With the Six Nations in full swing, the national spotlight is firmly on rugby union at the moment.
In fact, it is fair to say the sport even knocks football off the back pages of some newspapers during the six-week period in February and March.
And with England’s young guns Jack Nowell and Jonny May earning rave reviews for their exploits in the current championship, the future of the game in England appears to be a rosy one.
Locally, Mansfield RUFC is renowned for producing young, homegrown talent - leading to success on the pitch as well as moves for some of its star players to clubs like Nottingham.
Nottingham currently has former Blue and Whites’ players Tom Calladine and Ryan Hough in its ranks and is also working in partnership with an award-winning Mansfield business to find the next generation of players from across the area.
The club re-affirmed this commitment last week when it signed a new deal to extend its North Notts Community Partnership into a fourth year with major sponsor Hall-Fast Industrial Supplies.
Hall-Fast managing director Malk Hall has been the driving force behind the Green and Whites’ scheme in the area, which has seen the Meadow Lane club deliver coaching to thousands of students within primary, secondary and SEN schools across the region.
Mr Hall said: “I am very pleased to extend our North Nottinghamshire Community Partnership with Nottingham Rugby. The work that the club has done over the last few years within the area has been tremendous in primary and secondary schools and also within the Fountaindale SEN School.
“This programme means much more than just delivering coaching and expanding the Green and Whites reach across the shire - we are all intent on encouraging healthy and active lifestyles, while raising the confidence and aspirations of the youngsters.”
The success of the programme was evident a few weeks ago when Calladine, a former student and teacher, delivered two sessions to Year Seven and Nine students at Garibaldi College in Forest Town.
There, the Nottingham rugby number eight gave the students an insight into professional rugby.
Added Mr Hall: “He gave an inspirational talk to a few young lads and it was great to see the reaction. It was also great to see first hand the young people enjoy the sessions.”
Coaches from the club also deliver sessions at Fountaindale School on Nottingham Road, where the emphasis is more on movement with students who have special educational needs.
They are in the second year of delivering sessions at the school and principal Mark Dengel told Chad how the sessions had benefitted the youngsters.
“It gives them an opportunity to at least have a go at something like rugby,” he said. “They won’t get an opportunity to play a full game but they can play an adapted version.
“They also get a lot from the players who come in. The coaches that come in are relatively young but are excellent role models for the youngsters.”
Nottingham, which was recently bought by a new group known as The Friends of Nottingham Rugby, has ambitions of securing promotion to the Premiership where it would be rubbing shoulders with giants of the game like Leicester, Northampton and Saracens.
And operations director Chris Simon said the extension of the partnership with Hall-Fast was a key part of the club’s delivery plans over the next few seasons
He said: “I’m delighted that we will carry on working together and that this relationship, which has already had a significant impact in North Nottinghamshire, will continue to grow and impact on people in the area as Nottingham Rugby moves into a new era for the club.
“This is another great example of what sport and business can achieve when working together. We are all excited about what the future holds as this partnership goes from strength-to-strength.
“It’s been a tough season for Nottingham, on and off the field, but the sale of the club presents a great foundation on which we can re-launch our strategy. We have a fantastic facility at Meadow Lane, a great training base and a committed and dedicated management team with high aspirations. Our partnership with Hall-Fast is a key part of our delivery plans over the next few seasons.”