Trust Rugby International: Stephen’s story

Following on from last year’s successful event, the Bill McLaren Foundation and Trust Rugby International have arranged another Long Lunch on November 8 and they  have another fantastic line up of rugby greats with former Welsh hero Scott Quinnell and Scotland’s own legend Gavin Hastings as guest speakers. The event will once again have Glasgow’s own Al Kellock as the MC for the day.

Contact to secure your ticket and hear below from Stephen Rushford – No.8 – Edinburgh Clan about the great work TRI do:

Hi, My name is Stephen, I’m 21-years-old and I’m from Edinburgh.

In my free time I like to play my Playstation, I enjoy walks and am really interested in healthy living and fitness. I attended Edinburgh College at the Granton Campus and completed an NC in Sports and Fitness.

At school we did some tag rugby which was my first introduction to the sport and it got me interested in rugby. I started watching it on TV and following it as a sport.

When I tried to join some local rugby clubs I was turned away because of my disability, no one wanted to take a risk by letting me play.

When I was 17 I heard about TRI – Trust Rugby International – from my support worker Hazel. She took me along to one of the first sessions TRI had set up in Edinburgh.

I was really nervous as I didn’t know what to expect and I was quite shy, so meeting new people was hard for me, but it was great – I really enjoyed it! I met Stevie Main Shabaz Khan and Callum Calderwood and they treated me like any other player, regardless of my disability. I was hooked, I could play rugby!

I trained every Wednesday evening, the team were really helpful and supportive and we got more players and enablers – mainstream players who support play – joining us.

We travelled to Kilmarnock for our first national Clan training session led by Jamie Armstrong, the Founder and Director of TRI, and we met the Ayrshire Clan for the first time.

We went to see Scotland against Tonga that day, playing in Kilmarnock with tickets given to us by the Scottish Rugby. It wasn’t just playing rugby, it was making friends, socialising and being given opportunities to try things I’d never done before.

Ciaran Armstrong helped me fill in the paperwork to get my first passport because in June 2016 the Clan – both Edinburgh and Kilmarnock – went to Cullera, Spain for the first time. We met ‘EL Clan’, our Spanish team, and this was my first time abroad and away from my family.

That’s what it’s like being in the Clan: it’s exciting, we get so many opportunities to do amazing things, try new things, meet new people and go to new places.

Do you know we have represented Scotland twice in the International Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup? Once in Bradford, England, and once in Vitoria, Spain. Most recently we played the Welsh team the Llanelli Warriors in Cardiff at the Cardiff Arms Park, right next door to the Principality Stadium.  We then went next door to watch Scotland against Wales in the Autumn Tests.

I still train every week in Edinburgh and at the moment we are training at Union Park, home of the Corstorphine Cougars. I’m still learning new rugby skills and meeting friends new and old while keeping fit.

For the last year I have also been part of the TRI TeamWorX programme, a personal development programme for people with learning disabilities which helps us to develop our social skills, work skills and general life skills through rugby and coaching work.

Through playing rugby and going to TeamWorX, my confidence has increased and I find it easier to speak up in front of other people while people say I am a hard-working member of the team.

Through TRI TeamWorX I went to City Building to learn about manual handling and health and safety and I got certificates for these.  I then had the opportunity to work for them with my team mates as a unified TRI-WorX workforce during the European Championships in Glasgow.

I got to meet some athletes and I got paid for this which I used for spending money for my trip to Spain with The Clan and to buy my mum and sister presents, something I hadn’t been able to do before.

Most recently I got a job with TRI and I had to have an interview for this. I now work 25 hours a week as a Unified Activities Development Support Coach for TRI and I work over three areas: Rugby – supporting our coaches and organising kit – TeamWorx – mentoring others on the programme – and TRI-WorX – our unified work team. In tri-WorX I have been laying carpet, emptying a warehouse and up-cycling furniture.

Being part of TRI is brilliant and I would recommend that everyone gives unified rugby a go.