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Eltham MP backs rugby community scheme
5:01pm Thursday 1st November 2012 in Rugby
By Ben Baker
ELTHAM MP Clive Efford has joined forces with World Cup winner Josh Lewsey to launch the next phase of an Aviva Premiership Rugby scheme, which uses rugby to inspire young people and reduce anti-social behaviour.
The former England and London Wasps full-back visited the House of Commons on Wednesday to present MPs with specially-commissioned rugby jerseys to mark their support for the project.
Lewsey, who lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2003, is a spokesman for Hitz, Aviva Premiership Rugby’s flagship social inclusion programme.
Hitz targets young people at risk of anti-social behaviour and exclusion from school, introduces them to rugby to help build confidence and respect.
It also inspires players of the future and identifying opportunities for apprenticeships, as well as workshops, training and education programmes for young people, recently seeing the 1,000th young person complete.
It has run in the London boroughs by Harlequins, London Irish and Saracens and is about to move on to the next level with new programmes in Bath, Worcester, Sale and Newcastle.
And Wednesday saw Lewsey talk passionately about the scheme to 11 MPs in the capital, including Mr Efford, shadow minister for sport.
Lewsey handed over a specially-commissioned Hitz rugby jersey to Mr Efford but insists the programme speaks for itself.
“You can be in any walk of life, be it politics, business, it doesn’t matter, you can’t inspire people the way sport does and this programme is fantastic at doing just that,” said Lewsey.
“And there are some amazing statistics to come out of this scheme, whereby none of the kids who are involved in it were involved in any of the London riots.
“If you rewind the clock and relive your teenage years, you have a lot of time to kill, you are bored, particularly if you live in the middle of the city and you end up just filling your time.
“And sport provides that focus for people.
“It certainly did for me, I was a bit wayward and then all of a sudden I was given a path and really set my line to it and as fortunate enough to go on and really achieve some things.
“So schemes like this are fantastic not just for the participatory aspect but also the fact they actually provide a bit of a legacy as the Hitz programme has gone on and helped people secure jobs, summer internships and places at college.
“That is where the real difference is made.”
And Mr Efford was clearly impressed with what he heard from the former British and Irish Lion, eager for London to continue the impressive role they played in this summer’s Olympic success for many more years to come.
“What is most impressive here is when you talk to the young people about what they are getting out of it and the experience they are getting of rugby that they wouldn’t have otherwise have got,” he said.
“This networking wouldn’t have been open to people like that in the past sop sport is a great leveller and this sort of scheme getting out there into communities and getting young people involved in sport is great.
“It is healthy, it broadens the mind and it gives them experiences they wouldn’t normally get.”
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