Manchester schoolkids enjoy ‘out of this world’ training day with England Sevens stars

You wouldn’t think that rugby players and astronauts have much in common, but a group of Manchester primary school children discovered that isn’t the case as they joined three England Sevens players to reach for the stars.

This weekend’s Marriott London Sevens World Series leg has a galactic theme, but the links between rugby and outer space doesn’t stop there as a handful of pupils from Cheetham Hill’s Temple Primary School found out.

They joined England Sevens stars Sam Stanley, Sam Blanchet and Jack Walsh at the Lensbury Club in Teddington as Heathrow Express and the UK Space Agency joined forces to put them through their paces with an education programme called ‘Mission X- Train like an astronaut’.

Supported by the UK Space Agency, as part of the international Mission X challenge, Mission X UK uses astronaut training to teach how diet and exercise play an important role in human performance in space and on the Earth. 

That’s where the England Sevens players came in with the similarities between space and rugby training – mainly vast-dexterity under pressure, operating under fatigue, being agile and generally fit and healthy – clear for all to see.

Temple Primary School are no strangers to the programme either, having taken part in the worldwide initiative earlier this year and topped the rankings overall.

And after strutting her stuff in front of her international idols, 11-year-old Nadia Khairuddin insisted the experience had been out of this world.

“It’s been really fun, we did reaction tests and other activities like making a jigsaw with thick gloves on,” said the Year 6 pupil.

“I joined the club at my school as I am interested in space as the universe never ends and I find it fascinating. There is just so much to learn about it.

“It’s been really interesting seeing the link between astronauts and rugby players and how they need some of the same skills to do their jobs.

“It has been amazing to work with the rugby players. I was in Sam Stanley’s team and he told me a lot about rugby and the skills involved in the game.

“I have never played rugby before but having met the players, I would be interested in giving the sport a go.”

And England Sevens player Stanley is adamant the astronaut training can help the squad continue the fine form that saw them triumph in Tokyo and finish third in Glasgow as the World Series rolls into Twickenham this weekend.

“It is interesting to be involved with an event like this one and I know I’ve learnt quite a lot about space and how astronauts work, but also how there are similarities between them and rugby players like myself,” Bedford Blues’ Stanley said.

GREAT INFLUENCE: Sam Stanley inspired one of the pupils to take up rugby despite the fact she’d never picked up a ball

“Astronauts, like rugby players, need to be quite agile – they have to work in cramped conditions when fixing the shuttles while we need to be equally agile to evade defenders on the pitch.

“They also need to monitor their diets and their nutrition, which is very important to us too so we are in the best health that we can possibly be in so the similarities are there for all to see.

“Since winning in Tokyo, things in the camp have been great. We have always focused on winning tournaments and it came to fruition in Japan. This has been epitomised by our hard work and it was great to see it pay off.

“Going forward, we are hoping this can instil further impetus ahead of London as we are in a positive frame of mind. I can’t remember the group being this positive since I have been involved.”

Jeremy Curtis, Head of Education and Skills at the UK Space Agency, added: “What has become obvious to me as I’ve been talking to some of the rugby players of the England Sevens is quite how similar their training, and fitness level requirements are to astronauts.

“They both have to put in a lot of training, work on their strength and make good decisions under pressure. Meeting these top rugby players has also brought to life for the students the importance of teamwork and dedication.”

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