The French Rugby Union invited the Ireland Wheelchair Rugby team to come over and compete in two International friendlies against their national side.
This has been showcased as an alternative sport alongside rugby union in which athletes with a disability compete in a full wheelchair contact sport. There are a number of spinal injured rugby union players who play this sport now at national level from both nations, so from their perspective this is an exciting opportunity to display and demonstrate this unique up and coming sport in which they are now involved.
Do not imagine Wheelchair Rugby simply as a form of exercise with a feel good factor. Although it may make you feel great as does any sport after you play it, but it can also be bone and teeth shatteringly competitive at the same time.
Spectators often stand and watch in amazement at the athletes in specialised wheelchairs strategically crashing and smashing into each other with no apparent regard for their own safety. Wait a minute, does that not just describe rugby union as we know it? There is however a fundamental difference, wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hard surfaced court, which makes each fall to the ground somewhat more painful than on grass.
As with its counterpart, until the rules are explained, wheelchair rugby might seem crazy, but when the purpose and strategy of each calculated hit is explained the game begins to no longer look like crazy men (and women) rolling around in modified wheelchairs with a ball, but becomes a competitive sport with a purpose in its own right. Little wonder this is the fastest growing wheelchair sport in the world - it is addictive to watch and even more to play!
Wheelchair rugby is played throughout the world in all the main sporting countries. The biggest stage on which to watch it or play will be at the Paralympic Games in Beijing next year, but if you are interested in it or know someone who may be, outside of the demonstrations in Paris, there are weekly sessions in Dublin at which everyone would be welcome to come along and watch or in fact participate if they have the right attributes to play. Contact Craig on 07867536234 for more information on how to get involved.
IrishRugby.ie would like to wish the team well in France.