The Elite Insurance Sevens Series came to Northamptonshire on Tuesday with Northampton School for Boys emerging victorious at Franklin’s Gardens. Finalists, Elizabeth Woodville, will also return to the Gardens in April as they advance to the final. Thursday saw the Bedfordshire leg of the tournament, where Marston Vale came top of the thirteen schools that took part. Barnfied South College will also visit Franklin's Gardens at finals day.
Over 980 under-13s from 83 schools across the East of England are competing in the tournament, with regional legs being held in Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire.
With the sport being included in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, coaches and players at the Elite Insurance Sevens Series spoke of how they believe the tournaments help young players to get into the sport.
“We've got a lot of boys that don't get to play a lot of rugby.” Chris Emery and Gareth Doward, teachers at Barnfield South Academy, told SaintsTV. “They play a lot of other sports, especially football, and Rugby is something that we would like them to focus on but they perhaps don’t get as many opportunities to play as they would like to.
“It’s brilliant for us to be able to bring a group of lads to a tournament like this, it’s really helpful for us. We’ve seen a step up in the progress of the lads from the start of today to now too so the benefits are clear.
“Sevens can take away some of the skill and technique that you need in fifteens so it’s a great introduction for the boys and can help them get a real love for the sport before bringing them in to a full sized game. It just allows them to pick up a ball and have a go, so I think sevens is an excellent tool in developing the skills needed for the full sized game.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the Saints and Elite Insurance recently, we went down to the club last week and got a tour of the stadium. We got to go on the training pitches and had a Q&A session with the training player. They met one of the under-18s players and it was great for them to see that this is something that they could actually do.”
Many of the Under-13s players involved in the tournament spoke about how they felt that the tournament helped them to develop a range of skills, not only to do with sevens but social skills too.
One Bishop’s Stortford pupil told SaintsTV, “It gets people involved and it helps to develop your social skills meeting new people from other schools. It’s good to be active and have fun and not just sit at a desk all day. It’s a good day out at the Saints, especially as it’s our home club. It’s a really good club and they do a lot to help kids and get them involved.”
Another pupil from Caroline Chisholm spoke of his experience of a new sport “I’m used to playing football and this is a lot different.” He commented. “It’s short, fast and there are not as many players so it gives you more opportunity to get the ball. There’s loads of width and loads of space to kick and run. It’s good to be at the Saints too. You think about where the Saints have played and now you think, I’m here too and that’s really cool.”
One of the Saints’ Elite Sponsors, Elite Insurance is dedicated to supporting youth rugby in the Eastern Counties and East Midlands. The Elite Insurance Sevens Series gives Under-13 players the opportunity to play a new Olympic sport, with separate tournaments for clubs and schools.
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The Elite Insurance Sevens Series is the latest in the wide range of age group tournaments organised by Northampton Saints. Over the course of a season thousands of young rugby players in age groups ranging from Under-7s to Under-16s descend on Franklin’s Gardens on first team match days, with trophies and medals handed out on the main pitch during the half-time interval of that day’s Saints game.