Mixed-Ability Rugby“The magic really happens because you have people from all walks of life, all abilities, just coming together to play.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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This summer, the Rugby World Cup is coming to Ireland. No, you haven’t just slipped into a different part of the multiverse – we’re talking about the Mixed-Ability Rugby World Cup here. Two of the people involved in this summer’s tournament, Alan Craughwell and James Healy joined Ryan Tubridy in studio on Wednesday to talk him through what mixed-ability rugby is and who takes part in it. The Mixed-Ability Rugby World Tournament (to give it its proper title) is an initiative that promotes inclusion and equality in sport. Alan, a co-founder of the tournament, explained what motivated him:

“How do you get people more involved in community or in sport? How do you do that? It’s something that I’m very passionate about, you know, letting people have the opportunity. Without providing the opportunity, you won’t see anybody’s ability.”

Let’s get down to basics: what exactly is a mixed-ability rugby team? One of the main adaptations of the game is uncontested scrums, which came about, Alan says, because most of those involved either weren’t able to scrum or didn’t want to.

“So just think about rugby. And the first thing that comes to mind for most people will be, obviously, the Six Nations and the professional game. But that’s the 1%. The 99% of us just want to play social sport. And that’s essentially what it is. It doesn’t discriminate against disability or ability.”

The mixed-ability game is none that anybody can play, because everybody is welcome:

“It’s about not categorising people, not labelling people… The magic really happens because you have people from all walks of life, all abilities, just coming together to play the game of three halves.”

Three halves? Not a reference to multidimensional maths, but rather, Alan explains, a reference to the first half, the second half and the post-match socialising.

James Healy started playing mixed-ability rugby as a winger, but now plays as a number 8. He told Ryan that the training was hard, but worth it. James, a medal winner for Basketball in the Special Olympics, prefers rugby to basketball. Why? Probably because he was the first ever man of the match of the first Mixed-Ability tournament.

The tournament in Cork in June will feature 28 teams, four of them women’s teams, for the first time ever. The teams come from 14 countries and there’ll be about 1,000 players involved. It is, as Ryan suggest, going to be huge. And let’s hope that James’s aim to wrest the trophy from Argentina comes to pass.

You can hear more from Ryan’s conversation with Alan and James here.

The Mixed-Ability Rugby World Tournament runs from 7-12 June, hosted by Sunday’s Well RFC in Cork. For more details, check out imartworldcup.org.

Niall Ó Sioradáin

© The Listener 2020

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