RUGBY: A CELEBRATION of rugby is set to create a carnival atmosphere in the town centre later this month.
RugbyFest kicks off on Friday, September 22, and will run the entire weekend with a full schedule of events keeping rugby fans entertained.
The event – which is the brainchild of friends Mark Dunkley and Spencer Brown – will host former international players and cover every aspect of the game, from traditional 15-a-side to sevens and wheelchair rugby.
A music festival will also showcase some of the best talent in the borough while a family fun zone will keep youngsters entertained.
The idea for RugbyFest happened where all great plans come to life – the pub.
“We were talking about how there has never been an event open to the public to celebrate the town’s sporting heritage,” said Mark.
“We’ve both played rugby and attended tournaments all over the world.
“It’s surprising how many people there are that don’t know there is a town called Rugby where the game started.
“We decided to do something about it and had the idea of staging a rugby festival here in the game’s birthplace.”
Spencer, who had a professional career with clubs such as Richmond and Bristol as well as being capped a number of times for England, has used his contacts to bring some notable recent players to Rugby especially for the event.
On Friday night, a special charity legends match will take place – with former international stars Shane Byrne, David Von Hoesslin, and Tim Stimpson set to take to the Rugby School fields – where the game was created.
Spencer said: “It’s a really big deal for all the guys taking part.
“Rugby School have been very helpful in allowing us to use both The Close and the Springhill playing fields to stage RugbyFest.”
Saturday will see the official England men and women’s deaf teams take to the field – with the men facing Leicester Police while the women take on Rugby Lionesses.
Wheelchair rugby will also be represented with an event organised in association with Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of Rugby.
Mark said: “We wanted to make RugbyFest about every form of the game, including the versions that enable people with disabilities to enjoy rugby.
“What this shows is how inclusive rugby is in bringing everyone together – the deaf teams are playing against hearing teams.
“And anyone can play wheelchair rugby, even if they’re not a wheelchair user in their day to day life.”
A special world record attempt will take place too with a rugby touch sevens non-stop match starting at 9am, with players appearing for ten-minutes at a time.
Elsewhere rugby league will be represented with the International Veterans Tens’ tournament bringing together 16 of the country’s top vets teams.
A family fun day on Sunday will follow Saturday night’s music festival.
Visit www.rugbyfestuk.com for further information about the event and how to get involved.