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Devon youngster inspires RFU chief executive Sweeney

16 Sep 2021 20:07 | Devon RFU

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney visited Bideford RFC in response to a letter he received for youngster Thea Northcott.

Thea was in Year 6 at St Helen’s CofE School when, working on a project on equality, she decided to write a letter to Mr Sweeney.

Reaching an age when girls can no longer play in a team with boys, she wrote explaining that at her club there were not enough girls to make up a full team and she was mounting a recruitment campaign.

“I am doing what I can in my local area,” she wrote and told of contacting local secondary schools and, with the help of her Bideford RFC coaches, setting up a social media campaign.

“Many times, I have been told that I’m too pretty to play rugby, or that I’m more suited to ballet. This is gender abuse,” she wrote. “Everyone should be able to do what they want to do, which is why raising awareness of women’s rugby is vital.”

She ended her letter with “You are a big inspiration to me.”

Mr Sweeney was so impressed that he determined to visit Thea’s club as part of his roadshow catching up with as many clubs as possible after Covid lockdowns.

They met recently at Bideford and Mr Sweeney said: “Actually Thea is an inspiration. She is the voice of the future and representative of many girls involved in rugby today. She has both short-term and long-term plans and I hope that she achieves both.”

Her short-term plan is to grow the girls’ game in her area, and her long-term ambition?

“My long-term goal is to captain England in a winning World Cup,” she wrote in her letter.

Here’s hoping, and in the meantime, there are plans to make her a mascot at one of the Red Roses autumn Tests.

Bideford chair John Cox said: “Bill spent all day Sunday at the club which was excellent, and we are delighted to see the number of women and girls building. We have more than 300 juniors playing and it’s great to see more girls coming along. We have our women’s XV, our Vixens team and a junior girls’ section and want to make sure everyone can enjoy the game here at Bideford.”