Disadvantaged and diverse players can unite for rugby

Unified rugby involving Scotland's national side in Spain.
Unified rugby involving Scotland's national side in Spain.
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The Borders could be set to join a new ‘clan gathering’ which could broaden the game of rugby out to even more people in the community.

Talks have been taking place in Hawick to measure interest in setting up a unified rugby line-up, featuring players with learning difficulties, autism or mild physical disabilities, alongside able-bodied players, in a contact version of the sport.

The aims include focusing on the social aspect of the game , bringing people together and making rugby more accessible to more people.

If the project takes off, it may not be restricted just to Hawick – it’s hoped there will be a Borders-wide group to complement other ‘Clans’ across Scotland.

Behind the venture is Trust Rugby International, a charity set up by ex-playerJamie Armstrong.

He and his co-organisers have a partnership with Scottish Rugby and have spread the model out geographically, with ‘clans’ in the Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire areas, while there is also a Scotland side.

Players with certain conditions can wear coloured scrum caps to indicate whether or not they can be tackled or, if so, how heavily.

Leaders hope the Borders could become a potential regional hub for the pursuit.

“It could be a slow and steady burn but the game is here to stay,” said Jamie. “There is an opportunity in the building of it and it could be a great opportunity in Scotland. We are the only country that has a national squad.”

Talks have been held locally with former Hawick Harlequins coach Gary Murdie, who is involved with the Roxburghshire ASN multi-sport after school club .

He was interested in trying to provide more sporting opportunities in general for local youngsters with additional needs, while the unified rugby might give the chance back to youngsters who had played the game earlier but stopped, he said.

A town the size of Hawick, with its strong rugby background, might certainly give the venture a strong starting point in the Borders if the support was there, he said.

“I think it’ll be a case of giving ait a go and seeing how it works out,” said Gary. “Sports avenues, especially with the Borders being a rural area, are fairly limited so, hopefully, it’s another opportunity being presented.”

Enthusiasm for the idea seemed fairly positive and Gary believed the discussions would be aimed initially at communication and trying to get the word out, as well as looking at formats.

“We would have support from the Hawick Harlequins but, beyond that, if we can get something going, that will hopefully encourage more to come and get things worked out.”

Gary had confidence in a number of those already involved and added: “The key is to get right people to spread the word. Schools and rugby clubs, especially, would be the avenues.”