Sport

Army Veteran Looks Ahead To Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup

With a year to go before the start of the tournament, James Simpson is searching for military volunteers to support the event.

British Army veteran James Simpson is looking to generate more military influence at the 2021 Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup.

England's first game against Australia comes on Remembrance Day next year and Simpson wants Armed Forces' support to fill out London's Copper Box Arena.

In a scheme called 'James' Squad', the England international player is hoping that military personnel and veterans will be completing tasks such as leading teams out on 11 November 2021.

He said: "Basically, James’ Squad is [that] we’re trying to get 21 either serving military personnel, veterans or anyone who wants to apply and get involved to be part of that opening fixture.

"We’re going to have military personnel or veterans carrying the trophy in, carrying the wreaths in, guiding the teams out and things like that.

"We’re really hoping we can get those 21 people involved and make them part of the event on the 11th.

"The volunteers that get selected for that game – it’s something I think they’ll remember forever. It’s something I’ll certainly remember forever as well.

"I think it’s going to be very emotional being in there knowing that there’s at least 21 other military or veterans in there being a part of that event," he added.

"When the National Anthem comes on and we’re there in our England shirts singing it and I know there’s other military members there or veterans just singing the National Anthem as well, as loud as they can at the top of their voice, filling the Copper Box with that sound – I just think it’s going to be a huge emotional kind of tidal wave."

Wheelchair Rugby League will host its fourth World Cup in 2021.

With England's first game coming on November 11, the team can pay tribute during the fixture, but Simpson explained that it gives the sport another chance to make an impact as well.

He said: "I didn’t even know what day the 11th was. I just saw the 11th of November instantly and was like ‘That’s Armistice Day. That’s the 11th of the 11th.’

"It’s a massive date for us and it lands on a Thursday as well.

"Our opening game against the Aussies is on the 11th on a Thursday, so there’s no other games that day.

"The men’s and the women’s will be playing that weekend so that Thursday on the 11th is solely the wheelchair game.

"It’s our night – our chance to go out there and sort of represent England when no other team will be doing it.

"It’s massive to do it on such a special day," he added.

The match against Australia is one that Simpson is especially looking forward to – with a chance to add to the historic Australia-England rivalry in mind.

He said: "Getting a chance to play the Australians is rare anyway.

"They’re right the other end of the world so playing some of the home nations we could do quite easily like in the build-up and things, but getting the chance to play the Aussies is massive, and that rugby league rivalry with Australia goes back a hundred years when we used to send people over there by ship to play tours and things.

"Yeah, it’s massive and, as a fan and as a player, I get goosebumps thinking about it.

"Actually in January, when we were in Buckingham Palace and it got called out, I looked around at the Australian representative from the wheelchair game who was sat just over my shoulder.

"I kind of looked around at him and was like ‘Yep. That’s the first game'."