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'Play rugby with smile on your face'

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 02, 2013

Comments (22)

Winning the Gloucester Premier division is just as big an achievement as hoisting the Heineken Cup in Phil Vickery's eyes.

The ex-Cherry and Whites prop thinks it is time to cut down the gaps between the different levels in the game.

LOUD initiatives amid lurid fanfare wind up Phil Vickery.

The Raging Bull lost his rag at the radio, almost writing off his car, en route to Longlevens RFC this week.

Good thing he recovered his composure, especially after a prang had made him late for England's Twickenham clash with France last weekend.

Vickery understands the irony of heading to Longlevens under a sponsor's banner, but quickly explains he has worked on this project for several years now, generally with little acclaim.

The World Cup winner takes a mini rugby training session at Longford Lane, then hosts a question-and-answer session.

Young faces light up both on the pitch and in the clubhouse – but it lights up Vickery too.

Just a little investment of time, from a lot of people, that is all he thinks rugby needs, whatever the level.

"I almost crashed my car when I heard the chief executive of Tesco admitting they need to start buying more British meat," he laughed.

"It hardly takes Holmes and Watson to come to that conclusion.

"It's the same with young players in our clubs – of course we should promote young English talent, how could you think otherwise?

"Philippe Saint-Andre's reaction at France's defeat to England showed how envious the rest of the world is at our resources – now let's make the most of them.

"Foreign players bring a huge amount to our game, they are brilliant, we need them, they improve the standards of our rugby.

"But let's promote our own as well.

"The thinking is starting to tie together, the RFU give incentives to top clubs to produce homegrown players, and that's vital.

"It won't always work, but without the conveyor belt the machine just grinds to a halt.

"It would be easy to say that's not relevant to a club like Longlevens – but it absolutely is.

"It's absolutely the same as promoting kids to want to play local rugby here at Longlevens, or Drybrook, Lydney, Newent or at any other club across this county.

"We've got to inspire people to want to play, whatever the standard.

"If Old Knackers-Yard Thirds is the highest level you'll ever play, good for you – keep playing, keep pushing yourself.

"You'll still get the same emotion, the same teamwork and feeling that's associated with rugby, from the top level to the bottom.

"Not everyone's going to become a pro, and there should be no sadness in not making it to the top. It's about playing the game and making friends, and doing it all with a smile on your face."

With NatWest RugbyForce Vickery has done everything from paint clubhouse ceilings to hold coaching clinics.

This is one sponsor-led drive he believes in. He is urging communities to celebrate and protect the networks they already have, by celebrating and protecting their rugby clubs.

He explained: "The top end of our game keeps a lot of people in jobs, but it is nothing without the grassroots.

"Top-end players and coaches must put back what they can into clubs like this, help where they can.

"It frustrated me during the Olympics, all the talk of the Games Makers. No doubt they were fantastic, but there's Games Makers here every week of the year.

"Rugby is all of that, just as much and not just for a few weeks – for life.

"I tell youngsters, 'Go and find a rugby club and you won't be turned away, and if you are, then give me a call and we'll sort it out.'

"We should never forget what the game is.

"Rugby clubs are the centre of our community – David Cameron's Big Society is right here.

"Grandparents, aunties, uncles and grandkids, they are all here.

"If you're a member of any rugby club, you ever need anything, there will be someone to help.

"If your boiler goes at home, in half an hour someone will be round to fix it.

"I just want people to realise what we've already got invested in every local club up and down the country – because we need to hold on to it.

"Stuart Lancaster is setting a great example at the very top now, not just with his background, but also by coming down to places like Drybrook for England's new kit launch.

"Things I learned at Bude rugby club, at Redruth, at Gloucester and then Wasps, all those things have put me where I am today, and I never want those to change."

■ NatWest RugbyForce helps local rugby clubs to improve their facilities with the support of volunteers and the community, with a long-term goal of making clubs more financially viable businesses.

Visit www.rfu.com/NatWestRugbyForce for further information and to register for the 2013 NatWest RugbyForce Weekend on June 15 and 16.

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  • Steve-Bronko  |  March 05 2013, 9:27PM

    Rupert harden is the number one tight head at Gloucester. 13 out of 17 Premiership starts proves it.

    |   6
  • Glaws_Surfer  |  March 05 2013, 9:24PM

    I certainly hope that the best tight head in the Gloucester Rugby squad, Rupert Harden, is back as soon as possible. Our scrum is underpowered without him.

    |   7
  • Ruben_Hall  |  March 05 2013, 9:21PM

    With 13 out of 17 Premiership starts, it is official that Rupert Harden is Gloucester's number 1 and first choice tight head. He has no competition in that position.

    |   7
  • Conrad-Selby  |  March 05 2013, 9:19PM

    Rupert Harden is quite simply the best and the top rated tight head prop at Gloucester. No one comes close to him for that position.

    |   7
  • Nick-Lewis  |  March 05 2013, 9:15PM

    Rupert Harden is the best tight head prop at Gloucester and the troll Django_G doesn't like that. That is why he is delighted that Harden is unavailable because of injury whilst playing for Gloucester Rugby, a team that the troll Django_G doesn't support.

    |   7
  • ffuddlebagley  |  March 05 2013, 9:13PM

    Remember the last scrum of the Sarries game...? Don't let a Gloucester scrum be embarrassed like that ever again. Get Harden on the pitch as often and for as long as possible.

    |   7
  • werewe  |  March 05 2013, 9:10PM

    For all this guff we are getting from the troll of many names and identities (currently pushing his Django_G ID) he can't get away from the fact that is wholly attributable to Rupert harden, which is that he is the number 1 tight head at Gloucester. The number of times he has been selected to start (13 out of 17 premiership games) proves it.

    |   8
  • Rory_Glaws  |  March 05 2013, 9:07PM

    Gloucester's DoR, Nigel Davies, says that Rupert Harden is his first choice starting tight head. Who am I to argue with the experts. On the other hand, the troll Django_G believes he is more of an expert than Nigel Davies.

    |   7
  • s-sorca  |  March 05 2013, 9:05PM

    Rupert remains the number one and best tight head at Gloucester. I'm afraid to say that there is no one competing for HIS tight head position.

    |   6
  • Newildon  |  March 05 2013, 9:03PM

    Rupert Harden = Gloucester Rugby's best tight head.

    |   7