It has already been a ground-breaking year for Saints Wheelchair Rugby, but head coach Jamie Higgins has called on his side to keep their winning momentum going this weekend in Poland.
The Northampton side were unstoppable during the summer, winning the GB WR5s Premiership and Midlands Development League competitions.
Their finish in the former guaranteed them a spot in this weekend’s Poland Cup, which is being held in Gliwice, to lock horns with the best teams from the Polish WR5s league and Saints’ old rivals, Leicester Tigers.
This European tournament – the first international club WR5s competition – represents an important milestone for the development of the format, and Higgins is desperate to see Saints Wheelchair Rugby make their mark.
“The team is really excited about the opportunity, and so am I for that matter, to go and play WR5s over in Europe,” he said.
“This is still a relatively new format of the sport; it started here in Great Britain back in 2018, it’s now being picked up in other countries around the world – Poland being one of them – and this is the first multi-country event that’s been hosted so we’re ecstatic to be involved.
“We don’t know too much about the teams over in Poland, the winner and the runner-up from their Cup competition, but obviously the runner-up from our WR5s league was Leicester Tigers and we’ve come up against them many times before.
“We’re confident that if we keep that winning mentality we had during the summer, we can carry over our form to hopefully record some victories in Poland as well.”Jamie Higgins, Saints Wheelchair Rugby coach
“We started Wheelchair Rugby at Saints a few years ago as a community programme, so to be this competitive already and to be getting these opportunities to be one of the first teams to play on the European stage is fantastic.
“This will be a momentous event in the history of WR5s, so we can’t wait to show what we can do.”
Saints Wheelchair Rugby launched in 2017 and operates an Adult (18+) and Youth (8-17) section with weekly training sessions delivered by qualified coaches.
The Club has gone from strength to strength since its inception but is always on the look-out for new players of all ages with any level of disability.
Team captain Gerry McCrory has been involved since 2017 and insists his side will not be heading to Poland just to make up the numbers.
He said: “I’m extremely proud of the team for what they have achieved this year, we’re still pinching ourselves a little bit if I am honest!
“When the programme started, we had a ten-year plan for where we wanted to be in terms of competing in the Premiership, but here we are five years later as league champions.
“We’ll be the first club WR5s team to go out and play in Europe – so we’re not only representing ourselves, our families and Northampton Saints, but also the country as well.”Gerry McCrory, Saints Wheelchair Rugby captain
“We have a great group of people in the team. We’re thick as thieves and we have a phenomenal coach in Jamie Higgins, who works so hard to develop himself in that space as well. He’s able-bodied, so has never played the sport himself, so to be where he is now is incredible.
“We’re going there to give the best possible account of ourselves as we can. The group’s mindset is incredible; if you asked them to climb a mountain, I’m confident they would haul themselves up it with ropes.
“So, anything is achievable, and I believe we have what it takes to bring home a third Cup of the year.”
If you have a disability and want to play for Saints Wheelchair Rugby, if you want to volunteer in any way, or if you want to help the club financially, please contact [email protected].