Not only will the programme give children an introduction to rugby union through the tag rugby version of the sport, but it will also ensure that teachers receive quality coaching and provide enough equipment to leave a rugby legacy in schools for years to come.
Each Premiership club will work with over 100 schools during the three year programme.
The launch was held at Sale Shark's Carrington training complex, where forty children from Openshaw Community Primary School were taking part in a tag rugby and skills coaching session. Sale Sharks' captain Jason Robinson said: "Our goal at Sale Sharks has always been to have a club firmly rooted in its community and working with children from some of the under-privileged areas of Manchester is a key part of that."
Robinson continued: "We need to encourage more children to lead healthy lifestyles and take up sport, and I firmly believe that should be through rugby. That's why I am so pleased to be helping to launch the new programme today and am grateful to EDF Energy for their long-term commitment, which means Sale Sharks and the other clubs will be able to run this programme and introduce thousands of children to the game."
The EDF Energy National Schools Rugby Programme will be aimed at boys and girls aged 8-10. Tag rugby is a non-contact version of the sport that teaches the skills necessary to go on and play rugby union. Schools are already being signed up, with the first coaching sessions starting in January.
Premier Rugby's Community Manager, Wayne Morris added: "EDF Energy's investment in our Community Programme is a ringing endorsement of the work all twelve clubs in the top flight have been doing over many years. This programme will reach out to nearly 100,000 children over its three years and will be supported by high profile players, like Jason Robinson, Jonny Wilkinson and Pat Sanderson. In fact, on average, a Premiership player will visit a school every day of the three year programme."
Louise Poole, EDF Energy's Head of Brand said: "We are delighted to become Premier Rugby's Community Partner. We are committed to rugby at all levels from the EDF Energy Cup to the grassroots and want to make sure our involvement leaves a lasting legacy for hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of children.
"The EDF Energy National Schools Programme is about getting children involved in rugby and making sure as many schools as possible have the teachers trained to coach and the right equipment to play the game for years to come. Children need role models and so we're really pleased that Premiership players are going to be involved throughout the programme."
Every school involved will also have the chance to play in local tag rugby festivals and regional finals. Some of those will go on to take part in tag rugby demonstrations at the EDF Energy Cup semi-final and then the final at Twickenham.
Jon Varney, Premier Rugby's Commercial Director concluded: "I am grateful to EDF Energy for their investment in rugby, from the EDF Energy Cup at the apex, through their other tournaments to the support of grassroots rugby via the EDF Energy National Schools Rugby Programme announced today. We now have an opportunity to build a long term relationship that includes EDF Energy, our great supporters and thousands of schools across England."
EDF Energy is one of the UK's largest energy companies, providing power to a quarter of the UK's population via its electricity distribution networks in London, the South East and the East of England. The company supplies gas and electricity to over 5 million customers and generates about 5GW of energy from coal and gas power stations, as well as combined heat and power plants and wind farms. The company is also a key player in national infrastructure projects, including the electrical upgrading of the London Underground, management of private electricity networks serving four London airports and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the country's first new railway in 100 years. The company employs nearly 13,000 people at locations across the UK. EDF Energy is a core part of EDF Group, one of the world's largest power companies.
Alongside EDF Energy's new role as Community Partner and sponsor of the National Schools Rugby Programme, the company agreed a three-year deal with the Rugby Football Union to sponsor its national cup competitions in September this year. The EDF Energy Cup will be contested by the 12 Guinness Premiership clubs and the four Welsh regions. In addition, there are four English club tournaments - the Shield (formerly National Trophy), Intermediate Cup, Junior Vase and the new Senior Vase.
EDF Group is a sponsor of the IRB Rugby World Cup 2007 and a major partner of European Rugby Cup Ltd, organiser of the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup.