Youth in Illinois engaging with The Rugby Weekend Presented by AIG teams

USA Rugby and Rugby Illinois are set to take full advantage of the publicity generated around The Rugby Weekend Presented by AIG to build momentum around youth and high school rugby participation. With the help of AIG and all four international teams, players, parents, coaches, teachers, and pupils will get a taste of what youth rugby has to offer in and around Chicago. Teams will provide player visits to assist Rugby Illinois and USA Rugby with Rookie Rugby demonstrations at schools and in the stadium throughout the week and following the weekend's matches. Each school will be presented with an AIG Rookie Rugby in a Box starter kit.

This past Saturday, Oct. 28, the Illinois Tornadoes boys and girl select side players were joined by under-14 players from across the city. About 300 players and another 100 volunteers, coaches, and parents came out to welcome the All Blacks to Chicago. The players and athletes broke into stations, where they participated in drills, received world-class tips from capped internationals, asked questions, and received autographs from their favorite players. The clinic was organized by Al Geiser of Chicago Wapiti Rugby Club with assistance from the club's coaches and administrators.

Many of the players will have the opportunity to showcase these new skills at halftime of the USA Eagles match against the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Toyota Park Friday, Nov. 4.

Ellis Palmer from the Wapiti (under-12) said: "I really love rugby. I am playing half time for the USA game and it's going to be really fun. I am excited to see all the tackling and having fun with my dad watching the game."

Kylee Mergen, an Illinois Tornadoes Select Side player, added: "I learned a lot of things I never knew about the game, I learned about high kicks and some positions I haven't played before... I am really excited to be able to see a world-class national team game. It will be awesome."

Rugby Illinois staff have arranged school visits around Chicago this week, where athletes from all four squads will help deliver the AIG Rookie Rugby in a Box kits. The athletes will showcase customs from their country and teach kids not only about rugby skills, but also how World Rugby's Values of integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect factor on and off of the pitch. In total, 50 boxes will be distributed throughout Chicago, reaching thousands of children. Rugby Illinois has already reached more than 10,000 children in more than 70 schools in 2016.

The fun does not end after the rugby weekend is finished. Janet Kean, president of Chiefs Rugby Football Club, will lead volunteers in demonstrating youth rugby to Game On! Sports 4 Girls' Veterans Day Off school event for more than 200 girls. Led by youth volunteers from Rugby Illinois, Girls will play rugby throughout the morning.

About Rookie Rugby
Rookie Rugby is USA Rugby's flag rugby program for girls and boys. The game is a hit both in physical education classes and within youth sports programs across the country. To discover how to start your own Rookie Rugby league or find a club near you, visit www.rookierugby.com.

About Rugby Illinois
Rugby Illinois is the governing body for Rugby Union in the state of Illinois at the high school and younger level under the national jurisdiction of USA Rugby and the global jurisdiction of World Rugby. Rugby Illinois is organized exclusively for fostering national and international amateur rugby competition, combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency and contributing to the health of the youth of Illinois through sponsoring and conducting programs dedicated to the promotion of physical activity and fitness purposes. Find more information about Rugby Illinois at www.rugbyillinois.us.