A TOP All Black international has coached rugby-mad youngsters as part of a new sponsor’s drive to help Uttoxeter Rugby Club finally expand its ‘historically inadequate’ facilities.
Former New Zealand and Leicester Tigers flanker Craig Newby visited Oldfields Sports Ground on Sunday to run a junior coaching session.
His appearance has been made possible by new club sponsor Team Wild, an internationally-renowned hunting and outdoor sports company.
The firm’s CEO, Ian Harford, has pledged to use his connections to professional rugby to help the club achieve its long-held dream of expansion.
With Oldfields housing just one pitch, officials want county council-owned land in Stone Road.
But the land is on one of many sites along the Picknall valley earmarked for housing development.
Mr Newby said: “A club like the Uttoxeter Junior Rugby Club is extremely important to a community.
“It gives children confidence out on the field as well as well as helping to prepare them for many different scenarios that will arise later on in life.
“I’m friends with a parent from the club and, when I heard about the awareness they were trying to build around the club and the Picknall valley site, I thought it would be great to come down and show my support.
“The atmosphere here today is absolutely fantastic. There are so many parents here with their children showing a real community spirit.
“Clearly, moving forward, the club has some great long term goals but needs the support of the community to help reach them.
“I think a community rugby club, where adults and children can get involved, is far more beneficial to the area in the long term than a housing development.
“With so many children and families involved, their own club house and grounds are the next step forward”
The club shares grounds with Uttoxeter Town FC and, following a recent report bemoaning sports facilities for town youngsters, the need to expand has become more apparent.
Other pros from Leicester and Northampton, including Tom Croft, Tom Woods and Dylan Hartley, are also set to promote Uttoxeter’s cause.
Mr Harford said he was impressed when his nephews moved to the club.
He said: “I was instantly taken with how they were welcomed, encouraged and made to feel important straight away.
“I was shooting with Crofty and Newbs last weekend and told them all about Uttoxeter Rugby Club.
“They understand the importance of grass-roots rugby and how vital it is to get more youngsters involved.”
Mr Harford has added his name to the Picknall Valley Protest Group (PVPG) petition against development.
It is available online at https://www.facebook.com/PicknallValleyPreservationGroup.