Three years after the first Help for Heroes rugby match raised £1.4m for our servicemen and women, we’re going back to Twickenham on 3 December for Help for Heroes 2.
In 2008 it was a Help for Heroes team against the Rest of the World and we attracted 54,000 to HQ. This time it will be a battle of the hemispheres, North v South – a match people have tried to stage for years.
We’ve already enlisted a stellar list of former greats to be team managers and their prime objective will be to recruit the players. From the North we have Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Leonard and Ieuan Evans, and from the South Sean Fitzpatrick and Michael Lynagh. World-class coaches will be appointed in due course.
Last time we selected six servicemen – two from each service – per side. So this time we’re planning to have six servicemen from each hemisphere. There will be a number of young players, and alongside we’ll recruit some of the biggest names we can find.
JP Morgan are on board as the main sponsor and it will be covered live on Sky Sports, two deals that swell the coffers before we’ve started. We’re mindful that staging a game like this brings huge costs, not just at Twickenham. Transporting and housing that many players in London isn’t cheap, so packing out the ground is our priority.
We love the fact that the Barbarians are playing Australia at Twickenham a week earlier, because it brings two dozen of the biggest names from the southern hemisphere to London. We hope a few will decide to stay on in London for another week!
The fund-raising efforts of the Help for Heroes charity has moved on in the past three years and now – with a number of other services charities – we want to raise money for recovery centres that are being established across the country. These will be places for these guys and girls to go to, to reassess what’s going on in their lives and get further help. These will be bases around the country, converted stately homes, those sort of places which will be upgraded to receive these wounded soldiers and give them further help – it’s a £100m project.
These people need specialist, high-quality help and many are suffering post-traumatic stress or other conditions. They need our help and this is rugby’s way of helping. We’ve never made any political statements about going to war, whether it’s right or wrong. What we’re about is looking after soldiers when they return.
After the 2008 match we said we could never do another one but so many people said “Let’s do it again” that we relented. What happened to change our stance was the way people have reacted.
Tickets for this fantastic event are on sale now from ticketmaster.co.uk or on 0844 847 2492. If you buy just one rugby ticket in 2011, this has to be it.
This article appeared in the July 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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