Lions legend Robinson says community game is the future of rugby

Jason Robinson signs a shirt at Howden and British & Irish Lions Big Rugby Day Out

By James Reid

British & Irish Lions legend Jason Robinson hailed the community game as the future of rugby, as he delighted hundreds of youngsters by holding coaching sessions as part of Howden’s Big Rugby Day Out.

Howden are the new principal sponsors of the British & Irish Lions ahead of the 2025 men’s tour to Australia as well as the inaugural women’s tour in 2027, and are placing the grassroots game as the heart of its partnership through its Lions Origin Club project.

Origin Clubs are those who have played a role in the career of a past Lion, with seven clubs in attendance at the Big Rugby Day Out to get some tips from Robinson as well as meet rugby legends Gavin Hastings and Maggie Alphonsi.

“It was all about grassroots and getting kids from Lions Origins Clubs to just enjoy it and get outside,” said Howden ambassador Robinson, who played five Tests for the Lions.

“They have done all sorts of different skills and enjoy their rugby. As an ex-player, I have really enjoyed seeing kids out and just enjoying their rugby.

Jason Robinson at Howden and British & Irish Lions' Big Rugby Day Out
Jason Robinson at Howden and British & Irish Lions' Big Rugby Day Out

“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. It’s not just the top level, it’s the grassroots.”

There are 711 Lions Origin Clubs who have produced 855 past British & Irish Lions, including Hunslet Boys Club, where Robinson cut is teeth as a youngster in Leeds.

Origin Clubs in attendance at the Big Rugby Day Out were commemorated with a plaque for their role in forging the career of a Lion as part of Howden’s commitment to place grassroots at the heart of their sponsorship, something Robinson believes sends out the perfect message to grassroots clubs up and down the country.

He added: “Lions Origins Clubs are those clubs that have helped to produce a Lion over the years. It’s the amateur clubs that have worked so hard over the years to build these players into what they have become. Howden have seen that and are recognising that by providing a plaque to commemorate the role clubs have played in that journey.

“I’m so grateful to my origin club, the Hunslet Club, they went out of their way and took me in. I was a really shy young boy and all of a sudden I found a sense of purpose and I just continued to get better and better. They gave me lifts and helped me with equipment so I am forever grateful.

“We know all the benefits that rugby has to offer kids, especially being in a team. The more we can do it; the more we can inspire, hopefully the stronger the game can be.”

As the new principal sponsor of the British & Irish Lions, Howden’s logo is set to be front and centre on the famous red jersey in Australia next year, when the Lions will compete in front of their legendary fans for the first time in eight years.

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