In his new role as Patron of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Prince Harry attended the England rugby team open training session. Photo / AP
He’s just taken over the patronage of the Rugby Football Union, so Prince Harry is naturally eager to get to know the team better.
This morning, the Prince arrived at Twickenham Stadium in London to join 12,000 fans at an open training session where young people from RFU programmes can watch the England team prepare for their next RBS 6 Nations match.
The royal, 32, who was smartly dresses in a navy suit and blue shirt was seen smiling as he chatted to fellow spectators in the stands.
On arrival, the Prince met with young rugby players involved in England Rugby’s Try for Change programme.
And although he was at a rugby event, the prince found time to express his woes about his favourite football team.The initiative aims to use the sport to improve the lives of disadvantaged people and the prince heard from people who have used rugby to turn their lives around.
Harry, an Arsenal supporter, delivered his own verdict on his team’s 5-1 drubbing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday.
As he chatted to Jack Gair, 19, a young sports coach from Essex who trained on the Coach Core programme supported by Harry and the Royal Foundation charity, the Prince asked which football team he supported.
Britain’s Prince Harry speaks with England Coach Eddie Jones (centre). Photo / AP
“Man U,” said Jack, who asked the same of the fifth in line to the throne.
“Arsenal,” said Harry and before the teenager could say anything more, he put up his hand to signal stop and said: “I know. Let’s not talk about it.”
The training session at Twickenham was Harry’s first engagement as the new patron of the Rugby Football Union, after he took the role over from the Queen.
Harry, who had been vice patron of the RFU since 2010, is a huge fan of the game and celebrated with the England players in Sydney when they won the World Cup in 2003.
Richard Hill, the England team manager and a World Cup winner in 2003, spent part of that night on the town with the Prince, watching Harry play the bongos with Lawrence Dallaglio.
He paid tribute today to the Prince’s support for the game and the England set up. “He knows the players well. Usually, he will come into the changing rooms and talk to the players,” Hill said.
Britain’s Prince Harry with England player Maro Itoje. Photo / AP
“I think it’s important for the team that they have a patron who interacts with the group.”
Hill revealed that Harry had popped over from neighbouring Kensington Palace to watch the team training in Hyde Park yesterday but, as today, had declined the opportunity to join them in a game.
“He doesn’t seem to be showing much interest in going into the scrum. He did pop along to one of our Hyde Park sessions yesterday. He didn’t seem keen on being lifted either,” Hill said.
The team, whose next match is against Italy on Sunday week, have been staying at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, next to the palace, and training in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens this week.
Harry is expected to attend one of their Six Nations games this season but is not due at the Italy match at Twickenham on February 26.
At Twickenham today Harry, 32, chatted to head coach Eddie Jones and some of the players, including captain Dylan Hartley and his teammates Maro Itoje, Jack Clifford, and Courtney Lawes, after watching them train for an hour and a half.
The royal chatted with player Courtney Lawes, who towered over the 6ft 2in prince. Photo / AP
While they went through their drills on the hallowed turf, he also met young rugby fans and players watching in the stands.
Among them were players from Didcot Rugby Club in Oxfordshire who have taken part in the Kids First programme for children aged six to 13.
Chris Sigsworth, the programme’s schools coordinator, said Harry had asked the children which positions they played in and how long they had been playing the game.
The Prince sees sport as a way of building confidence, self esteem and other skills in children.
“He was saying some of the other work he is involved in is about how rugby can be a tool for social change,” Mr Sigsworth said.
Prince Harry speaks with people from the RFU Try for Change programme. Photo / AP
Before he left, Harry also met a young woman who suffered life-changing injuries playing rugby.
In the players’ tunnel he chatted to severely disabled Laura Wicks, 35, a former England trialist from Billericay, Essex, who suffered a brain injury in an accident while playing for Camp Hill Chargers in Solihull in 2003.
Her mother, Gina Wicks, 61, said: “He was asking if Laura enjoyed watching all the players at the training today. She has really enjoyed it.”
The event today, which was free to the 12,000 fans given tickets through schools and clubs, was a way for the England team to say thank you to their fans