Game changers: Oxford rugby stars rally for disabled fans

Oxford University’s Varsity rugby teams swapped rugby for table tennis on Sunday, spending time with disabled adults living at charity Leonard Cheshire’s Agnes Court care home in Banbury.

I always enjoy coming along to Agnes Court and getting to know the residents. It was a relaxed, fun day. We had a really great time!

Hazel Ellender, Oxford women's rugby captain

The Oxford players and residents reflected on a fantastic Rugby World Cup, batting away the disappointment of England’s defeat in the final by bringing their ping pong skills to the table. 

Matt Barton, 21, a resident at Agnes Court said:

‘We really enjoyed chatting to the players, talking about rugby and many other things. It was a brilliant day.’

Women’s captain Hazel Ellender, 21, who plays at loosehead prop, is studying an MPhil in Classical Indian Religion at St Cross College. 

Hazel said:

‘I always enjoy coming along to Agnes Court and getting to know the residents.

‘It was a relaxed, fun day. We had a really great time!’

Oxford men’s captain Ed David, 24, who plays on the wing or at full-back, is a medical student at St Hilda’s College. 

Ed said:

‘It was really good talk to everyone, and spend quality time with people.

‘We’ll see some of the guys at Twickenham for the Varsity Match.’

After generously welcoming residents to matches at Iffley Road, Oxford are now looking ahead to Varsity Match against big rivals Cambridge. Leonard Cheshire is a charity partner of the Varsity Match, with Agnes Court residents all set to give the Dark Blues their full backing at Twickenham.

This year’s Varsity Match takes places on 12 December and will coincide with polling day in the General Election, as happened in the very first Varsity Match in 1872. Leonard Cheshire will benefit from funds raised by the game.

Founded in 1948 by former Oxford graduate, war hero and global humanitarian Leonard Cheshire, the charity supports thousands of disabled people with high-quality care, community projects, education programmes and internship schemes.

Tracey Cooksey, Volunteer Coordinator at Agnes Court, said:

‘Everyone had a blast and it was great to have the Oxford team back at Agnes Court.’

Joining fans from Agnes Court at Twickenham will be several Leonard Cheshire customers from around the UK, all eagerly awaiting the Varsity double-header.

The women’s match kicks off at 11.30am, followed by the men’s match at 3pm. Oxford’s men will look to build on last year’s victory, while Oxford’s women will look to avenge recent defeats.

The player of the match in the men’s match will receive the Alastair Hignell medal, named after the former England international and Cambridge men’s captain. Hignell, 64, who has multiple sclerosis, is a Leonard Cheshire ambassador.

The Varsity Match is set to attract huge crowds, with large numbers of rugby fans watching live at Twickenham and on ITV4..

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For further information and hi-res photos, please contact Nick Bishop on or 01202 747100 / 07889 976 267.