Rugby World Cup Highlights Pitiful State School Sport!

Posted on September 18, 2015

The Rugby World Cup commences today and such is its spectator popularity (driven by the high class marketing machine behind the RFU), that it will be the biggest rugby world cup ever and is now the third biggest sporting competition on the planet.

In recent years, since professionalism has taken hold, rugby has become a frightening sport where huge guys made of iron smash into each other so hard that they are treated the next day for whiplash injuries akin to those experienced in a head-on car crash; the sacrifice of being an international rugby forward will be there for all to see in 20 years time.

But behind the hype and the expectation, lies the tragic story of the decline in state schools showing any interest in sport, preferring to make participation voluntary or even non-existent as successive governments of both colours sell-off playing fields to developers to raise cash courtesy of any number of fiscal disasters that were not the fault of pupils who can’t afford a private education.

In this world cup, 20 of the 31 England players come from fee paying schools such as Oakham (31K per annum) compared to just 11 who featured in the 2003 World Cup Winning squad that won so spectacularly on Australian turf. Those statistics tell a sorry tale.

With, shockingly, two thirds of state schools not playing competitive sport it does make you wonder where this will all end up as the England rugby team are missing out on a huge pool of talent that may never even play the game unless their parents have the gumption or time to get them down to their local club. Sadly, addictive consumerism makes some parents more concerned about what car they drive rather than whether their kids play sport or not.

However, there does seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, with former England star and comprehensive schoolboy, Jason Leonard, leading a campaign to take rugby to over 700 state schools by working in clusters, starting rugby in several schools that are close to each other to ensure there is a level playing field, which will be essential, as Dave Maudsley, the rugby coach at Robert Flack Comprehensive School, has found out.

The headmaster at Robert Clack School decided to make it a rugby playing school in 2009 and before long they were Essex champions in the XV and Sevens. Maudsley then started encountering fixture problems as local comprehensives, after taking 70-80 point beatings, made excuses not to play and Public Schools refused to return his calls because they either didn’t want to play commoners or didn’t want to get beat by them.


Comprehensive rival Robert Flack and Campion School in Action

Maudsley is swimming against the tide and could well do with being Leonard’s first port of call. Reading his story is quite inspirational because as a privately educated schoolboy with good contacts, he could easily walk away from the heartache he endures in a state system that will not support him.

“Rugby is not about winning games, it’s about preparing my kids for life,” says Maudsley. “Rugby is just a tool we use. Once you’re on the field, it’s simply 15 against 15. And when you’re off the field, assuming you behave as young people should, you remain the equal of your opponents.”

“We play these so-called posh schools and I think people are looking down their noses. You can see them thinking: ‘We’ll give these fellas from Dagenham a good hiding.’ But they don’t, and I get a real buzz from that.

“I’ve been on their side, and I know it’s better on this side. Everything my boys achieve means so much more because they’ve had to work so much harder for it.”

That almost makes me cry.

The same can’t be said of Ian Simpson who came from the much famed Campion School that is only one of three state schools to reach and win the national cup against all the odds. Simpson is now the director of sport at Oakham and says that because of the lack of funding, state education is an area that he will never go back to; it sounds harsh, but what a turncoat.

The story of Dave Maudsley and the fact we have two former public schoolboys coaching comprehensive kids at our cricket club, teaches me one thing, and that is, because someone has been privately educated doesn’t mean they are a bad person and are, at least in some cases, out to use their privileges to assist an underdog. I can’t help but admire that.

It also teaches me that successive governments have allowed state schools to rot when it comes to sport, a shameful act that is to the detriment of children who develop both socially and physically due to sporting participation, whatever their ability. My own 19 year-old son wouldn’t be in a situation where he could happily have a beer and chew the fat with a 66 year-old without cricket, a game that at village level, helps kids adapt socially with every class, race and religion.

Unfortunately, at state school level, cricket is in the same mess as rugby, with a tiny percentage of state school kids going onto international level, or even club level. Different sports, same problem and let’s not forget, over 50% of the 2012 Olympic squad were privately educated; some legacy.

