Girls from Ilfracombe Academy showcased their rugby skills in front of England international Kelly Smith in a special training session last week.

Ilfracombe RFC welcomed more than 30 school students on Wednesday for an inspiring interactive training session to mark the eighth consecutive year of the RFU's CBRE All Schools programme.

Launched in 2012 as a legacy project ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the initiative seeks to introduce rugby and expand participation in state secondary schools with a particular emphasis on girls, this year reaching its landmark target of 750 schools.

With the number of girls playing club rugby up by 24,000 from 2012 to 2017, the programme has been a driving force in helping boost rugby's appeal and there are now over 60,000 girls involved in rugby.

The event was one of nine visits in December of Red Roses players to clubs who have expanded as a result of the All Schools programme, and Smith was thrilled to see first-hand how much of an impact the initiative has had.

"It's really important to get groups of girls and boys together outside of a school environment, to make it a bit more fun for them," Smith said.

"After a hard day at school, this is fun. Girls and boys can come down and let a bit of anger out or just run around.

"I remember these days very clearly and it's not impossible for anyone to be where I am now. I'm so happy to be able to come down and speak to them.

"I think women's rugby is absolutely growing in this country. With the increased exposure, especially through the Red Roses, there's so many more young girls and boys taking an interest in women's rugby. I think it's really important we keep building on that."

Each year, new schools on the All Schools programme are invited to a kit design workshop with sports manufacturer Canterbury, where they can invent a new jersey for their school while learning about the values of rugby.

The finished products will then be unveiled at Twickenham during England's Six Nations match against Wales in March.

Reflecting on a memorable afternoon, Year 11 pupil Jess Addie said: "Rugby is my favourite thing in the whole world, my family is very rugby orientated. My dad is a coach, my brother also plays so it's very family focused.

"It's been a great time and having Kelly here has been so inspirational. She's such a big person in the rugby community and it'll help so many girls here to get into the sport and go on the right path.

"This is all about getting girls to play. I can see girls who I don't think have played before because they just want to meet her, it's fantastic."

The programme has had a major impact on Ilfracombe Academy and Ilfracombe RFC with participation levels growing in both, while the club is also in the process of creating its very first girls team - all thanks to All Schools.

Ilfracombe Academy head of PE Bill Bright said: "The All Schools programme is really great. The sheer logistics of it, even down to organising coaches for the kids is helping boost the profile of rugby.

"Events like this, where we can get girls en masse, with an England Rose will help inspire more young people to play the game, they will tell their friends and help it spread.

"We had around 35 girls here tonight and we're getting at times equal numbers of boys and girls at training which has never happened before which is fantastic.

"Girls are very much getting equal opportunity and seeing themselves on a par now with the boys thanks to programmes like this."

CBRE All Schools, supported by Canterbury, is one of the RFU's key legacy programmes, set up to increase the number of state secondary schools playing rugby union in England. Visit to find out more.