David Barnes - Chairman of the PRA and Kili cllimber

MORE SUITED to mauls, more used to scrums, an intrepid trio is challenging the rugby community to trek Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding peak with them or back their ascent to the snowcapped summit on the roof of Africa.  Already 35 have signed up for the AXA Wealth Kilimanjaro Challenge 2011 and there are now just a few places left for the expedition which leaves on June 2nd and returns on June 12th.

The lead trio are: David Barnes,34, Bath Rugby prop and Chairman of the Rugby Players’ Association. Andy Blyth, 35, seriously injured playing for Sale Sharks in March 2000, who has been in training for the trek for a year. Major Alan Tindale, 43, of the Royal Logistic Corps, who plays for their Vets, manages their first XV and plays for Cirencester’s 3rd team.

Helping them launch the initiative at Twickenham Stadium was trek ambassador Jason Leonard, the world’s most capped prop and trek title sponsor AXA Wealth CEO Mike Kellard.

The target of the 10-day trip covering in excess of 100km, climbing to an altitude of 5,895 metres, is to reach Kilamanjaro’s summit and in doing so raise vital funds for:  The RPA Benevolent Fund, which provides essential help for professional players who suffer serious injury or illness. The RFU Injured players Foundation, supporting anyone seriously injured while playing rugby and their families and helping those seriously injured to live fulfilling lives. Help for Heroes, the charity raising funds to support our members of the armed forces wounded in the service of their country.

Mike Kellard, CEO, AXA Wealth, says, ” “When we were first approached with the offer to be title sponsor of this year’s Kilimanjaro Challenge, it took literally about 10 seconds to say yes!  The opportunity to support not one but three well deserving charities, whilst supporting such an exciting and frankly ambitious challenge, was one we would not have missed.  The challenge, considered by many climbers as one of the most difficult they have ever undertaken, is a test of skills, teamwork and mental strength. On behalf of AXA Wealth I am pleased to provide the support to help make it happen.”

Says David Barnes, “In true rugby tradition it will be great to take it on as a squad and to do it for the good of those less fortunate than ourselves, players injured through rugby and troops injured while serving their country. With just a few places left there’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get involved.  If you really can’t join us on the climb we would all be most grateful for your donations to this very worthwhile fundraising effort – dig deep it really will make a difference.”

Andy Blyth has faced and surmounted the challenge of serious injury suffered while playing for Sale Sharks against Saracens almost 11 years ago.  He has been in the gym training hard six days a week for the Kilimanjaro trek. “Now I can’t do sport I really miss the competition and this suits my competitive nature.  It is a massive challenge for me but I won’t give up.  It’s a fantastic way to raise money and it’s great to be able to help others.  While giving me a sense of achievement and self fulfilment, it has put things in perspective as to what’s important in life.”

Major Alan Tindale agrees, “I had been wanting to take on this trek for a while and what better group to go with and for what better cause?  I took David Barnes to Headley Court last year because he was keen to have Help for Heroes involved.  I was out in Afghanistan three years ago and will be going back next year.  We are all in it together and it’s great to see the public support.”

Jason Leonard, AXA Wealth Kilimanjaro Challenge 2011 ambassador is rallying the troops, “The connections between rugby and the Army are huge and going on this trek would be a dream come true for anyone, it covers so many bases.  You get to really test yourself as part of a great team, while doing something for others who might not be able to take on the challenge themselves.”

To discover more or donate visit axawealthclimb.co.uk

Or text the word Climb to 70050, this text supported by O2 will cost £1.50p, the total amount going to the charities.