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Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) has commemorated Armistice Day by launching a search to find 21 military volunteers for the opening matches at the wheelchair tournament next autumn.
The armed-forces volunteers will be known as “James’ Squad” and will have special roles to play at the opening fixtures on 11 November 2021, when hosts England take on Australia and Spain play Norway at the world famous Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London.
Wheelchair Rugby League is truly the most inclusive sport of all – not solely a disability sport, as non-disabled people can compete as well and both men and women can play in the same team.
RLWC2021 ambassador, James Simpson, who plays for England and Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair teams, has helped launch a search for 21 military volunteers to play their part in the opening day next year and add to the existing “Power Squad” of tournament volunteers.
James, a lifelong Rugby League fan, joined the Yorkshire Regiment 1st Battalion in 2001 and undertook several overseas missions from Central America to Iraq during his ten-year stint in the military. In 2009, whilst on deployment in Afghanistan, James tripped an IED whilst on a routine patrol, causing life-changing injuries which saw him lose both of his legs, three fingers and the muscle from his right forearm.
🏉 There’s 1 year to go until the Wheelchair tournament gets underway, and we need 21 military volunteers to play special roles on an important day.
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) November 11, 2020
Following a lengthy recovery process, James discovered the sport of Wheelchair Rugby League whilst watching his beloved Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in 2013. After a couple of training sessions with the Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair team, he was hooked and has played ever since, going on to represent England at the World Cup in France in 2017, and he is hoping to represent England next year.
With the opening fixture taking place on Armistice Day, RLWC2021 will be commemorating the day with the 21 volunteers who will fulfil jobs such as leading the teams out into the arena, the laying of wreaths and carrying out the wheelchair trophy. Personnel within the Armed Forces have the opportunity to apply for the volunteer roles with applications open from today (9am 11 November) until 30 November 2020 at 20:21pm via:RLWC2021.com/JamesSquad
James Simpson, RLWC2021 ambassador, said: “Armistice Day is a such a significant day in the calendar of the military, and the fact is falls on the first day of the wheelchair tournament adds extra significance for me personally. Having 21 members of the military in the arena, alongside me (hopefully), will be an emotional and proud moment. I look forward to reading the entries and creating James’ Squad to pay our respects in 2021.”
Customer Director, Terri Lynam, added: “RLWC2021 will be the most accessible and inclusive in the sports history with the wheelchair tournament being staged alongside the men’s and women’s tournaments – starting in exactly one year’s time.”
“Wheelchair Rugby League is not only highspeed but also extremely skilful and there can be few better arenas to showcase these incredible players than Copper Box Arena – the ‘Box that Rocked’ at London 2012 Olympic Games – and the Sheffield English Institute of Sport all leading to a thrilling final at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena. We want everyone to come and experience this amazing game for themselves.”
“The wheelchair tournament will provide a great boost for the sport, its brand and also an incentive to encourage more and more players to take part – not just in England but also around the world.”
The wheelchair tournament will be contested by eight teams over 15 days with the showpiece final taking place at the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool on Friday 26 November.
To apply for tickets for the RLWC2021 wheelchair tournament including the opening fixture between England v Australia, which is followed by Spain v Norway as part of a double-header at Copper Box Arena, visit rlwc2021.com/tickets. The ticket ballot closes on Monday 16 November at 20:21, don’t miss out!