BRADFORD on Avon RFC has launched a new initiative to develop girls’ rugby at the club.

The Bradford Bobcats programme will provide additional coaching and mentoring for girls aged 8-12, especially those sampling the game for the first time.

The girls and women’s game is one of the fastest growing areas of rugby, with more than 20,000 playing in England but with girls not allowed to play alongside boys beyond the age of 12, many drop out of the sport, or travel further afield to find a club supporting girls’ rugby for U13s or U15s.

Chris Eke, whose daughter Bethy plays for the U12s having come up through the club’s younger age groups, said: “There is a desperate need for the RFU and clubs to create more pathways for girls such as Bethy to stay in the sport.

“She is passionate about her rugby but is upset that next season she will have to leave the squad she has grown up with.

“This initiative by the club to bring more girls into rugby to drive more sustainable all-girl squads within the wider area is really important.”

The scheme has been backed by 1980 Olympic swimming silver medallist and Bradford resident Sharron Davies, who said: “The perception of girls in sports like rugby can be a little out of date.

“Girls get the same benefits of fitness, mental strength and lifelong camaraderie as the boys, if only parents and clubs know how to give the right support at critical ages.

“England is ranked number two in the world in women’s rugby, we need to keep and recruit more young girls into the sport to sustain this level in the future.’’

Girls aged 8-12 can join the Bradford Bobcats programme, with no previous rugby experience necessary.

The programme will be starting in September. Email or call Chris Eke on 07774 170002.