Three members of the Newark U17 squad marked finishing their GCSE exams in the summer by embarking on a rugby adventure in India.
While India is not renowned for its rugby prowess, the sport is played with passion and enthusiasm in clubs and schools across the country. The players; Alex Scott, Callum Slack and Josh Hubbard plus Tom Swindell, from Rugby; went to Delhi to support the School Sports programme which is emerging there led by former RFU Council Member, Alex Murphy. Before going, they underwent a Rugby Ready coaching and safety course; so that when they were in Delhi they could inspire Indian youngsters to play for the rugby club hosting them, Delhi Hurricanes.
While in Delhi, they coached in Government schools for children living on the streets, as well as organizing a Rugby Festival for Boys and Girls. They donated much needed kit provided by Kings School, Grantham to support rugby in Delhi.
“It was humbling to see the happiness and enthusiasm of children, who in Western terms have very little, for playing the game” said Alex Scott. “In one school we were cheered and sung to by hundreds of children, they were inspirational.”
After Delhi, they moved on to Kolkata, and played for Delhi Hurricanes in the All India Finals – a week long tournament. They helped the Hurricanes reach their first ever final, beating holders Bombay Gymkhana in the semi final and losing to the Indian Army in the final.
“It was certainly challenging” said Josh Hubbard who scored the winning try in the semi-final. “It was monsoon season, so the pitch was like a mudbath – but the temperature was in the high thirties, so the mud was hot – and so were we!”
Kolkata gave them more opportunities to help local children experience rugby, as they visited two educational foundations which work with street orphans. The foundations give a fortunate few from the lowest rungs of society a good education using rugby as the learning vehicle. Future Hope and Jungle Crows, the two foundations, are supported financially by the rugby family in the UK and, through rugby, are genuinely changing lives. The boys helped in English lessons, and visited the site of a proposed new site for Future Hope.
Callum Slack said “To see the way in which these children make the best of everything – their optimism, their hunger for education, is really uplifting. ”
The boys were lucky enough to see the sights too, visiting the Taj Mahal amongst other places. But the lasting impression on the boys was not of places, but of the richness of the culture and the people in India.
“We were in a rugby family while we were there” said Alex Scott “and once you are in a rugby family, you make the best of friends. We are looking forward to Delhi Hurricanes visiting England to play in the near future, so we can see our friends again and return their hospitality”