A Year 9 Sedbergh School pupil will take on the Coast2Coast cycle route on 11th July, raising money for the RFU’s Injured Rugby Players Foundation.

Three years ago, James Gray (Powell House), 14, from Hamsterley, County Durham, suffered serious neck injuries when he went down in a ruck during a game at the Royal Grammar School in Jesmond, Newcastle, for his school team.

Fitted with a head brace, James was determined to get back on his feet and it was while in his hospital bed that he vowed to raise money for other injured rugby players. 

Having played rugby from the age of four, James wanted desperately to remain involved with the sport he loved so much. He raised more than £34,000 in seven weeks for the charity at the age of 11, whilst boarding at Cressbrook House at Sedbergh Prep School.

Since the accident and initial recovery, he has had intensive physio and osteopathy treatment, captained the B2 Cricket Team, and he has enjoyed regular cross country runs through the Howgill fells. In order to stay involved with rugby, James has helped with the School’s 1st XV during training, touch judging, and he has just taken his Level 2 refereeing.

He says, “Sedbergh is a great place to board and to live for opportunities to get fit. Every night after Prep we are out playing touch rugby on the field opposite my boarding house, and that helps to build up strength.

I can play non-contact sports such as cricket, tennis, fives and I enjoy fell-running, but most of all, I enjoy still having involvement with rugby and the refereeing gives me the chance to be out on the pitch. Seeing first hand what the Injured Rugby Players Foundation does at Twickenham, and having met the people I helped last time, spurred me on to take on this new challenge now that I’m at the end of Year 9.

The foundation offers amazing support to people who aren’t as lucky as I have been and it’s great to know that the money I raise will go direct to the people who need it – the RFU pay for all the extras such as administration costs.”

Emma Gray, James’ mum, said: “When James was in hospital following his accident, he asked me one night if I thought he’d ever run again. We honestly didn’t know what his prognosis was as, at the time, he wasn’t able to walk without assistance, but it was important to remain positive and to keep looking forward, not back.

Coming to terms with the fact that he will never be able to play rugby again has been incredibly hard for James to accept, however, focusing on the challenge of helping injured players less fortunate than himself, helped to get him through the dark days and now he has decided to give himself another challenge – this time, on a bike.

From the age of five, all James wanted to do was to play rugby for England. Although he knows he will never be able to represent his country with a ball in his hands, he is now hoping to embark on a refereeing career and will hopefully represent his country, albeit with a whistle round his neck!” 

James will soon join the North Yorkshire Refereeing Society, which will involve monthly meetings and will give him the opportunity to referee at some out of school matches as well as at Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School.  He will take on the Coast2Coast Challenge with his mum, Emma, and Head of Biology, Dr Alisdair McMeechan. 

Please support James in his fund-raising. Visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/James-Gray32

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