Fledgling coach relishes learning from Lions legends

Fledgling coach relishes learning from Lions legends

Devizes RFC’s minis and juniors had a day to relish as they got to keep company with British & Irish Lions greats Jason Robinson and Gavin Hastings.

Taking part in Howden’s Big Rugby Day Out at Oxford University Rugby Club, members of the Wilshire club’s youth section were coached by Rugby World Cup winner Robinson and took part in a number of rugby-based activities.

Devizes were invited to the event alongside a number of other Lions Origins Clubs, as Howdens began life as principal partner of the British & Irish Lions ahead of the 2025 Tour of Australia and the first ever women’s tour in 2027.

Origins Clubs are those that former Lions began their rugby journey at, with former England prop Peter Wright having spent time with Devizes, and Howden hope the project can highlight the work done at grassroots level.

“We are always looking for opportunities to add extra excitement to the game of rugby and encourage kids to come and play,” said Sam Smart, an under-10s coach at Devizes.

“I think things like meeting ex-international rugby players that and to rub shoulders with other like-minded people is really exciting for the team and the players.

“They have a respect for it, an understanding and admiration, because they all want to be the best at what they do. It is inspiring for them.

“This is my first year of coaching. So grassroots coaching is a real eye opener for me about the amount of volunteers, the local parents and professionals and non professionals that bring and excitement at an early age and to develop talent.”

Seven Origins Clubs were in attendance at the event in Oxford, where Rugby World Cup winners Robinson and Maggie Alphonsi got hands on with coaching, as well as took lots of selfies and signed autographs with Gavin Hastings.

There are 711 Lions Origins Clubs who have produced 855 British & Irish Lions, and Howden are putting them at the the heart of the campaign which marks the start of their principal partnership.

Issuing clubs with plaques in recognition of launching the careers of players who went on to compete at the highest level, it is a campaign which Howden ambassador Robinson sees as deserved acknowledgement of efforts in community rugby.

“It’s the amateur clubs that have worked so hard over the years to build these players into what they have become,” Robinson said.

“Howden have seen that and are recognising that by providing a plaque to commemorate the role clubs have played in that journey.

“Community is so important because without it we don’t have a game, it’s simple.

“We need to build the players up, we need to inspire them, we need to get them playing at the highest possible level.

“There are so many people within the clubs who do so much work. The international game is based on grassroots.

“The more we can do to support clubs the better, which is where Howden’s investment in the game is massive.”

Now the principal sponsor of the British & Irish Lions, Howden will be front and centre of the famous red jersey when Andy Farrell’s team reach Australia next year.

Head of global sponsorships Giles Morgan underlined the honour of such a prestigious place in sporting history and reaffirmed Howden’s commitment to both the elite and community game.

“We want to meet all the Lions Origins clubs and celebrate them, not just because of history but for the future as well,” he said.

“The rugby family is enormous in this country and as a new sponsor we want to earn the right to be on the Lions jersey.

“We want to get to know the rugby community, right the way across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and celebrating the origin clubs feels a great way to do that.”

As part of their partnership with The British & Irish Lions, Howden will be supporting the grassroots game