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When rugby makes young leaders

When playing rugby makes young leaders

I was recently invited to participate in a youth leadership course run by the St Philips Centre, Leicester’s centre for Inter Faith work.

It was a Sunday lunch meeting, so for a rugby mum it was a rush from the club, swapping the wellies and waterproofs to something free from the morning’s mud.

Apologising for my late arrival – neatly placing the blame on my son’s away game that day – I found myself seated next to the Bishop of Leicester, Martyn Snow.

The Bishop (let’s call him Martyn now), chuckled. “Who does your son play for?” he asked as I settled down beside him. I initially thought he was just making small talk, but he then revealed that his 14-year-old had just started playing for a local club this season. ‘Ah, so the Bishop is a rugby dad’, I thought to myself (almost smugly), as I pulled out my pen and notepad.

Handing out worksheets on what it means to be a leader, our host, Tom, asked us to discuss how we might have witnessed some of the examples of leadership listed.

As words such as ‘strategy’, ‘self-belief’, ‘trust’, and ‘collective identity’ started to rise from the table, almost immediately, Martyn and I began to do what all regular rugby parents do…talk rugby! But in this case, we were discussing leadership traits we had seen on the rugby pitch.

“I had never seen this side of my son, until I saw him playing rugby,” said Martyn, describing how he had observed his son step into a role of a leader on pitch, coordinating players, rallying up his friends during a game.

In as much as effective leaders help to organise activities and develop strategies, we discussed how young rugby players can especially develop and harness potential leadership skills through the game.

“There are many examples of leadership in rugby – from their actions and speech, to thinking, and listening,” said my son’s coach, Greg Garner when I cornered him later in the clubhouse.

“Rugby means leading from the front,” he said. “…Whether it’s making a game-changing tackle or carrying the ball hard to beat defenders to put the team on the front foot.”

Of course, everyone in the rugby world knows that it is a sport which is value driven. Therefore, Greg reminded me, one of the first values all players are instilled with is respect–players whether they are five or fifty are taught and expected to show respect to their team mates, match officials, and opposition players. “Though a squad may play ferociously ‘on’ the pitch, the culture of rugby ensures that fair play and respect are always maintained,” he said.

These rugby values also encourage young leaders to come out of their shells to inspire, organise or direct the players around them. We see this during the pre-match talk by the Captain, organising defensive line, offering praise to team mates who have done well and supporting those who might have made a mistake.

Another trait of a good leader is being approachable. Those are the players who listen and empathise with their team mates and understand the challenges they face. Greg said: “On pitch, this might be a winger who makes the effort to go and pat his front row team mate on the back after he gets up from a tough scrum, or the front row player supporting the winger who was caught defending two attackers and being unable to stop the try being scored.”

This weekend, with leadership still on my mind, I watched Syston RFC U13’s young 12-year-old Captain putting his own strengths in leadership into action. While he may not have been taught leadership skills in the corporate sense, everyone could recognise the barely-adolescent boy listening to his coaches, planning and strategising play, and encouraging and motivating his team mates. Like rugby players all over, the young Captain has started to live leadership. 

NU Generation Rugby

World rugby record set by Battersea Ironsides RFC!


Key Facts

  • Battersea Ironsides RFC have been recognised as “Officially Amazing” by Guinness World Records for the largest rugby tour ever.
  • The massive mini-rugby tour to Minehead over the May Bank Holiday weekend was in celebration of Ironsides 75th anniversary season.
  • The tour comprised 306 Ironsides players and coaches – making up 28 Teams from Under 7 to Under 12 age groups, playing over 160 matches against teams from across England and Wales.
  • The total number of tourists was 579, made up of 236 players, 70 coaches and 273 other Ironsiders who headed down to the West Country to support them!
  • The venue was Butlins’ Resort, Minehead – where we took part in the Tigers’ Challenge Tournament hosted by ESF Events and Leicester Tigers RFC.
  • Kyle Sinckler – currently representing England at the Rugby World Cup in Japan – started playing rugby with Battersea Ironsides Minis. He is a huge inspiration to all the Ironsides players and we hope our new Guinness World Record achievement will inspire him to World Cup glory. Go Kyle!

Dave Watson, Ironsides Minis Chair, said:

 “It’s amazing to be awarded a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest rugby tour. It’s a massive achievement that all our young players can be really proud of, and it’s also a massive boost, alongside the Rugby World Cup, for what we want to achieve as a rugby club: giving everyone in our community access to this fantastic sport.”

