Weekend in September to include Legends game at the Close, tournaments and demonstrations
PICTURES BY VICTORIA ALICE PHOTOGRAPHY
RugbyFest 2017 was officially launched last month with a gala dinner at The Arnold House.
Organisers of RugbyFest, which will be staged from September 22-24, want it to be a celebration of everything the game has become.
It is the idea of Rugby St Andrews players Spencer Brown and Mark Dunkley, who want to promote Rugby as the home of the game, having met many people who don’t know it is a place as well as a sport.
They are planning to kick off with a legends game on the Close at Rugby School, where it all began in 1823.
And they hope to include tournaments and exhibitions, celebrating rugby in all its modern forms, from England deaf rugby, women’s and wheelchair rugby to schools tag rugby, touch and beach rugby, along with an Army v Super League legends match.
Games will be played on the School pitches at Springhill in Barby Road.
Spencer, who played professionally for Bristol, represented England Sevens and won two full England caps against Australia and South Africa during the 1998 tour to the Southern Hemisphere.
“Everyone we have spoken to says it’s a great idea, why hasn’t anyone done that before?” he said. “We are still asking the same question, but the response has been very positive.”
Mark has played for a number of clubs, including two years in New Zealand and two with Northampton Casuals rugby league side.
He added: “When people ask why should they come to RugbyFest, I say why not? With all the rugby from the Friday to Sunday, fanzone over four pitches, music, beer and food, what more could a rugby fan or player want at the home of the game?”
RugbyFest will support five charities, the Wooden Spoon, J9 Foundation, New Directions, the Lewis Moody Foundation and the Matt Hampson Foundation.
Guest speakers at the launch included former England international Roger Uttley, who was a member of the undefeated British Lions tour to South Africa in 1974. He went onto work with England for the 1991 world cup.
He shared the stage with another former Lion, Leicester and England’s Tim Stimpson, who toured South Africa in 1997. They were quizzed on their expectations for the current Lions tour as well as recounting memories from their tours and career highlights.
Two members of the successful England women’s team also answered questions about their careers and attitudes to the women’s game.
Kim Oliver, who retired in 2013 after competing in the 2006 and 2010 world cups, now coaches in Gibraltar, while Saracens’ Georgina Gulliver has been capped 36 times for England.
Paralympic swimmer Peter Hull, who won three golds in Barcelona 1992, now plays wheelchair rugby for Solent Sharks. He explained the importance of the ‘adaptive’ sport and how it is played.
Rugby School head master Peter Green talked about the influential role Rugbeians have played in spreading the game all over the world.
And Rugby Mayor Cllr Belinda Garcia announced details of RugbyFest’s Fair Play Awards, open to all five to 12 year-olds, who can be nominated for their courage or dedication, or perhaps doing something notable. Sixteen boys and girls will be selected as mascots for the legends game.
More information on: www.rugbyfestuk.com.