IT'S THE WEEKEND: Family fun - Encouraging our future rugby stars

FUN: Iwan Dark enhancing his skills in mini rugby training

YOUNGSTERS: The Risca under eights team having fun on the pitch

IT'S THE WEEKEND: Family fun - Encouraging our future rugby stars

First published in News

IF YOU ARE looking for something relatively cheap, fun and enjoyable to keep your children entertained then mini rugby could be the answer.

As popular as it ever is, at the moment due to us being in the middle of the Six Nations, now could be the perfect time to get your children involved in the sport.

But do not worry if you have images of George North smashing past his man in your mind, mini rugby gradually eases children into the sport to allow them to get to grips with it at a casual pace.

Local level rugby starts with six-year olds who play at under sevens level. They start off with an altered version of the game that includes only certain rules.

There is no tackling, there are no contested scrums or line outs and it instead focuses on tag rugby – getting children used to some of the basic skills such as passing, running with the ball and awareness.

This continues throughout under sevens and under eights rugby and gives children the freedom to enjoy playing and express their skill rather than being worried about the physicality of the game.

When it reaches under nines, tackling is gently introduced and under 10s sees scrums and line outs contested which helps get children used to the proper rules for when they step up to a full size pitch when they reach secondary school.

Matthew Dark, 38, is chairman of the mini and junior section of Risca RFC and believes that the build up gradually helps all children enjoy it.

“By starting like this it, means children tend to enjoy it when they get involved but also more are encouraged to start,” he said. “In turn that means that they get used to the game and learn a lot of skills.

“There are only a few clubs out there that have the full list of ages from under sevens to under 16s and we are a couple off but we are full from under sevens to under 11s which is great.”

Under sevens and under eights play seven a side whereas it is then increased to 10 a side up until under 11s.

“We have around 15 or 16 children playing for each of our teams,” added Mr Dark. “So we’ve always got a good amount of boys and we play matches against other clubs.

“It’s always fun though and isn’t very competitive at that age. It’s not about winning or losing, we just focus on the children having fun and enjoying themselves, while picking up new skills.

“It seems to be working as well as it seems that rugby at mini level is popular at the moment, we’ve certainly found that in recent times.”

There are a variety of rugby clubs around Gwent and the majority start from under sevens upwards, which allows children of six years of age and over to get involved.

It varies from games against other clubs to training sessions to develop their skills but Mr Dark believes there is more than just skill that children learn.

“It’s great as they all tend to enjoy it,” he added. “But not only do they learn the basics such as how to pass a ball but it’s also great for their confidence.

“It teaches them about team sports and helps them build long lasting friendships which is great – while playing a sport that helps them stay active.

“So I would say bring them along to a rugby session and see if your children enjoy it.”

The only cost to get your children involved in a rugby team would be the administration fee of each club which is used to help with training equipment and general costs.

It is a small weekly fee or a slightly bigger annual fee but will enable your child to play in the team at a young age.

So if you have a child that is active, sporting and always into something new, you could do a lot worse than taking them to a training session at their local club – you never know, you could have the next Leigh Halfpenny on your hands.

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