England’s World Cup-winning Wheelchair Rugby League side utilised our facilities.

Wednesday 08 Nov 2023
England's Wheelchair Rugby League team defeated France in last year's World Cup final
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St. George’s Park recently played host to England’s World Cup-winning Wheelchair Rugby League team, as the side prepared for their first competitive game since becoming world champions. 

Founded in 2004 in France, Wheelchair Rugby League replicates the fast-paced nature of Rugby League, except the game is played by players in wheelchairs. In the two years that followed, the game was introduced to England, and continued to develop until a first World Cup was hosted in 2008.  

In 2022, England hosted the World Cup, which was originally set to be played in 2021 but delayed as a result of the pandemic. After finishing top of their group, England went on to confidently defeat Wales in the semi-final before facing defending champions France in the final. Following a pulsating final, England emerged 28-24 winners to lift the World Cup.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said England Wheelchair Rugby League head coach, Tom Coyd MBE. “With all our matches shown live on BBC, Wheelchair Rugby League was taken to a level of exposure and awareness completely different to anything we’d experienced. The day after the win, we were Guests of Honour at the men’s and women’s Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. We’ve had invitations to the Royal Carol Service, a reception at Hampton Court, and the Princess of Wales visited Hull for a celebration of inclusion in Rugby League. However, the main thing for us is that the sport is now being played and watched by more people than ever, by male and female players of all ages, disabled and not.” 
It seems fitting that England’s first game as world champions came against the team that ran them so close in the World Cup final – France. Therefore, the team was keen to utilise the best facilities possible to prepare. 

“We’ve had a number of training sessions at different venues this year, all in excellent facilities, but this was our most important session of the year as we finalised preparations for the massive rematch with France,” said Tom. 

“We needed quality facilities, but ones that also provided inspiration. Like everyone on the country, we’ve been inspired watching England, notably the Lionesses in the World Cup final – the same morning of our Wheelchair Challenge Cup final in Sheffield. Training in the same facilities at Harry Kane and Ella Toone provided inspiration for our players.  

“It was a memorable experience for us all – and specifically for me as head coach, it was invaluable in terms of setting the mood and necessary standards,” added Tom. “We did most of our training work in the Futsal arena, which was ideal for us with ample space for us to conduct on-field practice drills, and the filming facility for our analyst on the balcony. Using the Bryan Robson Dressing Room was a privilege, and it was an added bonus for us that the Lionesses were also on-site following their international against Belgium. 

“The quality of accommodation and catering was also top notch. I wanted our players to feel like international athletes and World Cup winners, and everything about the weekend delivered that experience.” 

"All the staff I encountered and interacted with, were excellent ambassadors for St. George’s Park,” said Francis Stephenson, Rugby Football League’s Wellbeing Manager. 

“As someone who observes and notices non-spoken signals for a living, all the signals coming out of St. George’s Park were authentic, genuine, and welcoming." 

By FA Staff