The Wokingham Paper

Jack follows rugby dream after inspiration from London Irish and Project Rugby

A project run by London Irish and Gallagher, the title partner of Premiership Rugby, has inspired a young man with autism to discover a passion for rugby. 

Jack Manning has found a new love for the game of rugby after taking part in the Premiership Ruby’s Project Rugby program in connection with his local club London Irish.

The project is designed to increase participation in the game by people from traditionally under-represnted groups including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people as well as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those with disabilities. 

Jack, who is a student at a specialist school, Dove House Academy in Basingstoke, found a love for rugby ever since his first participation at an after school club run by London Irish as part of Project Rugby. 

The project has allowed Jack to flourish in the game and has seen him develop into an excellent player and has allowed him to enhance his skills and confidence away from the field. 

He has continued his development in rugby as a result of the initial work of the project and London Irish and now plays for Basingstoke RFC.

“We go to a lot of schools and not all the kids get straight into it, but Jack was one of those youngsters who fell in love with the game immediately,” recalls Joe Pegg, London Irish’s Foundation Manager. “He was such a fast learner and really interested in improving his game.

“Jack soon found himself named player of the week and his story is one of the most inspiring we’ve seen. He was constantly trying to improve and enjoyed developing his skillset, which you don’t always find early on.”

Joe added: “Disability sport has always been a passion of mine; our ability to go in and add real value, go further than just the playing field is brilliant. And the impact of helping these kids move out of their comfort zone can be enormous. Project Rugby has made the game so much more inclusive and accessible. The landscape of what can now be delivered is unbelievably good.

“Any child progressing from taster sessions at a SEN school like Dove House into a mainstream club, like Jack has done, is incredible. Such a transition is not without its obstacles so for Jack to fully integrate into a club like Basingstoke is fantastic.

“The level of confidence, and ability, that takes is huge. It’s daunting but the fact that Jack went there and has embraced it – well, that’s the dream with Project Rugby.”

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