The Injured British Afghanistan Veteran Pulling On An England Shirt

To fans of rugby union, autumn means internationals. For one former soldier, that means donning the England Deaf Rugby shirt...

To fans of rugby union, autumn means internationals - the likes of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji on European shores for some highly-anticipated competition.

For one former soldier, that means donning the England Deaf Rugby shirt.

Craig Monaghan, who lost his hearing as a result of serving in Afghanistan, is now gearing up for a three-test series with the All Blacks.

The British Army veteran, who's now in his second season with the England set-up, perforated both his eardrums while serving with 2 RIFLES in 2009.

Having been medically discharged in 2013, he now has only 26% of his hearing left, as well as being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Craig says a perceived guilt at being sent home and lack of purpose after leaving the forces could have ended his life - but that rugby has been his saviour:

"I felt massively guilty a lot of the time for having to leave the boys back in Afghan... [and] having to leave the Army as a whole."

"The Army for me... was everything. I didn't have a 'plan b'. When the Army was taken away from me I did feel massively low.

"I'm not afraid to say this far down the line [that] I had three failed suicide attempts.

"Having the chance to play sport... gave me more of an outlook, more of a push. I now have something to focus on."

"[Going from being] a serving soldier to never thinking... [I'd] play rugby again, to where I am now, it's weird.

"Once you lose your hearing and have a brain injury people write off any rugby career. So I just set out from that point, to prove a point."

England Deaf Rugby team

Initially Craig tried to cover up his hearing problems - and he was actually evacuated from the battlefield due to an eye, rather than ear injury. He said:

"My ears had been ringing for days by the time it had actually [been] flagged up. 

"We were facing quite a tough tour. The company... had suffered mass casualties... 10 killed and several seriously wounded." 

Playing for his club, Bowdon RUFC, at the weekend, Craig scored his 50th try since becoming deaf.

And he says his team-mates have also been learning to adapt to his condition, including through using sign language on the pitch as well as calling out instructions.

Now he's joined an England set-up which is leading the way in deaf rugby - and is looking forward to big challenges on the pitch this autumn.

The men in white will be hosting the All Blacks from November 4 - a prospect to relish whatever team you support.

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