Winchester's rugby talent gets a boost

A unique partnership between Sparsholt College, Perins School, Sport Hampshire & IOW, and Winchester City Council has created a full-time Community Sports Rugby Coach for the district.

The 3-year post has been made possible through the national Community Sports Coaches Scheme, which aims to create 3000 paid qualified sports coaches working at a local level by 2006.

Tom O'Connor, previously a Royal Navy Physical Training Instructor, started in the post at the beginning of August. He has been involved in coaching and playing rugby for nearly twenty years, including a 6-month spell as a coach of the Australian army in Melbourne, and is currently Director of Rugby at Alton Rugby Club.

Tom said "I'm looking forward to my new role and to introducing Rugby Union to children in local schools in an enjoyable and exciting way. I also hope to be a role model and mentor for young coaches".

He will be managing Sparsholt College's Wessex Rugby Academy and lecturing at the college three days a week, and delivering high quality rugby coaching within local schools and clubs across the Winchester District for two days a week.

Cllr Therese Evans, Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport said: 'this is just the type of partnership that we are trying to encourage in Winchester. It provides a fantastic opportunity for young people in the Winchester District to participate in this exciting sport'

It is hoped the type of work Tom will be involved with will include introducing tag rugby to primary schools, establishing after-school clubs and increasing the number of girls playing the game. Tom will also be involved in the Hampshire Youth Games and The Rugby Football Union's emerging schools programme.