"Before Project Rugby, I didn’t know how to pass the ball properly"
Young talented British Asian Rugby Union player Sid Rai has made the transition from fearing a contact sport to joining the Bristol Bears Development Programme.
Sid who was born in Punjab, India came to the UK as seven years old, moving to London and then settling in Weston-Super-Mare.
The fantastic initiative ‘Project Rugby’ has been a huge helping hand in the early success of the 14-year-old. Sid came to know of ‘Project Rugby,’ courtesy of a PE Teacher from Worle Community School where he attends.
A joint initiative of Premiership Rugby and England Rugby, ‘Project Rugby’ aims to encourage the participation of young people from underrepresented groups. These include BAME people, individuals from a lower social-economic background and disabled people.
Despite having no previous history or interest in rugby, Sid began attending ‘Project Rugby’ sessions, focusing to develop a range of skills like passing, kicking and scanning off the ball.
Highlighting the coaching sessions, Sid says:
“There was a lot of thinking behind everything the ‘Project Rugby’ coaches did in their sessions. A key reason as to why I continued participating was because I had to use my mind and I found that fun.
“I’m extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication the coach put into each session delivery.”
After teaming up with ‘Project Rugby’ coach Rich Hynes and developing a great camaraderie with him, Sid took rugby more seriously.
Subsequently, he joined Hornets RFC, his local rugby club.
Recognised for his outstanding performances with the Hornets, Sid was fortunate to join the ‘Developing Player Programme’ at Bristol Bears.
Sid acknowledges ‘Project Rugby’ for having a positive impact, especially as he has more confidence and loves rugby.
DESIblitz presents an exclusive Q&A with Sid Rai, focusing on ‘Project Rugby,’ his game and Bristol Bears.
Tell us about yourself and your background?
I was born in Ludhiana, India and lived there for 7 years before I moved here to England. When we first arrived, my mum, dad and I lived with my uncle in his house based in Harrow.
My dad had a shop in Kensington and he would leave before I woke up and come back after I had slept. I didn’t see much of my dad of the time we lived there.
I went to a very bad school when I went there and it was in a very rough area. My mum would take me there and pick me up.
My uncle did a lot for us and helped in those situations like paying for my school uniform and some extracurricular activities I could do.
After a year living with them, we moved to Weston-Super-Mare where my dad’s business is and have been living here for the last 7 years.
What is it that inspired you to Rugby?
At first, I wasn’t really into rugby because I didn’t like the contact.
It was only until I started to play rugby for school when I really started to enjoy it.
My first proper introduction to rugby was from Bristol rugby coach Rich Hynes who put into context that rugby wasn’t a sport where you needed to be big but a sport where you need to be more intelligent.
How has ‘Project Rugby’ helped you on and off the pitch?
Before Project Rugby, I didn’t know how to pass the ball properly, step someone or kick properly.
It helped me to enhance those skills to progress into a better rugby player.
Off the pitch, it has developed my teamwork skills because a lot of training we did then was completed in groups as well as individual work.
“It was a case of getting the work done with no excuses.”
What position do you play and how easy or difficult is it?
I play tighthead in the front row or a Number 8 in the back row. Both positions are difficult and very different from each other. But I like that challenge and as long I am getting challenged, I have fun.
When you are playing tighthead, your core needs to be very strong because if you start getting pushed back in the scrum, the whole scrum will go back with you.
Out of the scrum, I must do a lot of ball carrying rather than quick hands. When I play as a number 8, I am basically one of the backs.
My carrying game needs to be very good as well as my passing and kicking. Both of these positions require you to be very fit and strong.
What is training like for rugby, a physically demanding sport?
We don’t do a lot of contact at training because the last thing the coaches want is for us to get injured and sit out for 2 or 3 matches.
But the fitness really takes over and my coaches keep telling us to push ourselves to new limits and keep working hard.
However, it’s not like its not fun. When you have friends around, the most tiring and pressuring tasks can feel fun because there is always competition.
We do a lot of fitness at my local club, Hornets RFC. And we are always coming up with different moves and tuning our technique.
What do you hope to achieve with the Bristol Bears Programme?
I want to keep progressing in the game and impressing the coaches with my rugby.
“My goal is to try and get into the PDG group.”
I think if I keep working hard and progressing like I am right now in the game, I will be able to achieve my goal.
I also want to continue putting what I learn from the training sessions into my rugby matches.
The DPP training sessions are very hard and need a lot of mental resilience and I want to apply it to my future job or whatever I do in life.
How important is the gym and having a healthy diet for rugby?
Going to the gym to stay fit is very important. If you don’t, you won’t be able to perform at the best of your ability after the first sprint or carry you do.
It also helps to be strong and bulky in rugby because it’s a contact sport and you want to be as hard as possible to tackle.
For diet wise, ideally you should be looking after yourself and eating healthy but I eat anything and don’t really take care of my diet too much.
Like I would come from the gym and have panipuri or scrambled eggs with a milkshake. I haven’t seen many consequences of having a shocking diet yet.
But obviously, when I get older, I need to stop eating rubbish and try a bit of salad so I don’t turn obese and actually have a future in rugby.
What are your ambitions?
I don’t know yet. My mum wants me to be a very wealthy man when I grow up, but my dad wants me to be respected in the community more.
I am quite good at my studies so I will have more options opened to me over time. But I want to be happy no matter what I do.
I am very good at science and like it a lot so maybe when I am older I can enter the science field and be successful in it.
Any top tip for students wanting to pursue Rugby?
Don’t let anyone stop you or discourage you from the sport.
“I am quite lucky to have parents that have supported me with the sport.”
But I know a lot of parents who don’t like the game and don’t want their children doing it. Keep doing your homework.
Away from Rugby, Sid enjoys cricket, which is in his blood. His dad played state level cricket. He also loves rollercoasters and extreme activities like quad biking or scuba diving.
Sid Rai is a shining example who has achieved success through the ‘Project Rugby’ initiative. To further develop, he has the chance to show growth at Bristol Bears.
For more details on ‘Project Rugby’ and how to participate, please check here.