Rugby ace Henson aims to inspire new generation of Oxford players

Gavin Henson at Sandhills Primary School

London Welsh captain Jonathan Mills talks tactics with pupils

First published in Sport Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Reporter covering Oxford United. Follow us on twitter: @oxfordmailoufc. Call me on 01865 425458

GAVIN Henson was on hand to liven up a PE lesson for pupils at an Oxford school as London Welsh launched their community programme yesterday.

The Wales star joined in a session with pupils at Sandhills Primary School, along with Exiles skipper Jonathan Mills and community coach Alan Awcock.

It marked the start of a scheme implemented by the Aviva Premiership club, who began groundsharing at the Kassam Stadium this season, which will involve 70 schools in Oxfordshire.

Henson, 30, feels the programme will have a dual purpose – by giving youngsters a taste of rugby and boosting London Welsh’s presence in the area.

He said: “All the boys are enjoying being in Oxford. It’s our home now and that’s part of what we’re doing with the community programme.

“We want to get kids involved and enjoy rugby, which they seem to be, and try to increase our fan base.

“We’re getting to know the area and this community side is all part of it.

“It’s about raising awareness and hopefully people will come down and watch, get behind us and enjoy it because we’re going to need all the support we can get.”

All top-flight clubs have to set up a programme and London Welsh have employed two community development officers, based at the Oxford University sports complex in Iffley Road, to oversee it.

The scheme has a wider reach than just coaching sessions, with one intiative, called Tackling Numbers, aimed at helping students learn maths.

John Taylor, London Welsh’s managing director, hopes it will show people in Oxford the club are serious about putting down roots in the area.

He said: “There’s the importance on the community level that we are introducing people to rugby, but there’s also a hugely important thing from our side that we are showing people we’re committed to Oxford.

“We’re very aware that some people will think it was a bit of opportunism and we came to Oxford because we had nowhere else to go.

“There’s a tiny bit of truth in that but having come here it’s very important from our side we show we’re committed and putting resources in.”

He added: “The first signs are really encouraging that Oxford is very much a rugby area. The community side is certainly as important (as what happens on the pitch) in the sense that introducing kids like this introducing them to rugby also introduces them to London Welsh. That’s our future.”

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