Press Release – Out of Africa to Eastern Counties
26 June 2012
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A local Rugby official has returned from a two-week trip to Africa where he has been helping to promote and develop the game. Andrew Sarek, who represents Eastern Counties at the Rugby Football Union at Twickenham, together with Clacton RFC Chairman Brian White travelled to Uganda supporting the England Counties XV on their tour, then went to Nigeria where Colchester-based Sarek was born to help them with rugby development.
In Uganda they visited a Community Outreach session in Jinja where the England Counties players, drawn from clubs playing below Championship level and included Eastern Counties captain Toby Berridge, spent the morning coaching primary school children to take part in an eight team tag rugby tournament in the afternoon. ‘The skill levels were remarkable,’ said Sarek who refereed a couple of the matches, ‘and the speed at which the games were played was exceptional considering these children were new to Rugby.’
After watching England Counties XV beat a combined Uganda and Kenya side in Kampala, White and Sarek flew to Lagos in Nigeria where they spent five days meeting various rugby stakeholders including officials from the Nigerian Rugby Football Federation and the Nigerian Sports Commission, talking to members of the Sports Writers Association about how to report and promote the game, to the Lagos Referees Society who received law books donated by Referees Societies in Norfolk and Suffolk & North Essex, and to players and administrators about the expansion of the game. ‘The potential for Rugby in Nigeria is huge.’ Sarek enthused, ‘Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with 170m people, and their physique is ideally suited to the game as they have both strength and speed. Nigeria could make a big impact in Sevens in particular; you only have to look at how successful Kenya has been on the international circuit in recent years.’
Before they left for Africa an appeal for old kit was made to Eastern Counties clubs, and although the timescale was short there was a very good response with over 200 shirts collected which were shipped to Lagos together with rugby balls and law books. Boswells School in Chelmsford was particularly generous and fittingly their shirts went to local schools in Lagos. Rugby clubs that contributed included Woodbridge, Thurston, Clacton, Ipswich YM, Harwich & Dovercourt, Southwold, and Eastern Counties Rugby Union also donated a set of shirts. ‘Good quality rugby shirts are difficult to get hold of in Nigeria,’ said Brian White, ‘so for teams to receive kit to play and train in which won’t rip when tackling or scrummaging is a real benefit. A big thank you to all who helped.’
Sarek will be going to Morocco in September to watch Nigeria take part in an IRB Sevens World Cup qualifying tournament, and he hopes that he and White will be able to return in a couple of years’ time to see how the game had developed since their visit.