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28th Jun, 2022

Hallowed turf from rugby's first pitch installed by sports injury charity

Andy Morris 11th Apr, 2022

HALLOWED turf from the pitch where rugby was first played has been installed by a charity for young people seriously injured through sport.

The Matt Hampson Foundation has installed 150 square metres of turf from Rugby School’s famous pitch, The Close, where William Webb Ellis first took a ball in his arms and ran with it.

Alistair Robinson, a friend and supporter of the Foundation for many years, bought the turf and donated it to the Foundation after learning that the school was replacing it ahead of the 200th anniversary of the game next year.

The historic turf has put the finishing touches to the Foundation’s Get Busy Living Centre site near Melton Mowbray in rural Leicestershire, to which they have recently added some on-site accommodation lodges, offering an intensive rehab experience to those newly injured.

The centre, which opened in 2018, is the brainchild of charity founder and ex-England and Leicester Tigers rugby player Matt Hampson, who experienced a life-changing injury in 2005 leaving him paralysed from the neck down, aged just 20.

Tommy Cawston, CEO of the Foundation said: “We’re delighted to have a piece of rugby history permanently installed at The Get Busy Living Centre. Rugby is at the heart of the Foundation and the community is so supportive of Matt and his mission to help other sportspeople that like him were injured doing what they love.

“We’re really grateful to Rugby School and Alistair for this kind gesture – the turf has helped put the finishing touches to the gardens of the new lodges.”

Peter Green, the Executive Head Master of Rugby School, said the Foundation was the ideal home for the iconic turf.

He said: “What a great place for our original turf to live on and we look forward to working with the Foundation in 2023 when we hope to be able to host Matt here at the School. He is an inspiration to all of us.”

Rugby School has sold off 20,000 square metres of turf from The Close which was dug up to allow the installation of new drainage and sprinkler systems to combat increasing weather extremes in the UK.

The work, which the school said was being done at ‘significant investment’, will future-proof and protect the site to ensure it can be safely used for matches and enjoyed by visitors for years to come.

The work comes ahead of next year’s bicentenary of the game – when the school’s celebrations will feature national and international matches.

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