About Battersea Ironsides RFC

  • Battersea Ironsides is (probably) the largest rugby club in the UK with approximately 1,200 playing members and over 300 coaches, managers and other volunteers.
  • We are a community-based, inclusive rugby club, focused on fun and participation for all. This includes:
  • supporting local charities, including 3 Pillars Project, which brings rugby and its values to young offenders and inner-city schools;
  • providing a safe space for children referred to us from schools and local youth charities to make friends, improve their fitness, challenge themselves and learn new skills; and providing financial support so that no one is excluded for lack of funds.
  • Our Junior Section has 6 Mini Rugby age groups from U5/U6 to U11 – offering rugby for boys and girls, 6 Boys’ Youth age groups from U12 to Colts (U17/U18), and a Girls’ youth section catering to ages U12-U15.
  • Our Senior section has 5 Men’s teams – several of which have been promoted in recent seasons to play their highest ever levels – 2 Ladies’ teams, a veteran’s team, and an U21s team.

View the record at:

Rugby mum
BeRugby Blog

Rugby mum – Picking up rugby tips

Be in the know this Rugby World Cup!

Hooray, we’re all in the throes of a very enjoyable Rugby World Cup 2019! Mornings have taken on a new feel—catching a match on TV, or sneakily following at our desks! However we navigate it, what’s happening in Japan is on everyone’s minds.

But what if, like me, you enjoy watching the game, but don’t know enough about the technical details?

Admittedly, there have been embarrassing moments when I’ve tried to sound like I know what’s going on, but failed miserably. And like many converts and fresh rugby parents, I learned to fit in and pretend I knew—I clapped when everyone else clapped, cheered when everyone else did, and mastered a convincing nod when a wannabe rugby pundit decided to share their expert opinion.

Of course, things are a different now I’ve been part of the rugby community for seven years now. And each season I’ve watched my children from the side lines, I’m possibly a bit more enlightened on ‘some’ of the details. And as with anything, rugby is definitely more enjoyable now I understand it a bit more. But coming from a background where rugby is seen as alien, there are many ways to find out. So here’s my lowdown on how I continue to learn the rules of rugby.


  1. Ask someone. We spend two hours on match day and two hours at training standing on the side lines trying to manage frizzy windswept hair and stamp out frozen toes. Those four hours a week are much more tolerable when you can actually follow a game. I’ve gradually discovered that people who I thought were die-hard rugby geeks actually didn’t know as much as they made out. So it is reassuring to know I wasn’t alone. So use your time wisely and sniff out another rugby parent, enjoy a coffee by the side lines and ask them to explain some stuff to you. You will quickly find that that real rugby buffs will be happy to talk rugby to you—or anyone else.


  1. Tune in. Find out if your local radio station has a dedicated rugby programme. The BBC Leicester Tigers Rugby Show airs at the same as our drive to mid-week training so it really sets the tone for the evening. The guests discuss the week’s rugby news, issues, fitness, along with other matters of interest. It’s an entertaining way to hear various perspectives on the different elements of rugby life without feeling you need to say something.


  1. Read up. Last Christmas my son’s coach recommended that we add The Dummies guide to Rugby Union to Santa’s list. Admittedly my lad hasn’t read the book yet, but it’s been a valuable reference guide for me to learn the ropes. There are loads of books you can buy/borrow, web links and blogs to immerse yourself in the rugby spirit. Perhaps ask a coach what they would suggest #askingforafriend.


  1. BeRugby Magazine. We all subscribed to BRM for the kids, didn’t we? But some things really have added benefits. Since the first issue I prised out of my kids’ hands, the mag has taught me loads. It delivers a world of club news, player interviews, tips and skills, in simple, no-nonsense, jargon free language. I can honestly say I’ve even managed to impress seasoned rugby fans when I’ve casually shared bits of information from the mag!


  1.   Talk with a child. I was at a Tigers match at Welford Road, conveniently sat beside a pre-teen player from my son’s club, Syston RFC. It was one of the first premiership games we had ever been to, and frankly, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Everyone was watching intently, singing and chanting. Though I could soak in the atmosphere, I wanted to know what was happening.  I nudged the boy, offering him some of my son’s sweets as I started to quiz him.  He seemed happy to explain without making me feel silly. I genuinely learned so much about the game just by sitting next to him. That lad now plays for Syston’s Colts, and he may not even remember the Tigers game where he taught me so much, but I’ll be ever-grateful. I just hope I can enjoy the World Cup matches just as much with my little players by my side.

