Kids’ rugby kicked off again after a long pandemic layoff, as two local clubs, Wanstead RFC and Eton Manor, met and played on Sunday.

The two sides fielded teams from age groups eight to under 13, in a morning of sport that parents said was a huge relief for their children after months of lockdown-induced inaction.

For many kids’ rugby teams, this was the season’s first full contact game, with tackles and rucking. As a full contact sport, rugby at amatuer level was among the first sports to have restrictions placed on it ahead of Britain’s lockdowns, and among the last to have them lifted. Contact rugby for senior teams returned for many clubs earlier in the year, though parts of the game, such as scrums, were still prohibited.

“So great to see people back at the club and the kids finally getting back to playing rugby against another team,” said Terry Teale, Wanstead’s chairman of ‘mini’ Rugby.

The Redbridge-based teams are two of the oldest in London, a city with over 150 rugby clubs. West Essex has a host of clubs of its own, and both Eaton Manor and Wanstead play under the Essex Rugby Football Union.

Richard Stock, the under 12’s coach at Eton Manor, pointed around Wanstead’s crowded ground.

“You can see by the numbers here how much the kids wanted to play today, there must be over 120 kids out there,” he said.

“The lockdown has been tougher on the kids than we realise,” he said.

Nearly 80% of parents polled in 18 countries reported a decrease in children’s wellbeing due to lack of youth sport during lockdown, according to a recent academic study.

Guidelines from Britain’s Chief Medical Officer recommend children take part in sport and physical activity for an average of 60 minutes or more a day.

Parents watching from the sidelines said that the game was a massive relief after a tough year for their sons and daughters.

Anne-Marie Lucey said that her son Maxi couldn’t wait to pull his boots back on for a match.

“It was a pleasure to see all the boys enjoying the fresh air having been locked down for so long and in Maxi’s case great to see him interacting with his peers and away from virtual reality and gaming,” she said of her son, who scored five tries during three games.

Mr. Teale said that Wanstead RFC is recruiting new players, both girls and boys, and parents should get in touch via the club’s website.