Local rugby players had their chance to shine on the big stage last weekend.

Two Cockermouth RFC regulars and two Workington Finches players grabbed the chance to strut their stuff at Twickenham Stadium.

Cockermouth number eight James Sewell and Dovenby-based James Hunter, both 24, plus Finches’ Charlotte Bowman, of Workington and Cleator Moor's Sophie Bowness were rewarded for their dedication to grassroots rugby with a place at the NatWest RugbyForce invitational, played at the home of England Rugby last Sunday.

They were all coached by England legend Maggie Alphonsi and supported from the sidelines by Red Rose royalty in George Ford and Paul Grayson.

And tasting 26-17 victory over a side led by World Cup winner Will Greenwood on the hallowed turf meant it was a perfect day for loyal servant Hunter.

“It’s something you never think would happen, it’s a dream come true,” he said.

“I’d been once as a fan to watch England but you only appreciate the size of it when you’re right in the middle of the pitch, on the halfway line.

“It’s fair to say Cockermouth have played at a few smaller grounds this season! It was just a really nice way to round off a long season.

“We had a good first season in the league above, finishing third, and despite dropping down a division next year we’re looking to push on as a club.”

Despite suffering a 20-5 defeat in her game, number eight Bowman said the experience was one she’ll remember for the rest of her life.

She said: “I’ve been playing rugby for five years and never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to play at Twickenham. I’ve been a to games here as a supporter, but I never thought I’d ever be able to go out on to the pitch.

“It’s been great to represent the club and all of our other players. The initiative’s great and if anyone else gets the chance I’d urge them to grab it with both hands.

“Maggie’s been absolutely fantastic – to have an ex-England player coaching and developing you is just another thing you would never expect and is a unique opportunity.”

Prior to their Twickenham debut, players were invited to regional training sessions, where they were given elite coaching from the likes of Will Greenwood, Alphonsi, Grayson and Steve Borthwick.

NatWest has evolved RugbyForce for 2019 by introducing the NatWest RugbyForce Invitational fixture. All registered grassroots clubs were automatically entered into a draw for a chance to have players from their club invited for elite rugby coaching and the opportunity to play a game at Twickenham.

Alphonsi said: “It took me 10 years to play here as an athlete, so I know how special it is. I’ve really enjoyed being able to pass on my experience and expertise.”