Hackney teenagers were given an early Christmas present this week, as Brian O’Driscoll played Santa by bringing the Rugby World Cup to the borough.
The former British and Irish Lions captain was in East London to help launch mid-week coaching sessions at the Petchey Academy – and the Webb Ellis Trophy arrived in his sleigh.
With the World Cup coming to England next year, the trophy has begun its grand tour of the British Isles, and the home of Hackney Bulls and Belles was its destination on Tuesday.
Members of both the men and women’s teams were able to have their photo taken with the iconic piece of silverware, and O’Driscoll, the Coca-Cola Company’s Rugby World Cup 2015 ambassador, was delighted to be part of the inaugural mid-week coaching session.
“East London is not an area of the country that is synonymous with rugby,” said O’Driscoll, the world’s most capped player. “This as an opportunity to bring the game to a wider audience.
“As a former professional sportsman, I’m a passionate believer in the importance of leading an active, healthy lifestyle and understanding the benefits of physical activity.”
The Coca-Cola truck has been synonymous with bringing Christmas sparkle to our television screens for many years, but now it hopes to raise the level of rugby participants in non-traditional areas before next year’s showpiece event.
Ireland’s record try-scorer O’Driscoll lauded the work of the Hackney Bulls in coordinating regular open training sessions as a way of encouraging more people within the community to reap the benefits of rugby and physical exercise.
The former Irish outside centre teamed up with compatriot Kerrie Ann Craddock, and fellow female rugby union players Sonia Green and Abi Chamberlain, to sprinkle their wisdom upon the Bulls and Belles academy members, ranging from ages 12 to 17, in a 90-minute session on Petchey’s 3G pitch.