Homeless Rugby set for 'Lions' clash

Homeless Rugby CIC is set to build on its annual International Cup by organising a 'Homeless British Lions' match in September. 

The third annual Homeless Rugby International Cup took place at Sixways Stadium, home of Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors, on May 12-13. 

The event brings together teams from England, Wales and Scotland made up of people affected by homelessness. Homeless Rugby helps recruit, train and prepare each team for the event through its network of volunteers, partners and charities. 

England were crowned champions after a 6-3 victory over Wales in the final, and now plans are afoot for a combined 'British Lions' side to play an exhibition match in September against a team from Homeless Rugby's funders, the construction firm Meinhardt. 

Director of Homeless Rugby, Darran Martin, told ConnectSport: "Our funders really want to meet the people who benefit from the money raised at their annual fundraising event in London, so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to invite them along a play against each other. 

"Our aspiration has always been to develop stronger teams, more opportunities to get involved and create more competition for places. Taking it a stage further with this combined team only increases our positive impact because it makes selection even more valuable to the players and something else for them to strive towards. 

"Homelessness does not define them, but unites them as team-mates, creating a strong and unique bond." 

Homeless Rugby was founded in 2013 and now encompasses teams from Worcester, Newport, Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with plans afoot for new teams in Milton Keynes and Cheltenham. All players strive for the honour of selection to represent their countries at the annual cup. 

Worcester Warriors Community Foundation, Dragons Community Foundation in Newport and LG Homes in Glasgow are key cogs in a network of volunteers, coaches and organisations which underpin the whole operation. 

Martin added: "Our partner charities take care of those initial stages of providing the next meal or temporary roof over the heads of people affected by homelessness. We're then the secondary offer. We're part of the process of establishing what their daily lives might look like. 

"We provide opportunities beneficial to their personal development, growing their social networks, skills and life experience, reconnecting them with employment and education opportunities and improving their physical and mental wellbeing." 

It seems to work. Tom Minton, 24, is one of many success stories. He joined in 2016 while living in a YMCA in Worcester and rugby proved the springboard to achieving his aim of joining the army. 

"From day one everybody welcomed me. It's a really supportive environment where everybody helps each other," he commented. "It has helped me to work with other people, has improved my fitness and communication skills." 

Last September he was offered a place in the Royal Mercians, enrolling for 26 weeks of combat infantry training in Catterick.