London Irish back row forward Blair Cowan has described the physicality and rawness of rugby as a major attraction for any newcomers interested in experiencing the sport first hand.
The ability of the crowd to get so close to the action at Aviva Premiership Rugby grounds and feel the hits as if they were out on the field of play themselves is certain to hook even the greenest of rugby supporter to the game, says Cowan.
The New Zealand-born back row forward, who now plays for Scotland, has challenged causal fans who sample September's international jamboree to get down to the Madejski Stadium and see the crash, bang and wallop first hand of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“If you're new to the sport, I think what you will enjoy is being so close to the action and experiencing the rawness of the sport,” he said.
“It's hard work, very physical and every game week-in-week-out is very passionate. If you're up close and you experience that first hand, you will suddenly understand how much it means to each player.”
“My first Aviva Premiership Rugby game was against Harlequins and we won. We were big underdogs against a big club like Harlequins, but to win on my debut was very special indeed.”
"My first Premiership try was also against Harlequins, I was only two metres out and it was a short range try but I certainly threw a celebration out in the air."
Cowan's interview was part of a new campaign from Premiership Rugby and Aviva to welcome new supporters to Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Cowan is one of 12 club ambassadors – including Chris Robshaw, Danny Cipriani, James Haskell, Schalk Brits and Courtney Lawes – who are backing the ‘Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers’ campaign.
As part of the campaign Aviva and the Premiership Rugby clubs have teamed up to give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas.
With rugby in England in the spotlight like never before, these tickets can only be claimed by supporters who have never been to an Aviva Premiership Rugby match.
Games available include the opening round clashes – Harlequins v Wasps, Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints, Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester Rugby, Bath Rugby v Exeter Chiefs, Saracens v Sale Sharks and London Irish v Leicester Tigers.
While the bulk of Aviva Premiership Rugby stars started their rugby careers at an early age, joining in minis and age-group games, Cowan had still not featured in the sport until the age of 13.
His mother was keen for him to take up football but after sampling his first rugby game as a teenager, there was no turning back for Cowan.
“I was a little bit of a late bloomer with rugby - my mum was convinced I should play football instead,” he added.
“She thought I should get my coordination up first before I even contemplated rugby. When you're involved with New Zealand, you're very keen to keep going but it wasn't until U13 level that I played my first proper game.”
The Aviva Premiership Rugby First Timers programme will give away almost 2,000 free tickets across every game in the first seven rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, from the start of the season right up to Christmas. Fans are encouraged to tell friends and family who have never been to a London Irish fixture before to visit www.premiershiprugby.com/avivafirsttimers now to sign up for their free tickets.
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