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Denny Solomona calls on rugby community to connect with children from all walks of life

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This project will try to improve things and reach all kids so they can play and enjoy rugby

Sale Sharks winger Denny Solomona has urged fellow players, coaches and clubs to reach out to young people from minority groups and encourage more into rugby.

“We need to connect with communities that don’t really know rugby and wouldn’t think about playing it," Solomona told Sports Management at the launch of a grassroots outreach programme called Project Rugby today (18 October).

“I’d like to see other athletes, coaches and clubs join this project. I know the players love seeing kids come out and play rugby so there’s no doubt in my mind that players can play a big part in this. People like Eddie Jones will come out and have a huge impact.”

Solomona, 23, is eyeing an England recall from coach Jones ahead of the autumn internationals, following a blistering start to the club season saw him score six tries in the opening seven games.

His journey into the sport started at the tender age of five – making him an ideal candidate to launch Project Rugby. England Rugby and Premiership Rugby are aiming to attract black, Asian and minority groups, low socio-economic groups and disabled people into rugby union by providing new opportunities at 200 communities across the country. They hope to get 12,000 new participants aged 14 to 24 into the sport by summer 2018.

New Zealand-born Solomona was fortunate in that his father and grandfather took him to training from an early age, but he is aware of the barriers facing some communities in England. “Part of it is financial – kids that want to play can’t get a pair of boots or the right training gear,” he said. “The other thing stopping kids is finding travel to practice. This project will try to improve that and reach all kids so they can play and enjoy rugby.

“Now that schools are getting behind this project, they’ll be driving it. If the kids do want to go to rugby they’ll help them to get to training.

“As a kid, I thought it would be harder to get into the sport than it was. You really can just go to your local club and sign up – everyone is really inclusive, you meet new people and make new friends, which is the biggest thing I got out of it.”

Solomona was inspired at a young age by meeting his rugby idols, Christian Cullen and Billy Slater, and hopes to have a similar influence on the children who were at the AJ Bell stadium today for the project launch.

“Those players drove me to be who I am today,” he said. “Meeting a professional athlete at that stage of my life was great and made me take that next step forward. Hopefully, the kids that came out today will take that step forward in their lives as well. They really enjoyed it and they’re going to go back to schools with a smile on their face and stories to tell.”

For more information about Project Rugby click here.

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Sale Sharks winger Denny Solomona has urged fellow players, coaches and clubs to reach out to young people from minority groups and encourage more into rugby.
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