Tigers coach hopes future stars are inspired by Lions visit

A young Cheltenham Tigers player with Jason Robinson
A young Cheltenham Tigers player with Jason Robinson

Cheltenham Tigers Rugby Club enjoyed a day to remember as they rubbed shoulders with British & Irish Lions legends Jason Robinson and Gavin Hastings.

Players from the club’s junior ranks were invited to Howden’s Big Rugby Day Out at Oxford University Rugby Club, where they took part in a coaching session from Robinson as well as tried their hand at a number of other rugby-based activities.

Cheltenham were invited alongside a number of other Lions Origin Clubs as Howden kickstarted their principal sponsorship of the British & Irish Lions ahead of next summer 2025 men’s tour and the inaugural women’s tour in 2027.

Origin Clubs are those that former Lions began their rugby journey at, with four Lions coming from Cheltenham including Phil Blakeway, and Howden are hoping to shine a light on the brilliant work done in the community game.

“We’re here to celebrate the club and the number of Lions they have produced ahead of the Lions Tour in 2025,” said parent Joe Doherty, who helps coach the club’s under nines. “It’s phenomenal, a great set up.

“Cheltenham Tigers are a brilliant club. They were very welcoming to us as a family, we only moved there a few years ago. I got involved because there are lots of kids who want to play rugby and enjoy it.

“Rugby is a vehicle to make kids better kids; more resilient, braver, stronger. It gives them life skills. The game itself is a by-product. “It’s a game for everyone, all shapes, all sizes and it just gives you so much.

“Everyone knows the Lions and everyone who wants to play rugby wants to represent the Lions eventually. It would be lovely to see in the current crop of Lions where they started, because they’ve come from somewhere as an under nine.”

Seven Origin Clubs were in attendance for the event in Oxford, where Rugby World Cup winner Robinson put on a number of coaching sessions throughout the morning as well as posing for photographs alongside Hastings and Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi.

There are 711 Lions Origin Clubs who have produced 855 past British & Irish Lions, and Howden are putting them front and centre of their new sponsorship, something Howden ambassador Robinson believes sends out the perfect message to grassroots clubs up and down the country.

“Community is so important because without it we don’t have a game, it’s simple,” he said. “We need to build the players up, we need to inspire them, we need to get them playing at the highest possible level.

“There are so many people within the clubs who do so much work. The international game is based on grassroots. The more we can do to support clubs the better, which is where Howden’s investment in the game is massive. It’s not just the top level, it’s the grassroots.

“We know all the benefits that rugby has to offer kids, especially being in a team. The more we can do it; the more we can inspire, hopefully the stronger the game can be.”

Howden are the new principal sponsor of the British & Irish Lions, with their logo set to be front and centre on the famous red jersey in Australia next year, when the Lions will compete in front of their legendary fans for the first time in eight years.

Head of global sponsorships Giles Morgan underlined the honour of such a prestigious place in sporting history and reaffirmed Howden’s commitment to both the elite and community game.

“We want to meet all the Lions Origins clubs and celebrate them, not just because of history but for the future as well,” he said.

“The rugby family is enormous in this country and as a new sponsor we want to earn the right to be on the Lions jersey.

“We want to get to know the rugby community, right the way across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and celebrating the origin clubs feels a great way to do that.”

As part of their partnership with The British & Irish Lions, Howden will be supporting the grassroots game