RUGBY: RugbyFest will celebrate everything the game has become

The team behind RugbyFest (from left) Mark Dunkley - Co-Founder, Phil Smith - Wordsmith/copywriter, Mickey Clarke - Head of Ideas, Spencer Brown - Co-Founder, Emma Fletcher - Designer, Tony Clarke - Commercial adviser
The team behind RugbyFest (from left) Mark Dunkley - Co-Founder, Phil Smith - Wordsmith/copywriter, Mickey Clarke - Head of Ideas, Spencer Brown - Co-Founder, Emma Fletcher - Designer, Tony Clarke - Commercial adviser

Weekend in September to include Legends game at the Close, tournaments and demonstrations

PICTURES BY VICTORIA ALICE PHOTOGRAPHY

Tim Stimpson and Roger Uttley recount tour anecdotes

Tim Stimpson and Roger Uttley recount tour anecdotes

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.

England rugby internationals Kim Oliver and Georgina Gulliver took part in a question and answer session

England rugby internationals Kim Oliver and Georgina Gulliver took part in a question and answer session

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.”

Paralympic swimmer, turned wheelchair rugby player Peter Hull, with former England international and British Lion Roger Uttley

Paralympic swimmer, turned wheelchair rugby player Peter Hull, with former England international and British Lion Roger Uttley

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.

Rugby School Head Master Peter Green talks about how Rugbeians have spread the game all over the world

Rugby School Head Master Peter Green talks about how Rugbeians have spread the game all over the world

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.

Rugby Mayor Cllr Belinda Garcia invites nominations for children to receive Fair Play awards

Rugby Mayor Cllr Belinda Garcia invites nominations for children to receive Fair Play awards

More information on: www.rugbyfestuk.com.

Guests enjoying the RugbyFest launch at The Arnold House in the town centre

Guests enjoying the RugbyFest launch at The Arnold House in the town centre