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Drama Brings Rugby History to Year 9

Friday, 20 May 2016

Bolton School hosted a performance of Hands Up for Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot as part of a three-week theatre tour supported by the RFU to engage schools and clubs ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship. All of the Year 9 boys watched the performance in the School's Studio Theatre.

The play opens as three fans prepare to watch a Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and New Zealand. They start to discuss which is the greatest moment in Rugby Union history: Francois Pienaar receiving the World Cup from Nelson Mandela in 1995, Jonah Lomu’s four astonishing tries for New Zealand against England in the same year, or Jonny Wilkinson’s famous drop goal in the 2003 World Cup Final against Australia. Their argument is interrupted by a stranger who insists on a fourth option and begins to tell the story of Frederick Stanley Jackson, a Cornish tin miner who was a member of the first ever British Lions tour to New Zealand in 1908.

Jackson, it turns out, was summoned home from this tour to answer charges that he had previously played as a professional under an assumed name. The play therefore delves into the history of the Great Rugby Schism that took place in 1895, and the bigotry and prejudice that Jackson faced as a working class man set against Rugby Union committees of the early Twentieth Century, which excluded players from the working classes or ethnic minorities in their determination that rugby should remain an amateur game.

The tale of Jackson’s extraordinary life unfolds as the play travels between the present day and the early 1900s via key moments, including South Africa’s World Cup victory in 1997 and England’s last-minute win in Australia in 2003.

As well as providing fascinating historical information and dramatic twists and turns, Hands Up for Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot also incorporated comedy, song, physical theatre, and a re-enactment of the All-Blacks’ Haka. The four actors played an incredible forty-two roles in total and brought to life some of the greatest moments in rugby, including Jonny Wilkinson dropping the World Cup winning goal after which the play is named.

The boys thoroughly enjoyed watching Hands Up for Jonny Wilkinson’s Right Boot and learned a great deal about the history of the game. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to ask questions and take photographs with the U20 Trophy.

The theatre tour coincided with the official Trophy Tour for the World Rugby U20 Championship, which kicked off on 7 May and involved the U20 Trophy visiting over 70 clubs and schools across Cheshire and Lancashire before arriving in Manchester City Centre for the tournament launch event in on 4 June. The Trophy was also brought to the school as part of the tour on 9 May, and pupils from all year groups were able to take photos.

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Pupils with the U20 Trophy and the

Pupils with the U20 Trophy and the 'Hands Up for Jonny Wilkinson's Right Boot' cast

The U20 Trophy at Bolton School

The U20 Trophy at Bolton School