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Oakbank old boy backs RFU project
1:21pm Thursday 28th February 2013 in Sport
Keighley’s Conservative MP Kris Hopkins went back to his sporting grass roots in a very literal sense when he again trod the rugby pitch at Oakbank School during a visit to learn how the Rugby Football Union’s All Schools Programme is resurrecting the 15-a-side game at the school.
A former pupil with a well-developed interest in sport, he chatted with a group of rugby union Year Eight fledglings, school staff, local club officials and RFU development personnel to discover the impact of the initiative.
Hopkins, who recently donned his boots once again for the House of Commons XV which played a South African Embassy XV, said: “I played a bit at school and I played where we are standing now when Phil Artis was our sports master, but I was interested in motor sport at that time.
“When I became an MP I started putting on a few pounds and turned to long-distance marathons to keep in shape, but I still keep in close touch with what’s going on in rugby and when the House of Commons match invite came, I thought ‘Why not?’ and enjoyed it.”
Being back in action and listening to comments at Oakbank reinforced his beliefs about the value of rugby.
He said: “I’m really pleased that my old school had taken it up once again. I think the sport instils so many good qualities, not only into its players, but also in its audiences and I think a lot of other sports could learn from that.”
Oakbank headmaster David Maxwell, a passionate rugby man of Ulster before work brought him to Yorkshire and a niche at Old Brodleians RFC in Halifax, is a fervent supporter of the All Schools Programme.
“Believe it or not, I think we are actually becoming a rugby school,” he says, a reference to the fact that both codes are catered for. “Rugby is giving these youngsters more self-esteem, more confidence, a greater understanding of teamwork and I think it has also made them more courageous. They’re also more willing to improve their skills.
“What we need to do now is to develop this with the children coming through. For us it’s a ten-year programme. We’re very lucky to have (PE teacher) Mike Derrick involved. He is so committed to rugby.
“I think the kids also see the All Schools Prog-ramme and the visit we had to Twickenham (to see England beat New Zealand last autumn) as an investment in them and they really appreciate that.
“It’s great for state school kids to have the same privileges and experiences as private school kids bec-ause they deserve them just as much.
“That’s the best thing about the All Schools rugby project.”
At Keighley RUFC, the belief is that the Oakbank project has re-connected a crucial link.
Once upon a time, Keighley Boys Grammar delivered a new contingent of fully-fledged young players at the end of each school year, some of them ready to step straight into first-team action.
Thanks to the All Schools Programme and the enthusiasm of Oakbank deputy head Saira Luffman and Mike Derrick, that conveyor belt has been switched on again.