The Duke and Duchess of Sussex go head-to-head for first sporting challenge

Hannah Furness

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have gone head to head for the first public sporting challenge of their marriage, as they join youngsters for netball training.

The Duchess, who was wearing sharp high heels, readily joined in the game which saw her pitted against her husband to practice their netball skills at Loughborough University.

Joining two teams made up of teenagers on the Coach Core programme for a masterclass, they threw and caught netballs in a fast-paced game to help their new team mates score.

The Duchess of Sussex joins netball training Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

As they finished and awaited the final scores, which saw the Duke's team win 3-2, they embraced in a hug before setting off to learn more about the programme. 

One of Prince Harry's team mates, 7ft 1in former basketball player David Robinson, suggested that he may have made an elementary mistake in winning, joking: “You've always got to put your wife centre stage. They are newly married, so he is learning that.”

The couple had travelled to the university by train for an awards ceremony honouring graduates of Coach Core - an initiative using sport to empower those not in education or employment.

The Duchess of Sussex attends the Coach Core awards at Loughborough University Credit: Reuters

The Duchess joined in gamely despite being dressed in a top by Oscar de la Renta, trousers by Altuzarra and stiletto heeled shoes, while her husband wore a casual jacket, shirt and trousers.

The Duchess' team featured the gymnastics coach Scott Hann, tennis star Laura Robson and had the added bonus of England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers.

The Duke, meanwhile, shot hoops with marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, former England batsman Mark Ramprakash, ex-England rugby player Ugo Monye and ex-US basketball star David Robinson.

The Duke and Duchess go head-to-head Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

Presenting the award for Coach Core graduate of the year to Sebastian Vidal, the Duchess said that the “incredible inspiration and sense of purpose” that Coach Core instilled in people was “astounding”.

The Duke said in a speech: “Being a coach isn't just about helping an individual get active, or training the next person who's going to become a world record holder. “It's so much bigger than that. It's about being a role model; it's about being professional, relatable and inspiring.”

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, roots for her team Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

He added: “Sport does not discriminate. But lack of support and barriers to access do, which is why the role of Coach Core fostering this raw talent is absolutely vital.

“Sport can inspire and invigorate, and as we have seen today, with the right opportunity, the right mentoring and the right focus, lives can be changed.”

Meghan and Harry meet their match in basketball player David Robinson Credit: Karwai Tang

Meghan told young coaches: "My husband has devoted so many years to Coach Core and in the past year of my being in the UK to be able to see not just the impact but the incredible inspiration and sense of purpose that this instills in people is astounding."

The royal visit came as Sport England awarded the Royal Foundation a £995,500 National Lottery grant to double the reach of its Coach Core programme by adding 10 new sites in England over the next three years.

The activities see them follow in the deeply competitive footsteps of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have famously exhibited their sporting rivalry regularly over their seven years of marriage.

No hard feelings: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wait to see who has won Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

The Sussexes saw  masterclasses from world record holder Paula Radcliffe, tennis player Laura Robson and England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers, while  apprentices showing off their skills in a series of drills and team games.

They then presented the prizes in the Coach Core Awards at Loughborough University, before the Duke delivered a speech.

The Duchess played in high heels and a trouser suit Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

The scheme, set up by The Royal Foundation in 2012 to use the power of sport to help change lives, trains hundreds of young apprentices and puts them in touch with the biggest sports clubs in the country.

The apprentices, who are not in education or employment, get tuition, a wage and hopefully a chance to become the next generation of sports coaches.

The Sussexes join in at Loughborough University Credit: Eddie Mulholland For The Telegraph

Community outreach project of the year, graduate of the year, mentor of the year, educator of the year and apprentice of the year are among some of the awards which are to be handed out.

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