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Middlesex graduate helps ignite Brazil’s passion for rugby ahead of 2016 Olympics


Children taking part in a Try Rugby Brazil lessonA Middlesex University Sports Science graduate is helping thousands of children in the traditionally football-loving country of Brazil take up rugby, as part of a programme to grow the sport ahead of its inclusion in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Chris Dodd, who completed his BSc Sport and Exercise Science degree in 2012, moved to Sao Paulo in January 2013 as one of the first 12 coaches on the Try Rugby Brazil project.

The collaborative programme, which is jointly funded by Premiership Rugby, the British Council and the Social Services of Industry (SESI) in Brazil, aims to develop the popularity of rugby in the country.
Supporting the social inclusion of disadvantaged youngsters and helping teach English language skills through the sport are also key objectives of the project.

After a year spent as a Community Rugby Coach teaching around 500 children in schools and adults at workshops around Sao Paulo, Chris recently moved into a regional role which places him in a large school as the primary rugby teacher.

"Every class has four lessons of sport per week, and one of these classes is rugby," explained Chris, who coached rugby throughout his time at Middlesex and worked at Harlequins F.C. before moving to Brazil.

"For the first half of the year I teach the children alongside their teacher so they learn how to coach rugby too. Then in the second half of the year I will support the teacher as they lead the rugby lessons."

By forming local youth rugby teams around Brazil and educating a generation of coaches in rugby best practice, Try Rugby Brazil is also hoping that long term the sport's growth will become self-sustaining.

Now in its second year, the programme has collectively introduced more than 54,000 Brazilians to the sport and was named Best Community Programme of the Year Award at the Rugby Expo Awards 2013.

Initially launched as a pilot in the state of Sao Paulo, demand has led to the programme being rolled out in two further states, Minas Gerais and Santa Catarina. The number of participating schools in Sao Paulo has also risen from 12 to 20.

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