Sometimes we spend a lot of time in the schools rugby world thinking about how to keep people in the game through how we coach and how they play, maybe we neglect what they watch though.
Live international rugby is an occasion like no other, as a youngster it inspires you to want to play, and as we get older it becomes a chance to witness the best of the game we love, to remain inspired, and to catch up with friends and colleagues over a shared passion. This current autumn will be more special than ever with the All Blacks in town and some awesome Twickenham Hospitality packages from Keith Prowse available.
For most teenagers watching live rugby is a chance to see your heroes in action, seeing them inspires you, it makes you want to go and practice what you have seen them do when you are on the training field, or in the back garden, or in the park.
Even now when I watched Jonny Sexton go through the legs on Friday night I was clamouring to give it a try in a game – no doubt teammates will be much less enthusiastic when with my ageing frame I inevitably try it and fail! Young props will see Tadgh Furlong’s performance and think ‘hey I can be a prop and play a bit of ball too’, and others will see Owen Franks, 100 caps deep and without a try to his name, and understand the role of the ‘do you job’ prop still exists too if that is the mold they fit best to.
As adults no longer playing the game though, that live experience is the next best thing we have. Everyone has their own favourite part in the build up, for some it’s the walk to the stadium, for others the anthems, for me it’s just a couple of minutes standing at my seat before the stadium fills up, taking it all in.
For all of us though what makes it so special is being surrounded by people that share that same passion for the game and for the occasion, be it friends, colleagues, whoever. There is a reason that international rugby became one of the go to events for hospitality over sports, there is a bond and an ease of access that just does not exist to the same degree in other sports.
Yes we want to inspire the next generation through coaching and through the way the play, but let’s make sure we remember that a huge deal of inspiration comes from seeing heroes in action.
Let’s not neglect ourselves too, we might be older, but the inspiration remains the same. For those of us that choose to, and are lucky enough, to go to this November’s Internationals let’s savour that and share it with as many people as possible. That is how we will keep the enthusiasm for this great sport of ours going.