Disabled people’s lives changed by Oxbridge rugby match

11 December 2015

Oxford and Cambridge scrumThe involvement of Rugby World Cup star Jamie Roberts, coupled with the return of live BBC coverage, meant the Varsity Matches received more publicity than usual this year.

The Oxbridge rugby event also proved a great success off the field.

With Leonard Cheshire Disability selected as official charity partners for the game, a fundraising target of £40,000 will go towards making life changing additions, including new ‘eating aids’, to some of the charity’s care homes.

The innovative technology enables people with conditions including cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease to eat independently and safely.

Supporting independent living is at the heart of everything the charity does.

‘Varsity is a real occasion, so the partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability has proved a great match-up,’ said former England international Alastair Hignell, who represented Cambridge at Varsity on four occasions.

Alastair has multiple sclerosis and is now a trustee for the charity.

He hosted a prize auction at Twickenham alongside legendary BBC commentator Ian Robertson, known as the ‘voice of rugby’.

‘We thank everyone for their generosity at the auction and around the ground, where our volunteers had their collection buckets filled,’ added Alastair.

It was the 134th Varsity Match staged, in what is the longest running fixture in amateur rugby.

The 29th Women's Varsity Match was the first played at Twickenham.

David Sommers in his wheelchairDisabled residents from care homes across the country were given free tickets to the games. 

‘The Leonard Cheshire Disability home where I live is great for giving us sporting opportunities,’ said David Sommers, 38, who has spina bifida and is a resident at The Manor in Cambridgeshire.

‘There is always something going on. We play boccia and go curling.

‘Varsity was my first rugby match, so it’s been really exciting.’

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Notes to editors

  • Hignell won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award in 2008 for his work in spreading awareness of multiple sclerosis. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours. In 2012, Hignell won the ‘Best Rugby Book’ category in the British Sports Book Awards for the book Higgy. He was a ‘double Cambridge Blue’ at the start of his rugby career.
  • Oxford’s men made history by becoming the first team to win six Varsity Matches in a row.
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries.