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Rugby League Wheelchair World Cup: James Simpson eyes glory with England

From BBC - July 16, 2017

When James Simpson had his legs blown off during an Army patrol in Afghanistan eight years ago, he refused to let the life-changing injury break his spirit.

Now he's one of the stars of the England wheelchair rugby league side, determined to lift the sport's World Cup that kicks off in France this week.

And he says the sport is unique, bringing together those who, like him, have undergone amputation after injury or illness but also able-bodied athletes all competing together in the high-speed, big-collision world of wheelchair rugby league.

"It's a disability sport but it's an all-inclusive sport. We welcome people who really just enjoy rugby league - you do not have to be disabled," says Simpson.

"The game started with people playing because it was a disability sport. But in the five years I have been playing, the sport has evolved to more rugby league fans playing.

"Our England captain Jack Brown is able-bodied, his brother Harry also plays and has had his legs amputated because of meningitis. It's the only sport they can play together.

"We have people who run around during the week playing rugby league and then join us at the weekend. There's no gender barrier, no age barrier."

Simpson, 31, a rugby league fan who had not played the sport competitively before, discovered it after he was forced to leave the Army as a result of his injuries. He was a lance corporal in the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment when he was badly injured on patrol.

"I was in Afghanistan in 2009 and on a normal patrol and I triggered an improvised explosive device that was buried in the ground," he said.

"It detonated underneath me and took both my legs off above the knee, instantaneously.

"I was lucky to be alive. The guys around me were amazing.

"I was evacuated back to the main hospital in Afghanistan and then back to the UK. From there I had two or three years' rehabilitation to get used to my prosthetics and get walking again.

"I did not really struggle mentally. I guess it's just my attitude or the way I have been raised. I treated it as life-changing not life-ending.

"I treated it just as another hurdle to get over. So once I'd overcome it and I was walking again I just carried on with my life like I did before but a bit different.

"It's really weird to explain but you do get put in those make-or-break situations and you have just got to make it."

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