I really hope that Jason Leonard gives Maudsley the support a man of this stature deserves because whilst this chap ploughs a lonely furrow, we have successive sport ministers who allow their Governments to sell-off rugby, football and cricket pitches as if they have no real value and are a luxury state schools can do without.

A strong nation is a healthy nation and without a good state sports system, only those 7% of people who can afford private education will survive and prosper.

I really hope that is not some sort of elitist master-plan?

4 Replies to "Rugby World Cup Highlights Pitiful State School Sport!"

  • Trevor
    September 18, 2015 (11:50 pm)

    Great post Bob, the quote from the headmaster almost made me cry too.

    Sadly the same is increasingly true here in Australia. There are some (very) token efforts to take sport to the masses, but you also have to include racism into the equation here as well. The awful events around Adam Goodes (google him) who is basically an aboriginal who has succeeded both in sport and his charitable efforts (he was made Australian of the year) and now gets booed every single week because of the colour of his skin combined with his successes.

    Elitism (not talent) is what increasingly seems to matter.

    • Richard Chivers
      September 20, 2015 (6:43 pm)

      I felt really sorry for Goodes. All day, almost everyday for the month of my stay in Oz, the Media highlighted one little incident, which was nothing really. Then the fans took racism to a new level.

  • Bob Fleming
    September 19, 2015 (9:55 am)

    Go to down grange where I’ve been coaching kids rugby for 7 years on a sunday morning and you will see 300+ kids white, black, brown yellow and pink playing rugby and loving it – laughing and prospering. Parents are a mix from caravan dwelling travellers to public schoolboy “elites” (as its so popular to say) but everyone gets on, gels and enjoys it. To kids it doesn’t matter if your called Tarquin or Kevin – it’s just not relevant – some will be eating granola between games with their Barbour clad parents whilst others stuff their face with chocolate digestives but we are all a team and we all socialise and mix during and after rugby – this is what rugby and life is about – you can stand on the sidelines saying it’s not fair, hating the nation in which you were born, refusing to sing its anthem and constantly finding fault or just crack on – life’s too short to be so worried about everything being perfect constantly

    • Bob Lethaby
      September 19, 2015 (12:40 pm)

      I totally object to that disrespectful comment saying I hate the nation I was born in just because my political view differs to the system we have currently. It is that sort of comment that displays human ignorance at its highest level.

      I have heard that Basingstoke have an excellent coaching set-up and that is great, however, the post was about inequality in the school system which has been let down by successive governments, red or blue. The statistics prove that the article I wrote was based on fact.

      I do not choose to sing the national anthem because I am not a Royalist, I never have been, but if that is what others wish to do, they have a freedom to sing whatever they want, just like I have the freedom to choose not too. There is no law with regards to the national anthem, this is supposed to be a democracy not North Korea.

      Most countries around the world are republics and those republics (France, Ireland, Germany and so on) are just as patriotic as a monarchy. I support local sport, local charities and attend local community events. I have lived in Hampshire all my life, supporting local businesses, pubs and shops. I regard that as patriotic.

      I also pay corporation tax, income tax, and VAT on my business, as that is what pays for health, education, defence etc etc so to call me unpatriotic is both a misguided and unsavoury allegation made by someone with their head stuck in The Daily Mail, a national rag that pays no tax because it is based in Bermuda…very patriotic.

      To have a political ideology that differs from others is not a crime and someone who advocates a fair taxation system, a stronger NHS and good education at the point of delivery is not unpatriotic. It can of course be argued that this is an unachievable ambition and that is a fair debate, but making cheap shots at lack of patriotism shows the writer as being ignorant of its true meaning.

      You mentioned that at Basingstoke Rugby Club where you have coached for 7 years (I presume you have changed your name for this post) everyone is welcome which I think is wonderful, but it appears that in your case, someone who has socialist tendencies is to be treated with the contempt, and with the presumption that they hate their nation because their political ideology doesn’t fit the criteria of the coach.

      That is not a very good advert for Basingstoke Rugby Club and I hope it is not systemic throughout a community organisation that offers sport for all.

      You may wish to withdraw this false allegation, because it has not been received kindly.

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