South Wales Pirates, Wales’ first wheelchair rugby team, is to get a new name and look for 2015 after agreeing a major new tie-up with the Ospreys.
The new partnership will see the team rebranded as Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby and playing and training in officially branded BLK kit featuring a newly updated version of the famous Ospreys mask.
The team is made up of largely from players and coaches who have previously represented the Pirates, originally established in 1989, and will compete initially in Division 2 of the GB Super Series, doing battle against teams from across the UK.
Run as a not-for-profit organisation, Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby will benefit from association with the region, who will assist with their fundraising efforts starting with the recent Welsh derby against the Scarlets at the Liberty Stadium, where a bucket collection raised £1107 for the cause.
Andrew Hore, Ospreys Chief Executive, said:
“We are extremely privileged to be able to welcome Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby into the family. We have had a long relationship with the Pirates thanks to the association with Reverend Steve Jones of Sports Chaplaincy UK, and the excellent work he does on an ongoing basis with both organisations.
“We have enjoyed having the team as our guests at Llandarcy several times and it’s eye watering watching them in action. The obvious next step was to invite then to come under our wing with the benefits that would bring the team, and we see this as the start of something special for everybody.
“This is a venture we are entirely committed to supporting for the long term. We sincerely wish Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby the best of luck and we have no doubt that our fantastic supporters will get behind them the way they’ve always got behind the Ospreys.”
The new Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team have already begun preparing for the new season, training on Sunday afternoon’s at Llandarcy Academy of Sport, the venue for their first home match on Sunday 1st February (2pm), when they will take on North Wales rivals Rygbi Gogledd Cymru Wheelchair team in what will be a hotly contested Welsh derby match.
Their North Wales counterparts currently compete in a division above the Ospreys and so the team will need all the support they can get from the touchline.
David Pond, Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby Chief Executive, comments:
“This is great news for the growth and development of wheelchair rugby in South Wales. This support from the Ospreys will do much to encourage more people to participate in the sport, as well as to continue the growth in volunteers and clubs around the country. We look forward to seeing the new side competing in the UK Wheelchair Rugby Super Series league in 2015.”
Paul Jenkins, Head Coach of Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby, said:
"Having coached the South Wales Pirates through some great times I am looking forward to taking the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team through their development, hopefully attracting some new up and coming potential GB players to take up this fantastic sport. The team will take the place of the Pirates in the second division of the Super Series for the rest of the season with the hope of progressing into division one next season."
The launch of the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team comes at a strategic time, the start of a year in which the UK hosts the World Wheelchair Rugby Cup, running alongside the able-bodied Rugby World Cup.
Currently one of the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby players is in the GB development squad for the tournament and the hope is that the newly formed Ospreys team will, in time, produce as many international players as does the Ospreys able-bodied team.
ABOUT WHEELCHAIR RUGBY
Wheelchair rugby is a mixed sport for people who have both upper and lower body impairments. The Ospreys team is actively looking to recruit and train some new players, and they can provide chairs to enable anyone interested to try the sport out for the first time.
It is a fantastic mixed sport for people who have disabilities that effect both their upper and lower body. It is a paralympic sport, which has also been known as Murderball or Quad Rugby.
Players are given a classification according to their functional ability; this ranges from 0.5 to 3.5 points. There are four players from each team on court at any one time, and their total classification points must total no more than 8 in a standard game. This enables people with varying functional abilities to have a valuable role.
The game is played indoors on a basketball size court using a ball the size of a volleyball. Goals are scored by carrying the ball over the goal line between two cones, eight metres apart. The ball must be bounced or passed at least every 10 seconds.
Wheelchair rugby is a full contact sport in that chair-to-chair contact is permitted; however person-to-person contact is not. Some chair-to-chair contact is considered dangerous and is not allowed.
Anyone interested in trying out with the Ospreys Wheelchair Rugby team should contact Head Coach, Paul Jenkins, on 07718 171672.
Potential volunteers looking to assist, or sponsors who would like to support the team, should contact Amanda Thomas, Regional Development Officer (Wales & South West), Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby, on 07950 545014 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org