Stuart Lancaster’s England squad thank volunteers at RBS Six Nations base

England player Brad Barritt with the volunteers who visited Pennyhill Park to meet the squad and wat

England player Brad Barritt with the volunteers who visited Pennyhill Park to meet the squad and watch training. - Credit: Archant

STUART LANCASTER and the England players have paid tribute to the army of volunteers who underpin rugby in this country.

Nine volunteers belonging to clubs across the south of England, including one from St Albans, were invited to watch the England senior squad train at Pennyhill Park - the team’s base during the RBS 6 Nations - in recognition of their work for the game in various roles.

The volunteers enjoyed a three-course lunch, watched the squad in training for the match against Italy, and met with head coach Lancaster and a number of players including Chris Robshaw, Freddie Burns, Danny Care, Tom Croft, Toby Flood, Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs for some highly prized photos and autographs.

Afterwards Lancaster thanked the volunteers for their work in supporting England’s success at international level.

“The England team never forget that the game of rugby union in this country is underpinned by an army of more than 50,000 volunteers,” Lancaster said.

“These people willingly give up their time and effort every week to ensure our rugby clubs continue to flourish – whether it is coaching or refereeing on the pitch, or running the bar and club finances off it.

“It was great to invite some of those volunteers from across the south of England to our training session as a thank you, both to them individually and to everyone who volunteers in English rugby and keeps it thriving.

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Paul McGoohan is crucial to the survival of St Albans club Verulamians RFC. This small Hertfordshire club competes with some of the big clubs locally including Old Albanians, and McGoohan gives up a lot of his time to keep the club alive and pays equal attention to both the senior and mini/junior sections of the club.

“What an excellent day: excellent weather, excellent food, excellent company, excellent team,” he said.

“It was refreshing to see all the team and coaches relaxed and at ease with talking and engaging with all visitors, nothing was too much for them - very much an eye opener.

“Stuart Lancaster has formed a team of young men who are level headed, confident, committed and at ease with themselves and supporters.

“I thank the RFU for this outstanding opportunity.”