Sports talk: ‘I cannot imagine life without rugby’
This month the spotlight is on Ben Knight, of Wells RFC
Tell us a bit about your background in rugby, Ben.
I joined Wells RFC as a 10-year-old back in 1992 when mini and junior rugby was in its infancy. I made my 1st XV debut as a 17-year-old, and was involved with the team when we gained promotion to Somerset Premier.
I was lucky enough to captain the club for a number of seasons during a period which included promotion to Western Counties. We came second in our first season but lost a play-off final before being moved to Southern Counties, winning the league and being promoted to South West 1 where we spent two seasons. We notably beat Weston-super-Mare RFC away, among other big scalps, before being relegated. During this period we also won the National Senior Vase, with the final being played at Twickenham.
Give us an overview of the rugby scene in Wells.
Wells is a one-club city, with our closest rivals being Tor RFC in Glastonbury – a club we look forward to renewing acquaintances with having just been relegated back to Somerset Premier.
As a club we are almost 200 strong on the mini and junior front, so there’s obviously an appetite locally for youngsters to want to play rugby. We try to have a visibility in schools, but we’re relying on teachers volunteering their time for extra-curricular sport and club coaches to volunteer their time to go in to the schools.
There’s no doubt we would like more members and to see more children running about on a Sunday, but the very fact that 95 per cent of the players involved in the success I mentioned previously came through our minis and juniors suggests something has worked. The battle is to keep on improving on this front when there are so many other things for kids to do these days.
Tell us a bit about Wells Rugby Club.
We run three senior sides, a vets side, as well as a Colts side, three girls sides and a full complement of minis and juniors. We really do see ourselves as a club for all ages and abilities, and have some fantastic people driving all sides of the game from the vets to the girls to minis, juniors and seniors.
We were founded in 1876 and have had many homes since, at one stage being known as Mendip RFC I believe, and eventually settled into our current home in the late 1980s. We’re hoping to relocate in the not too distant future to some state-of-the-art facilities to better cater for the hundreds of people turning out for Wells RFC every weekend.
How difficult is rugby to take up as a sport? Can kids learn it easily?
Absolutely. The intricacies of the game, with some of its more complex laws, are slowly drip-fed in. If you start young it all becomes second nature. That said, rugby really is a simple game. I suspect a lot of players don’t know all the laws; but if you run hard, tackle hard and pass the ball backwards you won’t go far wrong. We’ve had a number of people take up the game well into adulthood, having never played the game before. We aren’t professionals so everyone is very happy to give new starters the time of day.
What would you say to parents who think it’s potentially too rough for smaller kids?
I was that small kid and I genuinely cannot imagine life without rugby. It’s a testing, demanding game but I’ve made so many friends for life through it and have had so many great experiences. I certainly didn’t expect to be holding a winners trophy aloft at Twickenham, playing alongside my two brothers and 20 of my best mates.
I often find the smaller kids become technically the most proficient; the players with the best technique are generally the ones who avoid serious injury. That aside, the benefits of playing this fantastic team sport far outweigh the potential risks involved.
It’s traditionally been a male-dominated sport, but can girls and women play too?
Yes, girls can play with boys up until the age of 11, and we run Under 13s, Under 15s and Under 18 girls. We’ll hopefully one day also run an adult team. The RFU are very pro women’s sport.
If people want to try out, when and where is training?
We’re now taking a well-earned break, but the seniors will be back training every Tuesday and Thursday from 7pm in the first week of July. The minis will be kicking off on the first Sunday of September. Information on when the junior age groups boys and girl restart is available via our website.