FORMER England captain Dylan Hartley picked up a hammer and hard hat to help Swindon RFC make club improvements thanks to a partnership between NatWest and England Rugby.

The Greenbridge Road club have been hard at work over the past month converting a disused loft area into a state-of-the-art physio facility, utilising funding from the NatWest RugbyForce programme that is now in its 13th year.

As well as myriad club members getting their hands dirty, Swindon are one of eight clubs across the country to have benefited from the help of the programme.

Support from NatWest RugbyForce has been central to much of Swindon RFC’s infrastructural development over recent years, and treasurer Steve Carr believes the implementation of the new treatment centre represents the ‘last piece of the jigsaw’.

He said: “Previously RugbyForce funding has helped us put in a patio, some railings on the pitches, and it’s also paid for some work in the function hall. This is the most significant project we have undertaken though, and it is going to make a massive difference.

“We’ve always had issues with access for physios and there’s going to be a dedicated space for it, which is brilliant. It is the sort of thing that would take a matter of years to fund ourselves, so having that level of support is huge.

“With the club having struggled throughout the pandemic the timing is particularly pertinent. We hope to be able to host a physio in the facility which will boost the financial stability of the club going forward.

“The work has helped develop a real feel-good factor and everyone is itching to get going with the new season. Having Dylan join us for the day was also a big boost to morale, and it was great to see him supporting the significance of grassroots rugby, too.”

Having tried his hand at plastering and sawing it did not take long for Hartley - who led England to back-to-back Six Nations titles as well as series wins in Australia and Argentina - to notice the feeling of camaraderie and togetherness at the Greenbridge Road outfit.

The hard work of everyone on the grassroots scene is not lost on the former Northampton Saints star, who is confident this latest project will help the club thrive as a hub for the whole community going forward.

Hartley added: “It’s been great to mix in with the guys at Swindon - what’s going on at this club is a great example of how NatWest RugbyForce supports the selflessness and work ethic employed at clubs up and down the country.

“Rugby clubs are hubs of business, networking, romance - everything and anything!

“The addition of the physio area adds another outlet to the club and improves the sustainability of a hugely important grassroots setup.”

NatWest is an Official Partner of England Rugby. NatWest RugbyForce is a nationwide programme developed in partnership with England Rugby to help rugby clubs get set for tomorrow. @NatWest_Rugby @EnglandRugby