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Ben Penfold puts development at centre stage at Cambridge Rugby Club

Ben Penfold in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (42872021)
Ben Penfold in action for Cambridge. Picture: Chris Fell (42872021)

Ben Penfold will be out to maintain a theme at Cambridge Rugby Club after taking over as the rugby development officer.

The 25-year-old fly-half was already the head of community at the club, but has now take on the additional role that was vacated by Simon Leader, who has become head of rugby at Wisbech Grammar School.

Penfold is becoming a Volac Park stalwart having first moved to the club in 2013, before a brief one-year sabbatical at Cinderford in 2015.

Working with Rob Conquest as part of the community team, they have been coaching players in the Vipers academy while also helping out on Sunday mornings with the youth sections at the club.

And that will be a primary focus for Penfold in the new position.

“It’s pretty much the same sort of role but slightly more emphasis on developing the mini and youth, with different ideas on how we can help them progress into more first team and senior team players,” he said.

“It would have a bit more emphasis on developing the mini and youth coaches and players, making sure that rather than just being community based with regards to helping with schools, it’s trying to get those kids from schools down to the club as well.

“It’s developing the club’s coaches and players, to have the same philosophy as coaches from the first team with regards to how we want to play rugby and try to get the best out of them so they get the best out of the kids.

“It’s only going to bode well for the club in the future, and also with it trying to develop the coaches as they do great work already.

“It’s still important to have that fun element but if we can develop the detail and knowledge of the technical stuff as well as holding the fun events, it really helps.”

Transitioning youngsters into and then through the club will be the main aim to increase the engagement and bridge the gap between youth and senior rugby.

In a community sense, Penfold hopes that Cambridge will be able to do more outreach work into primary and secondary schools, and beyond.

“We want to inspire more of the community to come down on a Saturday,” he said.

“I don’t think we’ve done that well enough as a club over the past few years – engaging with mini and youth to help the community and that only improves players coming down on a Saturday to have fun. It’s a bit of a cycle really.

“Community will definitely aid what my new role will be with regards to helping children we reach to improve numbers at the club, the quality of coaching and how much time they have here.”

As rugby development officer, it will not just be focused on the younger generations.

Penfold was full of praise for the work done by some of the club’s stalwarts to develop opportunities for adults to play rugby.

“When I first joined there wasn’t really a third team,” he said.

“They’ve done really well in the last three to four years of getting a really well-established social team that have got some quality players in there, as well as some quality blokes that really help and bend over backwards for the club.

“It will be liaising with the coaches there as well to find what little things we can do to help improve the numbers there.”

Another part of the RDO role will be to create a pathway from mini and youth rugby to the first team, getting as many local players as possible through the system.

The hope will then be those that head off for work or university will go back to Cambridge if they return to the area.

“I’ve created an image of a pathway, which the committee have approved, to develop the players good enough for the first-team squad but also, at the right age, are going to senior rugby at the right age,” said Penfold.

“It means they see Cambridge as a place where they had a great time and want to come back, either for the first or second team, or at a social level. Creating that pathway and that development in my new role is a huge part of that.”

He added: “Our idea is to have that vision so that people can see an end goal – be it first team, social rugby or finishing with their colts team and having a great time.”

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