The London Irish Foundation, the charitable arm of London Irish rugby club, is launching the Jarrod Cunningham Bursary Fund.
The new fund is the Foundation’s first education bursary and will be used exclusively to support young, gifted players who do not have the financial resources to fully benefit from the opportunities available to them through their participation in the club’s ACE (Academy, Colleges and Education) scheme.
The ACE scheme is targeted at talented Years 12 and 13 students who have the aspiration and potential to play rugby at elite level. The scheme gives boys the opportunity to combine rugby training on a daily basis at London Irish with academic study at the club’s education partner, Bishop Wand School. This combination allows the students to not only gain an excellent education, but also experience high quality rugby training and match opportunities. Ofsted rating for the scheme is “Excellent”.
The Foundation plans to raise £5,000 over coming months to enable it to support students during the 2022/23 academic year, additional funds will be needed in subsequent seasons. Funds will be allocated to students in need by an adjudication panel consisting of representatives of the Foundation and the ACE programme.
The new bursary is named after Jarrod Cunningham, an exceptional player who spent three and a half seasons at London Irish from 1998 to 2002 during which he played 82 matches in the process scoring 18 tries and 848 points. Comfortable at out-half or full back, he was arguably the most creative player in the Premiership at the time – to watch him glide over the pitch, be amazed at his running and support lines, the slight of hand and the ballet-like footwork was a privilege. Jarrod was diagnosed with Amyotropic Lateral Scierosis (ALS), a form of Motor Neurone Disease (MND), in June 2002 which brought his career to a premature end. He died in his native New Zealand in July 2007.
Announcing the new Bursary, Andy Keast, Chief Executive of the Foundation, said, “Given our commitment to changing the lives of people through sport, introducing an education bursary is a logical step for the Foundation. Week in, week out we work with a wide range of young people and are aware of how their ambitions are often compromised through lack of finance.
“This first bursary addresses a group where we know modest grants will make a big difference. We have named it after an exceptional and inspirational player who always had the encouragement of the next generation among his priorities. We are grateful to Jarrod’s family for their support of this initiative.”