The difference rugby can make

‘I know what a difference rugby can make’ – James Russell on why he is backing Vets Fest 2022

James Russell knows more than most the positive impact rugby can have on mental health.

James has spent the last 25 years playing club rugby with a prosthetic leg – after being born with a congenital defect to his right lower leg and right hand.

The support of family, school teachers and then club team mates and coaches made him realise nothing was going to hold him back in the sport.

He explained: “I know what a difference rugby can make. I can remember going through school and wanting to do all the things the other children were doing – and rugby was the main thing.

“I spoke to my PE teacher about whether I could play with a prosthetic leg and he said I could as long as I had a knee pad to cover it, which was more to do with not injuring other players. I haven’t looked back since.”



Aware that things might have been a lot different, James added: “I was really lucky as my parents never wrapped me in cotton wool. And I never had any preferential treatment – and I never wanted any.

“In fact, the best feeling was in the dressing room after the game when opponents (and sometimes team mates) saw me hopping along. They couldn’t believe I had played.

“But it is not something I really think about. I don’t see myself as a role model or an inspiration, I am just playing the sport I love.”

James’ love of rugby saw him take part in the inaugural Wooden Spoon Vets Fest last year.

And the 38-year-old is already looking forward to taking his place in the charity tournament once again when it returns on Saturday 8th October at Birmingham Moseley Rugby Club.



This year’s Vets Fest will raise money for local mental health projects supporting young people and James said: “I am delighted to be supporting the Wooden Spoon Vets Fest 2022.

“There was a fantastic atmosphere at last year’s vets tournament – I absolutely loved it and can’t wait for this year’s event.

“Nothing compares to the camaraderie you get in rugby and this is what the festival was all about. Getting together for good games of rugby and then enjoying the social aspect afterwards.

“Best of all, we are raising money for the amazing work of Wooden Spoon and, in particular, for mental health projects supporting local children and young people.”

We are now looking for clubs or individual players from across the UK to enter players. Register your interest here.