Nima Suchak, a rugby mum

NU Generation Rugby

Our Rugby World Cup Favourite XV’s – England.

The current crop of England stars put in an improved performance today against the USA. They have bigger tests ahead and a some tougher opponents to beat in order to reach the 2019 Rugby World Cup Final, can they do it?

So far in our Favourite XV’s series we have covered current World Champions New Zealand, double World Cup winners South Africa, the Six Nations Grand Slam holders Wales. Next up is England! A mixture of past and present greats have made our favourite fifteen this month. 

So here they are, our England “Favourite XV”.

1. Jason Leonard.

“The fun bus”. Not only one of the best props in the world and one-time holder of the most caps he is also a huge character. Had a career that crossed between amateur and professional and remained at the top throughout. Holds the record for the most Rugby World Cup appearances jointly with Richie McCaw. After a stint as RFU President Leonard has recently been appointed as Chairman of the British and Irish Lions.

2. Jamie George.

Maybe a bit of a controversial pick considering past England hookers, but we feel Jamie has it all and will be (if not already) one of the best ever. Jamie is a strong scrummager and deadly accurate throwing into the line out, but it is in open play where he excels over other hookers. He has the hands of a back and an outrageous turn of speed for someone who is 113 kg meaning he can link perfectly between the forwards and the backs.

3. Fran Cotton.

Fran Cotton is an absolute giant of a man who would impose opposition scrums with his sheer size and strength. However, it was his technical skill and ability to play on both sides of the scrum that makes him a legend. He was part of the famous 1974 Lions teams who ran riot in South Africa winning 21 out of 22 games.

4. Martin Johnson

One of the most impressive captains that rugby has ever seen. Martin Johnson was a huge, powerful second row who had a rugby brain like no other. A one club man playing all his professional career at Leicester he was a true leader and pivotal in England’s Grand Slam and World Cup winning team. Not many players were as feared as England’s talismanic leader.

5. Ben Kay.

A surprisingly hard position to decide on with Shaw, Borthwick and others all in contention. Kay’s World Cup performances decided it for us. He played in every minute of every game (except vs Uruguay) of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups. Despite famously knocking the ball on over the line in the final in 2003 he dusted himself off and performed heroically helping England win in extra time.

6. Richard Hill.

Hard as nails and a workhorse in the backrow, Hill was crucial to England and Sir Clive Woodward didn’t drop him once. Despite numerous serious injuries, Hill always made a comeback and was picked at the highest level most notably for his third Lions tour in 2005 after an anterior cruciate ligament injury. By getting his head down and doing the hard stuff you often wouldn’t notice that Hill was there, but you definitely noticed it when he wasn’t.

7. Neil Back.

Not regularly picked for many years due to his “small size” Back was finally given his opportunity for England and the Lions after a tough self-imposed training regime. He never looked back. Three Lions tours and part of one of England’s greatest back rows all culminated in that famous final win in 2003. A perfect example of how size doesn’t matter in rugby.

8. Lawrence Dallaglio.

Such competition here for the number 8 position. We went with Lawrence as he was a dynamic, skilful number 8 who not only had a powerful running game but also great hands. He is one of a very small group who have won the Rugby World Cup at 7’s and 15’s! Now a pundit and analyst on TV he will be on your screens through the World Cup.

9. Matt Dawson.

The model of a perfect scrum half. Dawson was a great general ordering the pack around and could also gain territory with a clever kicking game. He was a live wire around the scrum, sniping and attacking if he spotted any gaps. His dummy in the 1998 Lions tour sent the whole Springbok pack the wrong way and led to a classic try.

10. Jonny Wilkinson.

“Sir” Jonny Wilkinson. Takes the 10 jersey for us. He was probably the first household name in English rugby recognised by those outside the sport. Mostly known for his kicking he was also a destructive tackler who hit way beyond his weight. This probably contributed to his long absences with injuries in the second half of his career. Oh, and he also slotted the winning kick in the 2003 final, as if we have to say!

11.  Jason Robinson.

“Billy Whizz” was unstoppable when he was in full flight. His footwork dazzled defenders and even his teammates were never sure which way he was going to run! Robinson played Internationally in both League and Union, but it was for England Rugby Union where he excelled. 30 tries in 56 caps for England including a try in the RWC Final 2003 is why he is our super winger!

