Thomas Burgess from Redcar Academy had a day to remember on Sunday 9th March when he stood on the famous pitch at Twickenham before the RBS 6 Nations England v Wales match, proudly wearing their school’s new rugby shirt as they sang the National Anthem.
Thomas was one of a group of students standing proud as they joined England Rugby’s official anthem singer, soprano Laura Wright, in front of a sell-out crowd of 82,000 fans to reveal the unique rugby shirts they’d designed at a Canterbury Kit Design workshop last year.
The workshops were part of All Schools, England Rugby’s programme to get more secondary state schools playing rugby, and of which Canterbury – the official kit supplier to England Rugby – is Official Partner.
9th March was the official reveal of the schools’ shirts. The students were presented with their kits in the morning before taking part in a rehearsal with choreographer Simon Lole to prepare them for their big day on the pitch.
Just before kick-off they gathered on the pitch wearing their shirt designs behind Laura Wright, also sporting her own bespoke shirt she created at one of the workshops in her role as an ambassador for All Schools. After accompanying Laura with the national anthem, the pupils left the pitch and headed to their seats to sit back and enjoy the game, watching a victorious England beat Wales 29-18.
100 pupils in total represented their respective schools on the day, each wearing a shirt they’d helped create at one of the Canterbury Kit Design workshops held across the UK in September and October last year.
During the workshops the pupils got to learn about the core values of the game and the importance of the rugby shirt before putting their thoughts and designs to paper. The final designs were signed off by the school before Canterbury took them away to prepare the students’ artwork for production, leading to the official reveal at Twickenham on Sunday 9th March 2014.
My journey with all schools rugby project started at the Canterbury workshop in September last year at Houghton Rugby Club. The Canterbury workshop was a great opportunity that was both enjoyable and interesting we learned lots of new things during the day. Eventually me and my fellow students, who also took part came up with a design that we all liked. The chance to be able to design our own shirt was fantastic, and for this to then to be made into a real kit that I would be able to wear playing rugby for Redcar Academy by the amazing people at Canterbury was just another level.
A couple of months later me and the rest of the school rugby team were approached with a chance to go to Twickenham to watch the England v Wales game and sing the national anthem on the pitch. However to clinch this outstanding prize we had write a small piece about why we deserved to go, why we were proud to be English and what rugby meant to us. Immediately when I got home I knew that I had to win, it was an opportunity of a lifetime and I got on with writing the letter. A week or two had passed and I was very anxious to know whether I would be the lucky winner. I was then told by my PE teacher Mr Williams – I had only gone and won !!!! I was ecstatic and instantly texted my Mam and Dad to tell them the good news. They were both thrilled and very proud, my Dad was excited too as he was going to be able to come with me, he’s very patriotic and I knew he would love it too.
Finally the day I had been waiting for came. I arrived at Richmond college where we spent most of the morning. We rehearsed the anthem and had photos with Laura Wright, we received a free pair of thermals from Canterbury to go with the top we designed to make us look smart and professional, before facing the hordes of eager England fans. We then made our way over to the stadium for a dress rehearsal. Standing on the pitch in a rugby top I helped design it all sunk in and suddenly felt very real. The next hour flew by in what seemed to be seconds and before I knew it we were ready to go on the pitch once again but in front of 81,600 onlookers this time, the whole place was buzzing, butterflies flooded my stomach as I walked onto the enormous pitch at Twickenham and we took our positions behind the beautiful Laura Wright. I was incredibly nervous looking at the huge screens and the England team in front of me but had a huge sense of pride. Once I had sang the national anthem and walked to my seat I watched my national side beat Wales and go on to win the triple crown, the result I had wished for. I then left the roaring stadium feeling eternally grateful for being part of this once in a lifetime opportunity!
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