Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby has announced the appointment of Jason Leonard OBE as its first Patron. Leonard, current President of the RFU, was one of the most successful England Rugby players, winning Grand Slams in 1991, 1992, 1995 & 2003; the 2003 Rugby World Cup and a British and Irish Lions Test series (on the 1997 tour of South Africa).
Leonard’s appointment furthers strengthens the relationship between the able-bodied game and wheelchair rugby, and sees him join England international Mike Brown, who is an ambassador for the sport. One of the first activities of his new role was to present international caps to the 12 Wheelchair Rugby athletes selected to represent Paralympics GB in Rio later this year.
The presentation of international caps follows a long rugby tradition and is very special for the athletes, GB Captain Chris Ryan commented, ‘To have a rugby legend like Jason Leonard join as our Patron and present our caps is awesome – we are looking forward to getting on with the tournament and showing what we can do against the best.’
Kevin Aitchison, Chairman of Trustees GBWR comments, ‘Jason embodies all of the values we as a sport and a charity hold dear. He is widely respected and his leadership, humility and ability to inspire others makes him a valuable asset to have on board’.
Leonard comments, ‘It’s an honour to be asked to be the first Patron of this amazing sport. I first got to know the game when I was squeezed into a chair to take part in a charity event at Hazlemere Rugby club back in 1991. It’s the most exciting of sports to watch and I am always inspired by those who play the game’.
This is one form of Wheelchair Rugby, yes there is more than one, that I’ve never watched and now little about. Unlike Wheelchair Rugby 7’s and Wheelchair Rugby League it’s played with a round ball rather than a rugby ball.
Here’s an extract from the GBWR website with more of an explanation – Website here
Wheelchair rugby’s no-holds-barred nature quickly earned it the nickname ‘murderball’ soon after its inception. It’s a game loaded with full-contact, hard hits, speed and physical determination, making it a thrilling watch.
The game is played on a basketball court, with boundary lines, a centre line, centre circle and two key areas. Two cones at each end of the court mark out a goal area, and a goal is scored when a player carries a ball across the line.
Games are played in four eight-minute quarters and each team has 40 seconds to score a goal before the ball gets turned over. Chair-to-chair contact is allowed, but person-to-chair and person-to-person contact is not.
Teams are made up of up to 12 players, with four on court at any one time. Each person has a vital role to play, which is ensured by using a classification system based on muscle function and strength. Classes range from 0.5 to 3.5, and the team of four players must total eight points or less during play.