England wing turned NFL star Christian Wade is vowing to change rugby

‘A lot of people are not enjoying waking up to go play rugby… I want to change that’: Former England wing turned NFL star Christian Wade is vowing to push the sport beyond its traditional borders by inspiring a new generation of ‘big personalities’

Christian Wade headed back to his old school this week to help spread rugby beyond its traditional borders — and nurture the next generation of entertainers.

The former England and Wasps wing, who recently returned from a spell in the NFL, launched a three-day camp at High Wycombe’s Royal Grammar School with the help of coaches who shaped his own journey – including former Commonwealth champion sprinter Julian Golding.

At a time when rugby is reeling from shocking revelations of racism, ’Next Gen You’ aims to make the sport more diverse. And more fun.

 Christian Wade returned home to Wycombe as part of the Next Gen You Rugby camps

The camps are designed to make rugby more accessible and more fun for kids to enjoy

The camps are designed to make rugby more accessible and more fun for kids to enjoy

The former England star hopes to inspire a new generation of rugby players with the camps

The former England star hopes to inspire a new generation of rugby players with the camps  

’This is an opportunity for me to give back,’ Wade told Sportsmail. ‘To create opportunities and help to guide the next generation of elite professionals.’

Wade added: ‘I’m all about trying to create opportunities for other people, using my platform, my influence, my network. And just trying to help prepare people for life – whatever they dream of doing one day.’

This week, around 50 boys aged 12-16 learned from Wade, Golding and Co. They all had at least two years’ experience of rugby. Eventually, though, Wade will search for untapped potential.

‘We will be looking to try to get to kids who haven’t played the sport, to introduce them to it and help to accelerate them to the next level if that’s what they wish to do,’ he explained.

Wade played for Wasps from 2011-2018 and appeared 165 times for the London side

Wade played for Wasps from 2011-2018 and appeared 165 times for the London side

Wade switched sports to NFL and was converted into a running back for the Buffalo Bills

Wade switched sports to NFL and was converted into a running back for the Buffalo Bills

‘We’re trying to hit all people, not just private schools. State schools, everybody. It’s not exclusive because rugby is like that – it’s exclusive to private schools. But I didn’t go to a private school, this is a state school and I want to get more people involved in the sport because rugby is a great way to teach many different things.’

Luther Burrell’s recent claim that racism is ‘rife’ in rugby sent shockwaves around the sport and Wade said: ‘It’s great to obviously shed light on what’s been happening but that’s just the world we live in… I’ve never been someone to allow that to hold me back.’

Wade added: ‘We’re going to get people more involved. Racism is not going to come in here because it’s my camp.’

And success this week would mean broadening rugby’s base and making it more fun to watch.

Wade represented his country at full international level, winning his one and only cap in 2013

Wade represented his country at full international level, winning his one and only cap in 2013

’This is an opportunity for me to give back,’ Wade is enjoying being part of the campaign

’This is an opportunity for me to give back,’ Wade is enjoying being part of the campaign 

‘Having new faces in the sport instead of the same people, the same faces and it just being boring,’ Wade said. ‘A lot of people I speak to, they’re not enjoying waking up every day to go play rugby… that’s something I’ve also experienced and I want to change that. I believe I can.

‘Rugby is a sport and it’s entertainment. So if you’re not enjoying it, how do you expect the people watching to enjoy it? That’s one of the big things we’re pushing here. Have fun, enjoy yourself and have a big personality.’ Why? ‘Because to play rugby and be healthy is a privilege. Who knows? If I come back to rugby… I’ll definitely be pushing that message.’

Next Gen You camps also cross rugby’s white lines, featuring ‘workshops and mentoring sessions with professionals from the world of work who act as role models for the kids but also as a sounding board, for them to understand what it would take to get to where that person is.’ That helps explain why his younger brother Adam – a drummer who recently returned from tour with Jessie J – played music as the youngsters arrived.

‘It makes it that much more achievable,’ Wade says. ‘When you just see someone on TV, sometimes you can only dream.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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