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Students drive introduction of girls' rugby at The Leys School

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The Leys School girls rugby union squad
The Leys School girls rugby union squad

Training sessions launched for new sport

Simon Thomas, the head of rugby at The Leys School
Simon Thomas, the head of rugby at The Leys School

Pupil power has led to the creation of a girls’ rugby squad at The Leys School.

Simon Thomas arrived as head of rugby this summer, and one of his aims was to introduce the sport for girls at the school – following on from the success of girls’ cricket, which ended with the under-15s reaching the national final.

Thomas, who had previously worked in an all-boys’ school, had planned to bring in rugby for the girls around Easter and into the summer term, in order to make use of the longer evenings.

The target was to bring girls’ sport up to and exceed the levels of boys’ sports.

However, he was beaten to the punch by the students.

Having had a debate in A-level PE with a group of boys about gender equality, it was pointed out to the girls that they were not allowed to play rugby.

So members of the first-team girls’ hockey squad took matters into their own hands to prove that rugby was not just a boys’ sport, emailing Thomas asking to start training rugby sessions.

Within 24 hours of the initial email, a group of pupils had mobilised to take part in the first training session.

“They were really proactive in driving it, and it went from them emailing me on the Tuesday, by the Wednesday we had a girls’ rugby session set up,” said Thomas.

“They recruited all of the girls to come, there were 18 of them on that first day, and it just went from there.

The skill sets that the players have developed from other sports has helped them make a quick adjustment to rugby, with 12 players from Year 11 upwards attending on a regular basis.

With plans to push the sport more in the summer term though, Thomas hopes to encourage more interest from Years 7 to 11.

“The multi-sport background that they have means that if I had some more time to work with them, they could be seriously good rugby players,” he said.

“They have great hand-eye co-ordination and catch-pass skills from their netball, they have phenomenal spatial awareness and ideas about how to support from playing hockey.

“With their backgrounds in other sports – and they are hugely athletic and very talented sportswomen in their own rights – I think we could turn them into a really handy rugby team because they’ve got all the athletic attributes that we would want in rugby players.

“The fact they are the pioneering group will only bode well for getting large numbers in the future.”

He added: “The girls have been great; their enthusiasm is fantastic.”

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