The Irish Rugby Football Union today announced a new partnership with Aldi Ireland that will see Aldi provide a substantial investment to support 'Play Rugby' - the IRFU's national participation initiative for school children over the next four years.
Launched today at Aldi's Terenure store by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Paul O'Connell, Aldi Play Rugby will assist teachers, coaches and parents involved in rugby at primary school level to develop a rugby programme in their school with the overall goal of encouraging school children to get active, participate in regular exercise and to eat healthily.
The IRFU and Aldi aim to increase the number of children participating in the initiative to over 100,000 by 2018. The programme will include rugby blitzes held around the country with a national festival staged at the Aviva Stadium in early 2017.
Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: "Getting the whole country more active requires all of us to work together and I would like to congratulate Aldi for lending its support to the wonderful Aldi Play Rugby initiative.
"We know how important it is for children to be physically active and encouraging them to do so at a young age sets the foundations for later life. I would encourage teachers and parents from schools across the country to get involved in Aldi Play Rugby and help encourage children and young people to be active."
Stephen Hilditch, President of the Irish Rugby Football Union, commented:
"We are delighted to welcome Aldi on board as the Play Rugby sponsor. Aldi's support will enable the initiative to train and support more teachers around the country which in turn will result in more young people getting the opportunity to experience the game of rugby. Participation in team sports has a number of social and health benefits as well as teaching young people essential life skills."
The Aldi Play Rugby initiative provides equipment, tools and a training course for teachers, coaches and parents in schools across the country. The IRFU will have over 100 Community Rugby Officers providing over 63,000 coaching support hours guiding teachers, coaches and parents through the process of introducing a non-contact rugby programme to schools for children between the ages of 6 to 14. Last year approximately 2,500 teachers participated in the programme.
Aldi will feature healthy recipes in its weekly in-store Specialbuys magazine to further support the initiative. Established in 2009, Play Rugby has grown steadily with 64,835 children taking part in 2015 across Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Group Managing Director of Aldi Stores Ireland, Giles Hurley, said:
"We are delighted to be partnering with the IRFU and supporting an initiative such as Play Rugby which aims to encourage children to be physically active.
"Making a positive impact on young people in the communities we serve and encouraging a healthy lifestyle amongst our customers are both of huge importance to Aldi. Our long established Super 6 Fruit & Vegetables and Super 6 Meat offers are market leading and allow families across Ireland to enjoy healthy and nutritious food at amazing value.
"As a business that is rooted in communities across the country for almost 17 years, we're committed to helping more young people, teachers and coaches benefit from this fantastic initiative. We truly hope that by introducing children across Ireland to rugby through our Play Rugby programme, we will inspire the next generation of Paul O'Connell's to join their local rugby clubs. There are 116 rugby clubs within a fifteen-minute drive of our 126 stores across Ireland which displays the accessibility of rugby to children."
Former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain Paul O'Connell added:
"When I was asked by Aldi to come on board as an ambassador for Play Rugby I was delighted. The popularity of rugby has skyrocketed over the past few years and any initiative that encourages children to be active and get outdoors deserves all the support it can get. My aim now is to encourage as many schools as possible to get involved, and perhaps we'll see the next generation of rugby superstars."
Teachers, coaches, parents and school children interested in getting involved in Aldi Play Rugby can register at www.aldi.ie/playrugby from today (September 9).