- Fundraising for RFU Injured Players Foundation
- “Bishops” played 26 rugby matches in four days
Photo: RFU Archive
Essex Bishops are celebrating the completion of a gruelling but successful “Ruggerthon” of 26 rugby matches in four days that raised more than £15,000 for the RFU Injured Players Foundation (IPF).
Twickenham Stadium was the starting point for a unique fundraising scheme involving 41 players from 16 clubs under the Bishops’ invitational banner to travel the country in support the IPF, the charity that supports people who sustain a catastrophic injury while playing rugby.
They presented a cheque for £10,000 to RFU President and IPF Trustee Paul Murphy on day one and additional money continued to roll in as they made their way around venues in Edinburgh, Carlisle, Northwich, Burton on Trent, Rugby and back home to Brentwood in Essex.
England Women’s captain Sarah Hunter joined in with the game of tag played by Lichfield/England Ladies at Twickenham, while other supporters on the day included Gerry Mansfield, past President of Essex County, and Nicola Sheldon, RFU Public Affairs Manager.
At each venue they played three or four matches of 15-a-side, full-contact rugby, 15 minutes each way, and tag or touch rugby when the opposition were women’s and girls’ teams.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson leant his support to the venture, saying: “It's fantastic to see such a great example of rugby union's team spirit and I wish the whole Ruggerthon team all the best of luck with their fundraising for the RFU Injured Players Foundation.
“This charity already does so much to support and protect the rugby family, and with the help of community fundraising such as this, means they will be able to do even more in the future.”
Andy Barrow, an IPF client, paralympian and former GB Wheelchair Rugby captain, and his wife Alison, joined the tour that made use of a 36-seater coach complete with treatment table, and two smartly branded BMW cars courtesy of Elms BMW.
Barrow said: “The IPF really does make a difference to those seriously injured playing rugby.
“Without them paralympic sport would have been impossible for me and it was great to join this bunch of rugby nuts on such a great event.”
Richard Austin of Essex County and the England Deaf Rugby Union paid tribute to the backing and support of Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby, and Dr Karen Hood of the IPF.
There was also meticulous planning by the Essex Bishops’ captain Christy McCann and vice captain Steve Douglas, the generosity of sponsors and the playing dedication of the whole team.
The epic event included fixtures against the 3 Rifles of the Army RFU and a visit to the game’s founding town of Rugby where an antique-style Webb Ellis ball was presented to the Bishops by Rugby Lions RFC.
“Day two was the toughest,” said Austin, “but we kept going and when we arrived at Old Brentwoods for the final leg there was a crowd of people letting off party streamers, cheering and clapping.
“The whole event gave us a marvellous feeling of togetherness.
“Now I would love to see another team or county take on the Ruggerthon idea and create a similar challenge.”
To make a donation visit the justgiving.com/Ruggerthon website or text RUGG69 to 70070.
For more information on the IPF and organising an event visit rfuipf.org.uk or check out www.essexbishops.com for information on the club.
The Ruggerthon 2013 itinerary was:
Thursday, April 11 - Twickenham Stadium: matches against Highlife XV on main pitch, Empty Brains and Upper Clapton
Friday, April 12 - 3rd Battalion Rifles, Redford Infantry barracks, Edinburgh: Rifle Battalion A XV, Rifle Battalion B XV, Edinburgh Northern Gents XV, Gents and Rifles XV; Carlisle RFC: Carlisle Vets XV, Carlisle Barbarians XV, Creighton RFC, Wigton RFC
Saturday, April 13 - Northwich RFC: Northwich Vets, Winnington Park Vets, Sale Vets, Isle of Man Ladies; Burton on Trent RFC: Burton Vets A XV, Burton Vets B XV, Burton Metropolitan, Lichfield/England Ladies
Sunday, April 14 - Rugby Lions RFC: HMP National Vets, Rugby Lions XV, Rugby Ladies; Old Brentwoods RFC: Old Brentwoods Vets, Basildon Vets, Old Brentwoods Vets, Wooden Spoon XV