Nigerian rugby players
Schools rugby gets a great shop window on Sunday afternoon at the Lagos 7s when the American International School (Lagos) and CMS Grammar School play a demonstration game as a curtain raiser to the Lagos 7s final.
After years of neglect in schools, rugby is making a resurgence with several private schools and government schools being coached rugby around the country.
The game the schools will play will be seven-a-side “touch” rugby. In ‘’touch rugby” a two handed a touch replaces a full contact tackle. When a player in possession of the ball is touched by both hands above the waist by a member of the opposing team the referee blows the whistle and the ball is handed to the opposition who begin play again from the spot of the touch.
“We decided to have the schools play touch instead of full contact rugby because the kids are still learning the game and we want them to play without fear and get a feel for the game before introducing full contact rugby,” said the Head of Youth Development at the Nigerian Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Chuchu Ejikeme.
In October, the International Rugby Board (IRB) sent a development team to Nigeria and coached 29 school coaches from around the country, putting them through the IRB Level One coaching programme, at two clinics in Lagos and Kaduna.
According to an international survey published by Mastercard last year, rugby has been growing faster in Africa than anywhere else on the planet with the number of players growing by 33 per cent since the 2007 IRB World Cup. In Nigeria, Promasidor (the manufacturers of Cowbell Milk) sponsor the “I-Try” rugby development programme at 35 Lagos schools.
Developing schools rugby has become a major focus for the IRB and NRFF especially since the announcement by the International Olympic Committee that sevens rugby will be the new team sport at the 2016 Olympics.
“Rugby builds character and instils values such as teamwork, discipline, respect for the laws, respect for the match officials and respect for the opposition” said NRFF’s CEO, Jide Afolabi, “ for this reason governments around the world and schools in particular see it as a vital part of a healthy school curriculum.”
He revealed that the Lagos 7s was free to the public and will include music, food and fun for the whole family.