World Cup winner and ex-England captain backs new rugby academy in Portsmouth

A new initiative to make rugby accessible to youngsters across the city has been launched with a seal of approval from former England captain and World Cup winner Phil Vickery.

The new full-time academy, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK run by a community club, is a collaboration between Portsmouth College and the Navy's United Services Rugby Football Club.

Continuing the legacy left by the London 2012 Olympics, the academy will not only allow youngsters from schools across the city to try the often perceived elitist sport, but also offer a full time course at Portsmouth College working rugby-specific qualifications into the BTEC Performance and Excellence sports courses.

The academy, which will be based at the College in Tangier Road, is open to students looking to take A' Levels or study for a BTEC. In turn fully qualified community teams will then visit any primary or secondary school within the city to run taster sessions with youngsters.

The official launch of the academy will take place this Thursday, January 31, by Phil Vickery at Portsmouth College where youngsters from city primary schools Cottage Grove, St Swithuns and Mayville will take part in a mini tournament.

Running the academy is US Director of Rugby Simon Burns, with coaches Dean Kedward and Will Brewer, together with Portsmouth College Sports Academy Director Tom Lloyd. The team visit schools to run coaching sessions which also teach youngsters some of the core values of the game such as respect and discipline.

Simon said: "Since the Olympics there has been a real desire to inspire and enthuse youngsters in all sorts of sports.

"Portsmouth is traditionally a football city with many youngsters never having the chance to try sports such as rugby. This academy is an opportunity for the students to not only continue in their academic studies but have the experience and be part of a full-time rugby environment utilising the core values of rugby - teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship."

Tom said: "I am delighted to be working with United Services on such an exciting and innovative project that gives young people the chance to achieve academically whilst performing in the sport they love at the level their ambition desires."

For more information contact DoR US Portsmouth Mr Simon Burns on 07584 421409 or Tom Lloyd on 07771 524126.