Warburton delighted with role helping rugby's future stars

·4-min read
Land Rover ambassador Warburton was speaking at this season’s Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final, where he met hundreds of youngsters from the national grassroots initiative, the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup (James Robinson)

WALES and British & Irish Lions legend Sam Warburton admits he took the term 'grassroots' a little too literally as a child.

But over 20 years on, the proud Land Rover ambassador is acutely aware of the impact of developmental tournaments in accelerating the rise of the next generation of talent.

Land Rover is the Official Vehicle Partner of Premiership Rugby and has a rich heritage in the sport, offering support in the UK at all levels of the game for the last two decades, from grassroots to the elite.

And Land Rover’s support for grassroots rugby is typified through the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, with over 100,000 youngsters having had the opportunity to discover the sport through annual rugby events.

Warburton surprised 25 grassroots teams at the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final at Twickenham this weekend and was thrilled to reminisce about his first time playing at the Principality Stadium – where a few blades of grass sparked the beginning of his illustrious career.

The 33-year-old, who racked up 74 caps between 2009 and 2017, said: "I remember when I was 10 or 11 and I played in the Principality Stadium for a national final.

“I will never forget that we played on the pitch and we were walking around at the end, and I remember just going onto the pitch and pulling out some grass and taking it home.

"And I remember thinking: 'wow I've got grass from the national stadium'.

"So the kids when they are walking round today, they might try and sneak a couple of blades of grass themselves.

"As a professional, it's great to play on the TV in front of loads of people and you love that occasion and you feel very privileged.

“And to give the kids a little taste now, then gives them the motivation to kick on and achieve, not just in front of a quarter-full stadium but in front of a full stadium."

The Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is a successful series of nationwide rugby festivals, now running for nearly two decades and organised by Land Rover.

Graduates of the prestigious competition have gone on to realise their rugby ambitions, with several players now playing for Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs including Newcastle Falcons star Callum Chick.

Each Gallagher Premiership Rugby club hosted a festival this season, with the U12 winning team and the successful U11 team - decided based on their demonstration of the core values of the game - getting the chance to take part in the half-time Parade of Champions on the pitch at Twickenham and meeting a host of Land Rover ambassadors.

And Warburton was thrilled to be a part of such an established and well-loved event.

He added: "I've been involved with Land Rover since 2013, going back to the first Lions tour.

“I remember my agent ringing me up and saying: 'I think I have a partner you might quite like'.

"You start off as a young 24-year-old thinking this is quite a cool brand to be a part of, then actually when you read into how much they do at grassroots level, which is quite a key age group aged 11 and 12, the options suddenly open up.

“And then to run their rugby festivals across the county, which have helped the involvement of a thousand kids, is great.

"Without that investment, that's a lot of kids who are being deprived of a lot of rugby."

The former Wales and Lions captain spoke eagerly about how grassroots rugby is the key to providing the foundations for children to excel on and off the pitch, and hopes that walking on the grass at Twickenham might just provide the same moment of inspiration for the young players that he so fondly remembers himself.

He added: “Sport's so important because it teaches kids how to communicate, how to win and how to lose. That camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

"That's why I love rugby, being a team sport - it's physical and it's tough but it's a great feeling and you get that at a professional level as well as grassroots.

"The Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup is a great taste in that success when you can see hundreds of kids around you play. As a young person that's an amazing sense of achievement so I love how this is the opportunity we give these kids.

"Just to give them that bit of motivation. Some kids will just enjoy the moment for what it is but I think there will be a penny that drops for a few of them that are uber competitive that will kick them on to greater things."

Sam Warburton is a Land Rover ambassador. For more information on the new Range Rover visit landrover.co.uk

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