Being wheelchair bound meant sporting opportunities were incredibly limited in the West Country, until he found Project Rugby.
With a twin brother who plays for the Westcountry Hawks wheelchair rugby team, William was inspired to give the sport a go. His positive attitude coupled with an enthusiasm to get the ball in his hands, passing, catching and throwing, helped William acquire the skills to fully participate in the game. Now rugby is an integral part of his life, with him regularly attending the Project Rugby wheelchair rugby sessions at the InFocus Charity where he has been a student for the past five years.
Describing his experience William says: “I love the buzz of moving quickly, knocking over tackle cylinders in my wheelchair. I look forward to every single session!”
William is just one inspirational individual being celebrated during Round 22 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (14th – 16th April). Over the weekend, all games will be dedicated to the award-winning community programmes run by the 11 Clubs and Club foundations. In a celebration of how rugby has the power to change lives, every club will showcase the community work taking place, sharing stories of some of the individuals supported on these programmes, and the staff that make them possible.
Project Rugby is delivered in conjunction with partners Gallagher, title partner of Premiership Rugby, and the RFU and is designed to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby. The programme was launched to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to experience and participate in rugby, just like William. With a specific focus on engaging participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, no matter their background, or ability, Project Rugby sessions enable anyone to try out the sport loved by so many. Coaches and volunteers from Premiership Rugby Clubs and Club Foundations across the nation run easily accessible sessions at over 200 locations within communities close to them.
Project Rugby has been running since 2017 and nearly 85,000 people have participated in sessions held at over 200 different locations across England. Harnessing rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, and sportsmanship, the programme has inspired and motivated many young people to seek out local teams to play rugby so they can continue to reap the benefits of playing regularly.
William has now been able to identify his future goals and aspires to follow in his brother’s footsteps, working hard to become a regular player for the West Country Hawks Wheelchair Team. William would love to participate in more training and coaching with the Exeter Chiefs Foundation.
Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director, Premiership Rugby says: “Hearing William’s story epitomises why we are committed to future-proofing programmes like Project Rugby. We believe everyone can benefit from the core values of rugby and it has the power to change lives. Working together with staff and volunteers in local communities, the programmes provide opportunities for young people to play irrespective of background or ability. Seeing players like William blossom thanks to rugby is both a privilege and a priority for us.”
Charles Scott, Chief Financial Officer at partner Gallagher, and a Project Rugby volunteer said: “We are passionate about the fantastic work Project Rugby does and William’s story is a great example of why this initiative is so important. Getting involved in rugby has truly changed William’s outlook and will instil confidence and determination in him for many years. This really demonstrates the power of rugby and the rewards of playing this great sport.”