12. Will Greenwood.

Our favourite inside centre who chose to wear 13 for superstitious reasons. Greenwood was an excellent playmaker but also a prolific try scoring centre with a strike rate of 31 tries in 55 England tests. Greenwood was unusually picked for a Lions tour before he had played for England. However, it wasn’t long before he pulled on the white jersey. England have struggled to fill the 12 position since his retirement.

13. Manu Tuilagi.

It is often said of Manu by any rugby coach “If he’s available you pick him”. Manu is one of a kind who can change a game in a moment like the great Jonah Lomu. His power and running ability can break open defences even if there are five or more players in front of him. Unfortunately, his recent career has been blighted by serious injuries but… he is now available, so we picked him!

14. Rory Underwood.

England’s greatest ever try scorer with 49 tries just can’t be left out. One of the deadliest finishers in the game, Underwood was a weapon for England and opposition teams struggled to stop him when he had the try line in sight. Excelled for the Lions as well and had one of England’s biggest fans at every game, his mum!

15. Josh Lewsey.

Another Rugby World Cup Final winner and Lion’s test player, Lewsey was England’s “rock” at the back. He was a very physical and strong fullback and he had a great talent for reading the game in front of him. His hard-tackling worried many opposition teams but he also contributed 22 tries during his international career.

Finishers: Will Carling, Mike Catt, Rob Andrew, Simon Shaw, Lewis Moody, Billy Vunipola, Jeremy Guscott.

NU Generation Rugby

Our Rugby World Cup favourite XV’s – Wales.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 is a mere 3 days away!

As we are so excited we have been picking our “favourite fifteens” of players past and present for a different country going to Japan.

So far, we have covered current World Champions New Zealand and double World Cup winners South Africa.

This time we bring you Wales! A mixture of past and present greats have made our favourite fifteen this month, remember its only our opinion but please let us know who you would pick?

1. Gethin Jenkins.

129 caps for Wales and 5 Lions caps, 3 Grand Slams, former most capped Welsh player ever and current most capped prop forward. This was an easy choice for us. Jenkins epitomised the modern-day prop by being a strong scrummager and quick around the pitch with good hands.

2. Ken Owens.

 We have gone for modern over historical for the hooker berth. Owens is rock solid for Wales at number 2 and has won Grand Slams and been on Lions tours. Wales are looking for a successful World Cup in Japan and Owens will be crucial for them.

3. Graham Price.

Price was part of a Welsh front row in the 1970’s who were feared across the world. He also holds the record of 12 Lions tests for a prop, we doubt this amazing stat will ever be beaten! A tough, hard front row who will hold up the scrum forever.

4. Alun Wyn Jones.

The current Wales captain and modern-day legend. Jones would probably walk into most people’s “World fifteen”. 9 Lions caps, 125 Wales caps and counting, three Grand Slams and he has been captain for the majority of these. A born leader and an immense lock, we can’t wait to see him at the World Cup.

5. Bob Norster

Hard to pick who would join Wyn Jones in the second row. We went for Norster as he was an athletic player who was known for his outstanding lineout skill, a perfect match. With this second row the team are guaranteed to win all the ball at this set piece.

6. Martin Williams

Williams was a mercurial openside flanker who managed an incredible 100 caps for Wales. We have moved him to 6 as we had to have Warburton in at 7 and we figured that Williams would be just as good at blindside. He was great at everything. Also went on 3 Lions tours!

7. Sam Warburton

His career was cut short due to injury but is still considered one of the best number 7’s ever to have played for Wales. Warburton made “the Jackal” his own and this probably contributed to his injuries. A true leader with skill, strength and a ton of rugby knowledge. We had to push Martin Williams to 6 because of him!

8. Taulupe Faletau.

A number 8 with it all. Faletau is a hard, strong ball carrier who also possesses amazing passing and offloading skills, he walks into most back rows in the world. He has struggled with injury this season but will hopefully be back to his best soon. His cousins Billy and Mako Vunipola aren’t bad either!

9. Gareth Edwards.

Sir Gareth Edwards we should say. Often referred to as one of the greatest players ever he is also credited with scoring one of the greatest try’s ever, simply called “that try”. He played 53 times for Wales scoring 88 points. He also pulled the Lions jersey on an amazing 10 times!

10. Steven Jones.

A tough choice at 10 but we went for Jones over the kicking skills or Neil Jenkins and the silky skill of Barry John. Over 104 tests for Wales and two Lions tours, Jones was sometimes written off by pundits for supposedly more skilled players. His record speaks for itself though and he is without doubt a worthy fly half in our team.

