Search

Saracens coach introduces rugby to Brazil ahead of Rio 2016 Olympics

PUBLISHED: 10:54 31 July 2014 | UPDATED: 14:11 31 July 2014

Nick Gourlay (right) introduces Brazilian youngsters to tag rugby on the beach

Nick Gourlay (right) introduces Brazilian youngsters to tag rugby on the beach

Archant

The FIFA World Cup has only just finished, but Brazil will be hosting another global sporting event in two years’ time – the 2016 Olympics.

Nick Gourlay (second from left) in Brazil Nick Gourlay (second from left) in Brazil

Rugby has been absent from the schedule since the 1924 Games in Paris, but it will return in Rio in the popular seven-a-side format – the first time that version of the sport will appear at the Olympics.

A Try Rugby project has consequently been established in Brazil, in a partnership between Premiership Rugby, The British Council and Brazil’s Social Services of Industry (SESI).

It has been running in the state of Sao Paolo since 2012, in Santa Catarina since 2013, and has recently expanded into the state of Minas Gerais.

There are over 14,000 participants playing every week in Sao Paulo state, which has doubled the playing base in Brazil, and more than 54,000 young people and adults are now taking part in coaching sessions, workshops and competitions in Brazil.

Gourlay organises a training session Gourlay organises a training session

Saracens community coach Nick Gourlay has been involved with the extension into Minas Gerais, and has now spent five weeks in Brazil, based in the city of Uberlandia.

A former pupil at University College School in Hampstead, and a former UCS Old Boys player, he has been discovering the difficulties and rewards of introducing a new sport to a football-mad nation right after the World Cup.

“I thought that was going to be the biggest challenge before I arrived here, but actually it hasn’t been so bad - and in some cases it has been helpful,” Gourlay told Ham&High Sport.

“The World Cup here was one of the best ever and was a great success in Brazil, even if the national team crashed out in spectacular fashion at the end.

A group of Brazilians convert a football goal into rugby posts A group of Brazilians convert a football goal into rugby posts

“Brazil enjoyed being the centre of global attention and are already looking forward to the Olympics. With a lot of focus set to be on the re-introduction of rugby to the Games, people here in Brazil want to be a part of that story.

“In England I’ve often found a ‘rugby against football’ mentality but here everybody of all ages are fascinated by the new sport and the funny ball.

“There’s definitely interest in the sport. Although the 15-a-side code is very difficult to understand, we have been introducing people to the sport through tag rugby and sevens, which are far less difficult to pick up.

“Brazilians are very good natural athletes so the idea of running and beating defenders comes very easily to them and they thrive on it. Brazil is such a sporty nation that they are absolutely loving the new challenges and new experiences that rugby brings.”

Having studied Sport Science & Geography at Loughborough University, Gourlay is well suited to his role.

“One half of my family comes from the Philippines and I have always been interested in how basketball brings communities together in the face of great poverty and hardship,” he said. “I have always wanted to help use rugby to bring the same benefits elsewhere.

“To me the project was everything I have looked to be involved in - developing rugby in an incredibly exciting country and using it to help better the lives of young people and communities.

“I’ve found it much easier getting girls involved in sport here in Brazil than I did back in England as there is a real culture of girls’ participation.

“It has also been very different to England in the fact that we start our sessions with little or no knowledge of what rugby is meant to look like in the first place.

“In England, before every session, everybody has a go at kicking and drop-goals, but out here everybody just tries to get their head around making the ball bounce back up into their hands.”

Gourlay’s biggest difficulty has been the language barrier – he did not speak any Portuguese when he got the job in May and has encountered very few English-speaking Brazilians.

However, there are longer-term issues ahead: “Development of rugby out here poses completely different challenges,” he said.

“One of the most important goals of the project is that everything we do is sustainable. We don’t want to leave and for everything to fall apart and stop, so educating people to coach, teach and referee is incredibly important in making sure that what we do and set up is not just temporary.

“Whereas the interest is definitely there, the size of the country and the lack of facilities makes setting up systems that are long-lasting incredibly hard.

“Equipment is not easy to come by, and every weekend the local team strap poles to the sides of a football goal to make the rugby posts. Sorting out equipment so that we have a good number of schools competing with each other and regularly participating in rugby will be a real challenge in the future.”

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Yesterday, 17:00

A brace from Jeniece Benjamin helped Ben Moore and Dean Harrington’s team to victory after extra time

Spurs star smashed seven goals in final two games, including another hat-trick in 7-1 demolition of Hull City on final day

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Read Arsene Wenger’s full post-match interview as he says Stan Kroneke’s not to blame for missing Champions Leauge qualification – and that his future will be sorted out very soon...

Premier League: Hull City 1 (Clucas 66) Tottenham Hotspur 7 (Kane 11, 13, 72, Alli 45+2, Wanyama 69, Davies 84, Alderweireld 87)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Arsenal beat Everton 3-1 at the Emirates – but the result was rendered academic with top rivals Liverpool beating Middlesbrough at Anfield to secure the final Champions League spot.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Duo set to face South Africa A next month

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Middlesex’s Dawid Malan hit his first ton of the summer as his side performed well on the second day of their county championship match against Surrey at Lords.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

County Championship, day two: Middlesex (296-5) trail Surrey (313) by 17 runs

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now