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Youth rugby success ‘in italiano!’

The Cricket for Change development team embarked on another overseas journey to spread the word of youth engagement through rugby. Si, Ledwith (who was joined on this project by Navjeet Sira, Perry Sophocleous, Alex Bassan and Mike Henderson) tells us how the trip went…..

It was a short flight from London Gatwick to Roma where we were met by two members of the All Reds Rugby Team (Roma), Paulo and Rudolph who kindly escorted us to our hotel. We dropped off our bags and were taken out to a ‘traditional’ Italian Pizzeria where we were introduced to the rest of the team. We spent the evening trading stories and getting to know each other which was a great way to kick off the trip.


The following morning the team were up bright and early for a planning meeting around the new Dallaglio Foundation Rugby for Change programme as a whole taking place at the famous Coliseum where our hosts had kindly arranged for us to have free reign to wander round its greatness. As good as this was there was still much work to do before our evening session with the All Reds team so we found ourselves a quiet sport and made final preparations for our youth engagement workshop. An inspiring place to plan a session!

On Friday evening we arrived at the All Reds home ground which could only be described as a ‘the squat’ in the middle of a deprived area of Roma. It was a real homely place which I would describe as ‘basic but brilliant’ with its own converted bar, music studio, outdoor gym equipment and a full size rugby pitch. What was very noticeable is that the ground attracted its own community with people coming and going and enjoying the facility as a social hub.


The All Reds mission is to improve the lives of marginalised communities, particularly the gypsy Romany population in the area through rugby and youth engagement. Our job was to facilitate their learning and equip them with the tools and techniques to coach effectively and to understand how to discuss the contentious issues that young people face whilst specifically relating them back to rugby.

To do this we ran a youth engagement workshop, led by Perry Sophocleous exploring issues from trust to respect and decision making to challenging behaviour. Simple games and discussions were used to unlock these subjects and were very well received by the All Reds, so much so, that they wanted to continue with the workshop after it was due to end.

The success of Perry’s workshop meant that Mike’s rugby session was conducted using the lights from the building shining onto the pitch. Mike introduced the game of Rugby 4’s, the rules, basic strategies and why we use the format with our young people. The session was fantastic and everyone picked up the game very quickly and with the injection of Mike’s passion, energy and enthusiasm we played long into the night.

Our final day in Roma culminated in a competition held for local gypsy Romany children ranging from 4-14 years old. We used rugby drills, skills and games which then led into the game of Rugby 4’s which had been introduced to the All Reds the night before.

The All Reds coaches were encouraged to lead sessions as much as possible while we acted as coaches to the coaches, offering advice, ideas and stepping into the fold when necessary. It is fair to say that our All Reds friends found it tough going to begin with and struggled to keep the attention and respect of the young people. However, within an hour or so with the support of the Cricket for Change coaches they started to find their feet and ran a very successful and enjoyable day which the young people clearly loved.


It was sadly time for us to leave and although none of us wanted to we could take great comfort in knowing that we had started some fantastic work with the All Reds which was sure to continue after we left. Since the trip we have provided the All Reds with an extensive catalogue of coaching techniques , tools and guidelines, rules for Rugby 4’s, documented youth engagement tools form the workshop and a communication channel for continued support when needed. The plan from here is to work with the All Reds again in the future to build upon the great work that they have begun. This was an epic adventure in a truly family run environment.