16th August 2019, 09:17 | wheelchair

Wheelchair Rugby League takes centre stage in Sheffield

Wheelchair Rugby League takes centre stage in Sheffield

The English Institute of Sport will host the Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final

It’s one the biggest days in the Wheelchair Rugby League calendar – and it’s coming to Sheffield this Saturday (17 August).

The English Institute of Sport – one of the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) venues – will host a Challenge Cup/Challenge Trophy double-header featuring some of the game’s best teams and an array of international talent.

And in a first for Wheelchair Rugby League, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will be streaming both games live across its own channels, while both matches will be broadcast live on the RFL’s Our League app. 

The action gets underway at 1pm with the Challenge Trophy final, which this year pits Championship leaders Hull FC with Kent-based Gravesend Dynamite. And another Kent side, The Argonauts Skeleton Army, make the journey north for the main event – a mouth-watering Challenge Cup Final against Leeds Rhinos at 3pm.

Unbeaten in all competitions this season, the Rhinos clinched the League Leaders’ trophy last weekend when they hammered Challenge Cup holders Halifax 118-32 – the same side they defeated 54-44 in last year’s Wheelchair RL Grand Final.

The Rhinos are also aiming to emulate the success of the women’s side which defeated Castleford Tigers at Bolton last month to lift the Coral Women’s Challenge Cup.  

Standing in between Leeds and a possible double are Medway’s Argonauts, one of the strongest sides in the game. The Argonauts have lost twice to the Rhinos in league this year, but go into the game on the back of a confidence-boosting win at North Wales Crusaders.

Between them the Challenge Cup finalists supplied seven of the nine-strong England side which in June upset Wheelchair Rugby League’s world order by inflicting a first ever home defeat on reigning world champions France.

One of the stars that day was inspirational Leeds skipper and RLWC2021 ambassador James Simpson, who recently took part in BBC Sport’s popular BBC 5Live Rugby League podcast. The former soldier, a lance corporal in the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, suffered life-changing injuries while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009 and shared his compelling story with thousands of listeners.

Lifelong Leeds Rhinos fan James also found time to look forward to Saturday’s final, telling the BBC’s Dave Woods: “Because of the World Cup I’m playing the best rugby I’ve ever played – not just me but the whole team. And we are live on Our League!”

Leeds will start as favourites, but with Simpson’s talented England performance squad colleagues Joe Coyd, Lewis King, James Hazel and Fred Nye in their ranks the Argonauts most certainly cannot be taken for granted.

“This is only our second full season and this year was our first venture into the Challenge Cup” says the Skeleton Army’s Fred Nye. “Our goal was to get to the final and we’re really looking forward to it. We were well beaten by Leeds early in the season, but things have turned around since and last time we played them we led until the last 20 minutes. We’ll go in as underdogs, which suits us down to the ground. The pressure is off!”

Wheelchair Rugby League is widely considered to be a spectacular version of the sport and as close to the running game as a wheelchair alternative could possibly be. It is played by a mixture of wheelchair users and non-users.

It promises to be a thrilling final and the winners will be invited to attend the Coral Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 24 August. 

Doors open to spectators at 11:45am at The English Institute of Sport.