This national launch marks a new era for HITZ as it becomes the world's largest rugby-based social inclusion programme operating from Exeter Chiefs in the South-West to Newcastle Falcons in the North-East.
Leicester Tigers legend Lewis Moody, Saracens' Joel Tomkins, Harlequins' Kyle Sinckler and London Irish's Halani Aulika joined young people who have participated in the programme and the partners at the national launch at the Black Prince Community Hub in London.
Land Rover have appointed Moody, a World Cup winner with England in 2003, to become their HITZ ambassador. He said: "Rugby is a fantastic vehicle to help young people learn skills that they need for everyday life – whether it's helping to channel aggression or learning skills such as teamwork that can help gain employment or further education.
“I am thrilled to be part of this programme and look forward to working alongside Land Rover to help use rugby within local communities.”
The HITZ programme will be delivered by all 12 Premiership Rugby Clubs, including Leicester Tigers, with the aim to initiate behaviour change and foster confidence in disenfranchised young people aged 11 to 19 from challenging backgrounds.
HITZ encourages participants to remain in or re-enter education, undertake apprenticeships or vocational training and enter paid employment. Over the next three years the programme's aims are:
To support the development of 9,000 'at risk' young people over three years
1,500 of these young people will enter a personalised Study Programme90% will complete the course of which 75% will go on to achieve a positive progression into further education, training or employment.
Mark McCafferty, Premiership Rugby chief executive, said: "The power of professional rugby with its club brands, facilities, players and coaches to deliver social change is immense.
“The expansion of Premiership Rugby's social impact work together with partners from public and private sector organisations in the run-up to Rugby World Cup 2015 is using the game to change the lives of individuals and communities for the better through HITZ and our other social change programmes.”
David Wheldon, Barclays managing director, brand, reputation and citizenship, said: "Youth unemployment is a significant issue and HITZ provides an innovative way to address this problem.
“Our partnership with this Premiership Rugby programme is part of Barclays' broader commitment to changing 5 Million Young Futures by 2015, so the next generation has the skills needed to fulfil their potential and achieve financial security.”
Peter Argall, learning and development manager, Comic Relief added: "Comic Relief aims to bring about real and lasting change by tackling the root causes of poverty and social injustice, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
“We are proud to partner Premiership Rugby by funding HITZ programmes throughout England.
“Over the years, we have seen that sport can inspire people to change the way they live and fulfil their potential. HITZ is a fantastic programme which inspires young people."
Jonathan Garrett, Jaguar Land Rover corporate social responsibility director, said: "We are excited to be supporting this fantastic programme.
“At Jaguar Land Rover, we want to make a real contribution to our local communities and support initiatives that make a difference to people's lives.
“We have a great partnership with Premiership Rugby and are committed to supporting them grow the game of rugby.
“What better way than to continue this partnership with supporting a programme that uses rugby in such a positive way.”
Steve Holt, CEO Wooden Spoon, added: "At Wooden Spoon we work to transform young people's lives through the power of rugby.
“We have seen firsthand the lasting impact that programmes using rugby as an engagement tool have had on young lives.
“The combination of fun and education through sport provides disaffected young people with a real chance to get their lives back on track.
“We are delighted to be working with Premiership Rugby in support of the HITZ programme as it expands nationally, as we have supported HITZ since its inception.”