Ireland stars Paul O’Connell, NIamh Briggs and Ciara Griffin lined out to celebrate a record year for the Aldi Play Rugby programme, with over 100,000 children across the country taking part in the non-contact schools rugby initiative for both boys and girls.
Highlighting the growing popularity of the sport among girls, almost half of the children taking part (44%) during 2017/18 were primary school girls aged between 7 and 12. Participation in the programme has increased by almost 50% since Aldi partnered with the IRFU in 2016.
In total, 1200 schools representing all 32 counties signed up for ‘Aldi Play Rugby’ during 2017/18, which is a significant increase from 537 schools in 2016. 120 teachers were trained to deliver the programme with the help of expert coaching from the IRFU.
Last November and January, Aldi sold an exclusive IRFU clothing range, with 50 cent from each purchase going towards funding the Aldi Play Rugby programme. The range was a massive hit with shoppers, with over 50,000 euro generated towards supporting Aldi Play Rugby.
A national IRFU programme for primary school children, Aldi Play Rugby is a free, supervised and non-contact rugby programme that provides everything schools need to get started, including sessions with provincial IRFU staff, online coaching resources and free coaching equipment. The overall objective of the programme is to encourage school children to get active, participate in regular exercise and to eat healthily in a safe and controlled environment.
With registration now open for the 2018/19 programme, Aldi and the IRFU are aiming to make the programme bigger and better, providing children with the opportunity and encouragement to participate and learn fundamental rugby skills. Schools, teachers and coaches, interested in getting involved in Aldi Play Rugby can register at www.aldi.ie/playrugby.
Aldi Play Rugby Ambassador Paul O’Connell commented: “With our national and provincial teams performing so well and rugby more popular than ever, it’s brilliant to see more and more children around the country benefit from the training and support Aldi Play Rugby offers.
“It provides the bibs, cones, rugby balls, tags and the coaching support to get them started. Over 100,000 kids took part in Aldi Play Rugby of which 44,000 of those were girls, which is a great introduction to non-contact rugby and growing participation in rugby among females.”
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said: “We want kids to be active and healthy and that’s not just important on the rugby field, it’s also important in the classroom. The Aldi Play Rugby programme has really helped to enable and empower kids to get more involved in rugby and hopefully pick up some healthy habits along the way.”
John Curtin, Aldi’s Group Buying Director, added: “The first two years of Aldi Play Rugby have been a huge success for everyone involved and I have no doubt this year will be another success. We are delighted to partner with the IRFU, supporting an initiative aimed at encouraging children to be physically active.
“Making a positive impact on young people in the communities we serve and encouraging a healthy lifestyle among our customers are both of huge importance to Aldi. We offer the best value on fresh and healthy food in Ireland, making healthy eating affordable to everyone.”