugby and the SKRUM (Swaziland Kids Rugby Mission) programme into 263 schools, we've reached 20,000 young Swazis here who had never heard of rugby, mostly in the rural areas.
"It's amazing, everybody seems to want this game, so those 1,000 balls will be a huge boost for rugby across Africa."

Listen to Michael Collinson on this week's Total Rugby Radio show, from Thursday 6 August, or click HERE to find out more about SKRUM.