Female students at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy have now joined a rugby programme led by former England captain and Bradford-on-Avon local Lewis Moody.

After five years of the Mad Dog rugby enrichment programme running just for boys at the school, the fitness and character-building scheme which was founded by the Bath Rugby star, has been opened up to girl players.

The Mad Dog programme, named after teammates’ nickname for Moody, was set up by him to use rugby’s standards and values to nurture young people and support their academic achievement.

The rugby programme is integrated into the sixth form of several state schools and academies, offering a two-year rugby programme to students working towards A-level, BTech and RFU coaching awards.

“The programme was initially only offered to boys, but Lewis was keen to extend it to girls as soon as it was feasible,” said a spokesman for the academy.

“The programme’s annual impact report, which included periods when students were learning at home because of lockdown, had showed that 90 per cent of students taking part believed it had positively affected their self-confidence.

"Eighty per cent said it had a significant effect on their mental wellbeing, and 95 per cent noted improvements in their physical health.”

Now the rugby and strength and conditioning sessions are open to all students, and participating sixth formers have a full programme including well-being, nutrition, and confidence and leadership building included in their curriculum.

The programme is delivered by two Mad Dog coaches, who are based full-time at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy.

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Lewis Moody, who lives in Bradford-on-Avon, said: “It’s been a long time coming, but I am beyond excited that we are now able to offer the same opportunities to both girls and boys.

"We have wanted to see the benefits of rugby and well-being delivered across the school to all students equally, and I am so pleased with how many girls have got involved.

“The coaches’ focus is on the students as individuals, helping them develop into confident, respectful and considered young leaders, who set high standards within the community. With both girls and boys now committing to the programme, they will inspire all students across the entire school.”

One of the Mad Dog coaches, current Welsh Rugby International Gemma Rowland, said: “Rugby allowed me to believe in myself, and gave me a place where I could truly be myself. I learned how to believe in my strengths and it encouraged me to see possibilities and opportunities around me. Without rugby, I would not be who I am today.”

Anita Ellis, headteacher at the academy, added: “The quality of the Mad Dog coaches is exceptional, and they are always looking for ways to embed their thinking into the wider school. Their desire to make sport equitable chimes with everything we aim to do as a school, and I could not be happier that we have partnered with them.”