Members of the Royal Family and sporting greats were put through their paces in a training session to ready them for the Jaguar Land Rover Exhibition Wheelchair Rugby Match at the Invictus Games. The match preceded the wheelchair rugby gold medal contest.
Rugby legend Jonny Wilkinson and his former manager Sir Clive Woodward went head-to head for the first time as managers for their teams which included Prince Harry and cousin, Zara Tindall, alongside sporting greats such as her husband Mike Tindall, Dame Kelly Holmes, Denise Lewis and Jason Robinson.
They wete joined by Invictus competitors Ryan McIntoch (USA), Ben Steele (Great Britain), Dennis Dencker (Australia), Marco Iannuzi (Italy), Kim Holm (Denmark) and Bill Blaikie (New Zealand).
Taking to wheelchairs in a testing training match, the celebrities learned the rules of the adapted sport and quickly discovered how physically demanding it is on the wounded, injured and sick Service personnel who have battled to make the finals.
Zara Tindall said: “The training session has been really hard work, but it was good fun. I think we’ve got a really good team and I’m looking forward to going up against Mike. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be allowed to hang onto the back of his chair like I’ve been practicing.
“The Invictus Games have been fantastic and I think Harry has done an amazing job, having the idea and bringing it over (to the UK). It all seems to be going amazingly well and it’s fantastic to see the power of sport and what it’s able to do for these guys and girls.”
Sir Clive Woodward, manager of the Endeavour team, said: “I’m hugely honoured to have been asked to lead the team and as soon as I got the letter I cleared my diary. Wheelchair rugby is such a great sport. It really levels the playing field, although you’ve got to have a lot of skill for it.
“I come from a Service family myself, my dad was in the RAF and events like the Invictus Games are hugely important as a way of saying thank you and a way of appreciating what they do for the country.”
Retired Lt Col Bill Blaikie, from New Zealand, said: “To be picked to come and play with these celebrities is fantastic. I’ll give it our best, and as Sir Clive says, give them some knocks.
“It’s a fantastic arena and the atmosphere is awesome, the crowd gets behind you and lifts you.
Jason Robinson and I already had a tussle - I think we’ll carry on out there.”