A PE teacher has shared his vision for a West Oxfordshire rugby league club that will grow the sport in this part of the country.

John Connaughton, who teaches at Bartholomew School in Eynsham, will launch the new club at Burford Church on September 18.

The rugby league enthusiast is aiming to capitalise on a growing interest in the sport in Oxfordshire, with the team initially open to boys and girls aged seven to 14.

But the 36-year-old's success in coaching youngsters at his school and Oxford Cavaliers, currently the county's only rugby league club, means he feels there is room for growth.

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He said: "Rugby league is on the up and I want there to be an outlet for kids who want to play.

"One of the problems I've come across is people's loyalty to rugby union.

"But if they play rugby league in primary school, they're more likely to do it in secondary school.

"I want it to be the start of a vision I have for rugby league growth in the west of England and for Oxfordshire to take the lead."

Witney Gazette:

Like Oxford Cavaliers, the new club will recognise the county's link to the English Civil War, with the name set to be revealed at the launch.

Mr Connaughton has met with various schools and sports clubs in Eynsham and Witney to find a place to play, although no home ground has been confirmed.

This reflects the club's intention to focus on a schools development programme, with the teacher hoping to replicate his previous success.

Over the last six years, he has developed the youth section at Oxford Cavaliers, who were based at Oxford RFC in the west of the city but now play in Bicester.

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Between 75 and 80 children regularly attend sessions, while the club has also hosted festivals in secondary schools.

Meanwhile, several players taught by Mr Connaughton at the rugby club and Bartholomew have progressed in both codes of the game.

Sean Baker and Owen Michael have both been awarded professional contracts at London Broncos, the only professional rugby league club in the south of England.

On the other side of the game, youngsters Marcus Reading, Alfie Beckett and Charlie Atkinson have played youth rugby union for Gloucester, Wasps and even England respectively.

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Mr Connaughton is just as pleased that some members of the first cohort of rugby league-playing year 7s at Bartholomew have gone on to coach the sport.

With a new crop of rugby league stars potentially several years away, the teacher realises establishing his team in the community could take time.

But by the end of the year, he wants to put out a team for fixtures against opposition from across the area, including the Cavaliers and Reading Raiders.

He said: "The vision for year one is to develop this new club in the right way, to start small and grow it slowly."

If you would like to find out more, email john_connaughton@hotmail.com.