DESPITE England’s disappointing Five Nations defeat against France last weekend, the future of rugby is in good hands.

For volunteer coaches are working hard at grass roots level to introduce youngsters to the game, and develop their skills.

West Tynedale Junior Rugby Club currently works with about 40 young players, with boys and girls on their books from U5 to U12 level.

But the club, which is based at Haydon Bridge High School, wants more juniors to join its ranks.

Coach Matt Riddell explained: “Our location at Haydon Bridge means we can provide rugby opportunities for youngsters from across the south and west of the district. We’re not competing against other clubs for players.

“Far from it. We play matches against them and work with them for the good of the game.

“We just want families to know that we are here, and what we can offer in terms of introducing children to rugby. We’re not as big as other clubs, and we have a nice family atmosphere.

“Parents play an active role. Some have become volunteer coaches, and we all support each other.”

Youngsters can join the club from the age of five, and take part in training sessions which are geared around learning the basics of the game.

The non-contact form of the game, tag rugby, is introduced at U6 level, and is played through the age groups, until players are finally introduced to tackling and offloading at U9 level; and rucking at U10.

Matt, who has previously played rugby for Tynedale II, Tynedale Colts, and Burnage in Manchester, added: “Rugby is a physical sport, and our approach is about starting from the very basics and developing skills very gradually. The younger ones are not tackling, but they are learning how to catch the ball and run with it.”

Among the volunteer coaches at the club is Gareth Forbes, a former Oxford University player.

West Tynedale Junior Rugby Club does not compete in a league, but its youngsters play in friendly matches against local teams and others across the region.

The club was formed two decades ago, with significant input from renowned rugby coach, and former Haydon Bridge High PE teacher, Derek Todhunter.

The club meets on Sunday mornings. For more information visit the West Tynedale Junior Rugby Club Facebook page.