The Aviva Premiership final may be eight months away but youngsters from Chichester RFC are already counting down the days – thanks to their efforts and skill at the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.
Chichester under-12s took to the field for the first Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup of the season, hosted by Saracens in the shadow of Allianz Park.
Not only did they get to strut their stuff in front of onlooking Saracens players Nick Tompkins and Titi Lamositele, but the players also secured the opportunity to appear at next May’s Aviva Premiership Rugby final at Twickenham, where they will take part in a special half-time parade.
More than 30 under-11 and under-12 teams took part in the grassroots rugby festival – celebrating its tenth anniversary year and now having seen more than 70,000 children take part to date – with Chichester, who are sponsored by Chichester-based BEEFIT Snacks, loving every second, especially the chance to play their final match against Medway Ravens at half-time of Saracens’ match 41-13 victory over Sale.
“Stepping out at Saracens at half-time was so cool, especially in front of the crowds, I’ve never played in front of a crowd that big before,” said William Howell, 11, a Westbourne House School pupil. “It went so fast, it was so fun and it was just amazing to be in front of all these people.
“It was so cool, there wasn’t really much time to think about it because it went so quickly, but going to the Premiership final is insane, I hope Saracens are there. I’m not sure exactly what won us the final, it was a team effort.
“On days like this you get to try everything you’ve learnt on the training ground, you get to do what you love, playing rugby, what more could you want?”
As well as taking part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby cup parade during next May’s final, Chichester can also look forward to meeting a Land Rover rugby ambassador at Twickenham and hearing which of them has won a club MVP award.
They got a taste of rubbing shoulders with rugby’s elite when they met Saracens players Tompkins and Lamositele and the former admitted he had been impressed with what he had seen, in particular stressing the importance of grassroots rugby.
“It’s amazing for these kids, because they get to play teams that they wouldn’t normally play,” he said.
“They get to come from all over the region and have a good time and play a good level of rugby.
“I was just watching and some of the players are really good, it’s awesome - it’s such a good tournament.
“I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen, some of the teams are fantastic and really promising, but it just looks like everyone’s having fun which is the most important thing.
“It brings back happy memories, you don’t forget these kind of times, no matter how long you play rugby for, because you make friends for life.
“It’s been ten years and it’s got to continue because the stronger we can make grassroots rugby, the better we’ll be in the future.”
* Land Rover is celebrating its Testimonial Season; ten years of the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup. The national series of grassroots rugby festivals is testament to Land Rover’s continued support of grassroots rugby through its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal