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Coaching team take rugby to Brazil

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Leicester Tigers community coach Joe Cousens embarks on the trip of a lifetime this weekend as part of a 12-month Premiership Rugby coaching project in Brazil.

Premiership Rugby is sending a team of 12 coaches for a year, in partnership with the British Council and SESI in Brazil, developing an new rugby programme for the South American country.

Cousens, who has been coaching with the Tigers Community department this summer, departs for South America on Sunday, just as Tigers kick off their Aviva Premiership season with a fixture against newcomers London Welsh.

“It sounds like a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started,” said Cousens, who played his early rugby at Wymondham in Norfolk before spending three years as a back-rower with the Tigers Academy.

“I met the rest of the coaches at a four-day training course recently and there’s a good mix of ages involved, a good mix of backgrounds, and I’m the youngest at 19.

“A chance like this doesn’t come around very often - I didn’t take much persuasion. I thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity.

“We’re going to be based at a school in Brazil for 12 months and it will be a good chance to see how rugby is developing in a completely different culture.”

Cousens had been planning to play for Cambridge in the new season before the Brazil trip came up, and has been coaching on Tigers Rugby Course weeks in the summer, including those based at Market Harborough and North Walsham, back home in Norfolk.

The Brazilian programme is Premiership Rugby's second overseas project after a team of coaches spent time in New York in May to play a key role in the development of rugby there.

“Rugby will be part of the Olympic programme for the first time in 2016 so this is a crucial time to develop a project like this, not only for those taking part in the sport, but also for general awareness and knowledge for the entire population,” said Premiership Rugby’s Brazil project manager Scott Watson.

“This project will use rugby as a tool for education and the promotion of social development and inclusion. It will build a legacy of the sport in Brazil.”

Premiership Rugby’s Community Department has developed a number of ground-breaking initiatives including the Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme, MBNA Tackling Numbers and social inclusion programme Hitz, as well as the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup, the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Cup and ESPN Premiership Rugby Masterclasses.

Wayne Morris, head of community at Premiership Rugby, said: “Each season Premiership Rugby and its clubs invest more than £3 million in community programmes which aim to grow grassroots participation and tackle core social issues. In the last year, clubs delivered 150,000 man-hours of community programming to more than 240,000 participants.”

The partnership project between Premiership Rugby, British Council and SESI in Brazil aims to pilot a rugby project to 12,000 pupils in 12 schools, using rugby and its core values to raise aspirations and initiate behaviour change as well as establishing rugby teams in 12 cities and sport centres.