In October, the World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge took place in Japan. Originally founded in London in 2015 to run alongside the Rugby World Cup, this was the second edition of the challenge.
RAF Benevolent Fund Ambassador Stuart Robinson was one of the players representing Great Britain at this year’s competition. In this guest blog, he tells us all about how he got on in Japan.
I saw the very first World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge in 2015 just after I started playing and I was instantly hooked. Since then I’ve competed at three Invictus Games, European Championships, World Championships and a number of Quad Nations events held in Leicester, but 2019 was my first time competing in this tournament.
We flew out on 8 October, spending two weeks in Japan before returning home on 22 October. From the moment we arrived at our holding camp in the city of Kitakyushu the welcome was just amazing. We were met at the airport by a fantastic team of supporters and were immediately adopted by Kitakyushu, our temporary home.
We'll be using the city as our camp to work out from every time we visit Japan from now until the Tokyo Paralympics next year. To repay the hospitality that was shown to us throughout our stay, we spent some time visiting local schools and other organisations within the community while we were in Japan.
Our preparations for the tournament were incredibly intense as we focused on getting ourselves in the best shape possible - both as a squad through training camps and individually at the gym.
Wheelchair rugby has a reputation for being all about the collisions. Although it certainly is an enjoyable part of the experience, the sport is still incredibly technical. Each player has to contend with tactics, plays and a number of timing issues, making it all the more challenging and exciting.
Every nation that took part in the 2019 World Wheelchair Rugby Challenge truly earned the right to compete. Both groups faced strong opponents with the top eight teams in the world competing for the number one spot.
Our first game against France was a good opening win for us. We knew they’d put up a tough fight but we were confident in our own abilities and knew that we could take on the team. Our second game against Brazil was similarly challenging, but the GB team kept the momentum going and we managed to beat the competition, winning 57-35.
However, unfortunately we were defeated in our third game. We were up against our hosts, Japan, and although we played a strong game we were beaten 54-49, narrowly missing out on the bronze medal.
All in all, despite the defeat it was an exhilarating tournament. Now we're back on home soil and the fun of WWRC 2019 is over, we’re eagerly awaiting the Rugby World Cup final between England and South Africa on Saturday 2 November.