Rugby Union: Homegrown talent is key, says Hall

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After three consecutive away games, Sheffield will play their first home game of the new North 1 East season when they host current league leaders Cleckheaton tomorrow.

Before the game, though, Sheffield’s first team coaches will give their first pre-match training session of the season to the club’s under 12s, as part of a new initiative to integrate all the age groups at the club with the first team.

It is the latest step in realising the vision of Rob Hall, Sheffield’s club coaching co-ordinator.

Both the work of Rob, and Sheffield, has been recognised by the Rugby Football Union (RFU). Sheffield were presented with two national awards back in April, for both coaching and player retention, for their efforts in growing the club’s numbers in both areas.

In the North of England, Sheffield boast the largest mini and junior section, with 12 teams containing more than 350 kids.

They also have 85 coaches, including parents who have volunteered to go on training courses to gain their qualifications.

It is also a set up that has had the thumbs up from England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

“We are just looking to grow numbers,” Hall told Grass Roots.

“The RFU are all about participation, and so we have decided to heavily invest in that.

“Over the past four years we have gained 150 more kids. We are a club who feel like we have a responsibility to the community and our target is to try and keep as many of these kids playing as possible.

“Stuart Lancaster visited not so long ago and he was very complimentary about our youth set up.

!Last Sunday, the sun was shining, there was 350 kids joking and laughing, mums and dads were here and the bar was full. We couldn’t wish for anything better than that.”

Last weekm in the 38-11 defeat away at Old Crossleyans, ten out of the starting XV had come through the club’s mini and junior section – a first for the club.

Hall, who was named as Clubman of the Year last season season for his work, went on to say his next ambition is for the club to field a full squad that is made up entirely of their own nurtured talent.

“It put a smile on my face to see when I saw ten players line up who have come from the youth set up,” he said.

“That gives me greater satisfaction than winning.

“Who knows? Maybe one day we can field a squad that has come entirely from our youth set up. It is a nice thought.”

Ben Wade, Sheffield’s Director of Rugby, will be one of the first team coaches to give a training session before tomorrow’s game, and was also full of praise for the work Rob has done for Sheffield’s youth development.

Wade said: “Rob has done a fantastic job. His philosophy is important and he has set a good example across the area.

“He has created a great reputation for the club and it is always great to see how many kids there are in the team.”