PUPILS from Southridge First School got the chance of a lifetime as they competed in a tag rugby tournament during half-time of the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday.
The youngsters not only played in front of an 80,000 crowd but also competed under the watchful gaze of World Cup winning pair Will Greenwood and Matt Dawson.
They were then able to watch as Harlequins claimed the Aviva Premiership title with a 30-23 victory over Leicester.
The Whitley Bay pupils were able to experience playing on the Twickenham turf as part of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, which is being implemented at 650 schools around the country.
And headteacher Sharon McIntosh revealed the pupils had been talking about little else in the weeks before the big day.
She said: “They were very excited, bubbling with excitement to come down here.
“They’re just so excited because only ten of them could come and they’ve had to leave their classmates behind.
“They’re a very talented year group – they’re good rugby players, very good all-rounders, actually.
“This is the icing on the cake, getting to this stage, to actually be at Twickenham. We travelled a long way so they were really excited.”
Pupil Abbie Hulme, 9, added: “We won a rugby tournament to get here, and all our team has done really well to get here.
“I’ve not been playing that long, just for school, but I’m really enjoying it.”
Dawson, who started at scrum-half when England won the World Cup back in 2003, admitted he had been impressed by the standard on show.
He added: “It’s been great, to be back at Twickenham and running around on the field with a bunch of very enthusiastic kids.
“At that age I remember being involved with curtain raisers meeting former players in the park, watching them play so it’s nice to do it back for them.
“This is fundamental, we had a great boost after the World Cup and sponsors have been vital really, and it’s got to continue if we want to see the next Owen Farrell and Ben Foden.”
The Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme is designed to increase participation in the sport and unearth young England stars of the future. Find out more at avivapremiershiprugby.com