As continues to celebrate the return of grassroots rugby, Joe Harvey spoke to Saracens’ Jackson Wray. (Photo Credit: Simon Cooper)

As Westcliff RFC prepared for life in National Two South in the summer of 2019, the club welcomed back Jackson Wray.

After being born in Sunderland before moving to Essex, the Saracens star returned to his first-ever club to help coach the team’s defence.

Finishing 13th in a season cut short by Covid-19, the 30-year-old says he thoroughly enjoyed his time coaching in the fourth division.

“I got down there as much as I could and I was doing a lot of the forwards stuff last season,” Wray said.

“Obviously this season hasn’t got going and last season didn’t really finish, so for the majority of the last season, I was there until probably March time and I haven’t been down there since, but I really enjoyed it.

“They were a really good bunch of guys, very keen to listen and to learn. It’s still a very good level as well, some real good teams in that league, so I really enjoyed it.”

In the absence of the National Leagues, there has still been plenty of changes at Westcliff as they begin gearing up for the 2021/22 season. Recently, Joe Ford departed the club for division rivals Bury St Edmunds, with Kent Bray stepping into the Director of Rugby shoes having served as Skills Coach in the last campaign.

Returning to training last week, Westcliff also had an Easter Sunday event where members were invited to visit the club’s shop to replace old kit whilst a new menu was on offer.

Currently, clubs are able to return to contact training without scrums and mauls, with sessions not allowed to exceed 20 minutes of contact.

All being well, on April 26, matches will be able to take place under adapted laws and by May 17, there could be a return to full contact training.

Then from May 31, full-contact matches can potentially be staged and on June 21, all Government restrictions could come to an end.

NCA Chairman John Inverdale has described this roadmap as “light at the end of the tunnel”, as nearly 18 months of restrictions may conclude at the start of the summer.

We are already aware that some clubs are hoping to have some sort of action this year, prior to the leagues potentially returning in September.

Steve Grainger, the RFU’s Rugby Development Officer, told NCA Rugby last week how he was expecting to see healthy competition between the clubs as they get back to playing after an unprecedented time away.


“They [Westcliff] are looking forward to getting back out there,” Wray added. “The first thing they are looking forward to is getting back training, getting the guys in and working hard because I think it is such an important thing for communities.

“It is important for players to go out – both mentally and physically – so it is a massive, massive step. Obviously, for the community, Westcliff is a brilliant club, but all the clubs are brilliant. They are full of volunteers who love being there and helping, so it is a great thing that you can now build towards something.

“I know that Westcliff are trying to bring in the community as much as possible for games and I know that if they do play games, they are going to make it as friendly and enjoyable as possible.”

#BackToGrassroots is NCA Rugby’s official celebration for the return of community rugby.