Sam Warburton speaks to the team before the game

Sam Warburton speaks to the Lions team before the game 13/6/2017. Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

11.  Shane Williams.

Wale’s top try scorer has to be in the team. Williams scored a huge 58 try’s in his 87 games for Wales. An electric winger he could also play at scrum half and started his career there. He was once told he was too small to play rugby, but rightly ignored this and finished as a Welsh legend!

12. Jamie Roberts.

At 1.93 metres and 110 kg Roberts is a huge centre who runs straight hard lines and ties up defenders. His direct style of rugby has earned him 94 Welsh caps and a place on 2 Lions tours. A qualified doctor he has brains and brawn.

13. Scott Gibbs.

Gibbs makes our team due to his involvement in numerous great Welsh rugby moments. One of the toughest centres to play for Wales, his big tackles and unstoppable runs were a thing of legend. His tough rugby style earned him the nickname “car crash”. Also played league for St Helens.

14. George North.

Despite there being many classy Welsh wingers to choose from we went with North. Already a star it feels like he has been around forever. Still only 27 he has already notched up 180 points in 83 tests and been on two Lions tours. Watch out for him at RWC 2019!

15. JPR Williams

Another Welsh great from the golden era of the 1970’s JPR was distinctive with his big sideburns and rolled down socks. Also a Lions legend having won a impressive 8 caps. He retired from international rugby after 55 caps but carried on playing rugby into his fifties! He even switched to playing flanker in his last few years of rugby.

Finishers: Jonathan Davies, Ryan Jones, Barry John, Bobby Windsor.

NU Generation Rugby

Alex Lozowski on preseason

We were lucky enough to grab five minutes with Saracens star, Alex Lozowski, and talk preseason. 

How has Pre-season been going?

It’s been hard. We’ve only been back training a couple of days but a few of us have been away on holiday and enjoying our five weeks off on the beach and now we are back. Its good to see your friends and catch up but the hard work starts and the first couple of days have been really hard.

So, run us through a few things you have done in pre-season?

Started off with some weights and stuff and I have been in the gym building some mobility and stretching, those kinds of things. Getting back into a bit of rugby, some games and chucking a ball around. A lot of running as well which is necessary even though it’s hard, it’s been a good start and hopefully we can make improvements and get fitter and stronger as the weeks go by.

Has much changed for this preseason due to the World Cup and the later start to the season?

Yeah, I think so. Subtle changes to what we do, our strength and conditioning team are experienced and have done these World Cup years before. I think there will be some slight changes like a bit of time off in the middle to catch up, so we don’t burn out by the time the season starts.

On the back of an awesome season last season, have you been able to enjoy that or is it a case of put it to the back of your mind and let’s start again?

I think all the sitting back and enjoying it has been done in the five weeks you get off. I guess that’s the time to celebrate and appreciate what we have achieved in the last season. We come back in now and have not mentioned once what happened last season. It’s all about getting better again this season, we can’t afford to look back on last year it’s all about looking forward.

Sarries are renowned for being like a family so how are the new guys settling in?

I’ve met the new guys this week, there’s a few new Academy guys getting used to things. Saracens don’t lose or bring in too many new people each year, so I guess it’s nice for the new lads to be able to get to know people quite well. I was made to feel really welcome when I first joined so I will try to do the same for them.

Do you have any games this season that you personally are looking forward to?

Yeah, I think the Saracens v Harlequins game at the new Tottenham Stadium will be great. We have had a bit of rivalry against Quins recently so that will be one to look forward to.

Any rugby advice for our readers?

Of course. Make sure you enjoy your rugby and don’t put yourself under too much pressure. Play other sports when you are young and when you get older you can decide to focus on a sport such as rugby.

NU Generation Rugby

Our Rugby World Cup Favourite XV’s – South Africa.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 will soon be with us! Only a couple of weeks and from now to then we are going to pick our “favourite fifteens” of players past and present for a different country going to Japan.

Last month we did current World Champions New Zealand. This month we are going to look at double World Cup Winners South Africa. They took the Trophy in 1995 at home and in 2007 in France.

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NU Generation Rugby

Our Rugby World Cup Favourite XV’s – New Zealand.

The Rugby World Cup 2019 will soon be with us!

So we have decided to put together a series of “favourite fifteens” of players past and present for a different country going to Japan.

These are purely opinion and we hope they will strike up a bit of a debate. There is nothing better in the lead up to a RWC than discussing past greats, so here is our NZ favourite fifteen, we look forward to hearing if you agree or not? NB – We will still be correct

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