PUPILS at Westonbirt Prep School in Gloucestershire enjoyed a rugby twist to home-schooling this month as England and Wasps scrum half Dan Robson hosted a memorable virtual assembly.

With primary and secondary schools closed since January 5, lockdown is taking its toll on mental and physical health, prompting the England Rugby assembly initiative, aimed at providing respite and support for students, teachers, and parents.

Schools and colleges that had been going the extra mile to support their community and promote rugby union were selected, with players talking to students at state primary and secondary schools, including RFU All Schools, as well as established rugby playing schools including those that reached the U18 and U15 Schools Finals but could not play at Twickenham due to Covid.

The assembly offering – which also saw Mark Wilson, Max Malins, Paolo Odogwu, George Ford, Elliot Daly, Ben Earl, Maro Itoje, Anthony Watson and Jack Willis virtually drop into schools around the country – is part of England Rugby’s activity to support community rugby.

The initiative also includes running online club assemblies, live Q&As from the England Men’s and Red Roses squads, plus players sharing position specific advice to help community players develop skills at home.

Westonbirt Prep head teacher Sean Price said: “It was a privilege to welcome Dan to the school, albeit virtually. It provided an exciting opportunity for children across KS2 and 3 to interact with one of their heroes and learn about life as an elite sportsperson.

“Dan was engaging, articulate, relatable and down to earth, proving to be an excellent role model as a person as well as an outstanding rugby player. The experience was a very welcome reward for students who have put in huge amounts of hard work online this term and will be a memory that they won't soon forget.”

Pre-lockdown there were around 150,000 boys and girls who played rugby each week in schools and colleges throughout England, with the majority of those not able to play competitively now for nearly a year.

And Robson, who has been called up by Eddie Jones for this year’s Guinness Six Nations Championship, was delighted to inspire the next generation and to keep them interested in the sport while they cannot play.

Robson said: “I think my favourite question had to be whether I could eat puddings. For the record, I am, and apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding are my favourites.

“We did also cover more serious questions like role models and how important it is to have good relationships with your team-mates.

“It was just great to help in some small way. We appreciate how lucky we are and we’re keen to help put smiles on people’s faces when we can.”

Visit www.englandrugby.com/participation/playing/inspired-to-play to hear England players sharing advice on how to develop your rugby skills and fitness at home.

6-18-year-olds can also follow fun rugby sessions online with former England internationals during lockdown.