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/ 27 February 2017

A thug’s game played by Christians

Rugby players stand together

Many people will be aware that we are in the middle of the Six Nations Rugby Tournament, which for many supporters is a highlight of the year. Week-on-week, we (rugby lovers), spend our weekends watching a championship that gives thrills and gut-wrenching action from our favourite rugby nations.

What is well known about the sport is that in 1823, when William Webb Ellis was a schoolboy at Rugby school, he ‘with fine disregard for the rules of football, first took the ball in his arms and ran with it, thus originating the distinctive feature of the Rugby game’. However, what is less well known is that this schoolboy went on to become a priest in two parishes in the Diocese.

This ‘thugs game played by Gentlemen’ has many associations between it and Christianity.  Recently, two professional players in the 2017 competition, discussed their faith and how it affects their behaviour on and off the pitch.

The celebrated Billy Vunipola, who plays number 8 for Saracens RFC and is on the national team for England, took the time to talk to Zaki Cooper. Vunipola, who has 32 caps, is currently recovering from an injury but is hoping to return back to the field before the end of the tournament.

Speaking to Cooper, a Trustee of the Council of Christians and Jews, Vunipola discusses his faith, the help from the Rugby chaplaincy and the hopes for the English national team. This interview was originally in The Times Newspaper and is kindly reproduced on Cooper’s LinkedIn page.

More recently, Andrew Trimble who currently plays for Ulster and represents Ireland at international level, spoke to the BBC’s Religious Affairs Correspondent Martin Bashir, on the highs and lows of professional rugby, how his faith influences his sport and how it felt beating New Zealand’s the All Blacks.

Currently, as of this weekend’s matches, the score table stands with England nudging just above Ireland in round three. The final game of the Six Nations on Super-Saturday will be between these two teams battling to win the trophy at the Aviva Stadium, in Dublin. With both sides striving for dominance during this high-octane encounter, there’ll be a least a player on each side praying that the best team wins, with dignity and faith.

About Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall was the diocesan Communications Assistant, before going on to become a Franciscan Friar with the Society of St Francis. Matthew seeks to protect the environment. He adores hiking and being outdoor in the country or by the sea in nearly all weather. He dreams of hiking to Rome and Jerusalem.

Read more from Matthew Hall

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