THE first WRU Club of the Future competition has been hailed as a pioneering success by educators, government ministers and Welsh rugby bosses following its virtual finals day.

The competition, which is a unique partnership between the WRU, Minecraft: Education Edition and Hwb, the Welsh Government’s digital platform for learning and teaching, gave learners in all maintained schools the chance to design and build their own virtual rugby club of the future within Minecraft: Education Edition.

Learners were inspired by taking a virtual tour around Principality Stadium – within the world of Minecraft: Education Edition – and were encouraged to think of the needs of their local community when designing their rugby club.

More than 340 teams of learners around Wales entered the competition and many of the school groups completed at least some of the planning or building work collaboratively as part of their home-schooling tasks during lockdown periods.

The worlds submitted demonstrated an understanding of the local and global environment and the need for sustainability along with the importance of creating inclusive facilities. The learners also showed many innovative ways to engage people of all ages in rugby clubs.

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh language said: “The WRU Club of the Future challenge has showcased the collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking opportunities that Minecraft: Education Edition offers.

“I’m proud to say we’re one of the first countries in the world to take the progressive approach of providing school staff and learners with free access to this software, through Hwb, and it has been wonderful to see the inclusive and imaginative projects that have been submitted.”

As part of the judging panel WRU Community Director Geraint John was impressed with the standard of entries and believes rugby clubs could utilise some of the ideas the learners put into their worlds

He said: “We welcome this kind of feedback from young people; our clubs should be fully inclusive and welcoming to engage the whole community and working with Hwb and Minecraft: Education Edition provides a great platform to do that.

“We saw some fantastic ideas from all the finalists that we will pass on to our community clubs.”

Twelve schools from across Wales were represented on Finals Day with Darran Park Primary School, Ferndale winning the Foundation Phase category, St Michaels Church in Wales School in Kerry, Powys earning the Key Stage Two champions title and Porthcawl Comprehensive was selected as the Key Stage 3/4 winner.

James Protheroe, Darran Park Primary Assistant Headteacher and MLC Assistant Project Manager said: “Bringing rugby into this Minecraft: Education Edition project has been amazing from start to finish. Getting learners to think about the role of the rugby club in their own community has made it current and relevant. Using Minecraft with a focus on changing the future is so powerful for learners.”

Wales and Dragons backrow Aaron Wainwright, who announced the winners and took part in a Q and A with all the finalists along with Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap said: “It was nice to see how rewarding the competition was for the pupils. Young people have had a tough year so to have the escape of using Minecraft as a tool to be creative while learning is great.”

Siwan Lillicrap added, “I grew up around my local rugby club Waunarlwydd, it gave me a sense of belonging and a rugby family. It’s great to see the learners engaged with their local rugby clubs, it may encourage them to go along and join a team or help with the running of the club in the future.”

Regional finalists:

Bryn Deri Primary School

Darran Park Primary

Eglwyswrw Primary School

Lakeside Primary School

Mount Pleasant Primary School

Narberth CP School

Porthcawl Comprehensive School

Risca Community Comprehensive School

St Michaels Church in Wales CP School

Ysgol Greenhill School

Ysgol Gymraeg Penalltau

Ysgol Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant

Winners of the Foundation Phase category: Darran Park Primary

Winners of the Key Stage 2 category: St. Michael’s Church in Wales Primary school

Winners of the Key Stage 3 and 4 category: Porthcawl Comprehensive School