A YOUNG rugby fan from Hexham’s Queen Elizabeth High School had a memorable day at Twickenham ahead of England’s recent Six Nations clash with Wales.

Matthew Sharman walked on to the famous turf to unveil the school’s new Canterbury rugby shirt, and stood proudly while players and supporters sang the national anthems.

The opportunity came as part of the All Schools programme, launched in 2012 by the Rugby Football Union, which aims to get more state secondary schools playing rugby, and encourages students to join local clubs.

Matthew was one of 75 pupils from across England who were picked to unveil their new shirts in front of thousands of rugby supporters on behalf of their respective schools. The 16-year-old said: “I’ve been a rugby fan all my life, but I’d never been to Twickenham before. I was so excited and the atmosphere out on the pitch was incredible.”

Matthew, who was joined by PE teacher Chris Scott, was involved with the design of the school’s new kit, after taking part in kit design workshops last year.

He added: “We worked hard to pick what would work best for our school and we’re all delighted with the way it’s come out. The rugby clubs at my school are getting busier and lots more people are getting interested. The kit has helped increase the popularity of the sport which is excellent.”

Matthew also met England international Lewis Ludlam, who said: “For the youngsters to get a taste of what it’s like when 82,000 people are screaming down at you is very special.

“Programmes like All Schools are amazing for the game. For these guys to get this sort of opportunity at their age is brilliant.”

Recent research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University showed that participation in rugby has increased in schools since the inception of the All Schools programme in 2012, with over 10,500 students joining local rugby clubs.

The All Schools programme, supported by Canterbury, is one of the RFU’s key legacy programmes set up to increase the number of state secondary schools playing rugby union in England. Visit www.englandrugby.com/allschools to find out more.