It's a landmark year for the Midlands' largest tens event. Behind the Loughborough tournament are two poignant stories that sparked the rugby community into action
Robbie’s Rugby Festival celebrates ten-year anniversary
Rugby and charity go hand in hand and one of the best examples of that union takes place on Saturday 28 July on the playing fields of Loughborough Grammar School.
Robbie’s Rugby Festival is a joyous mix of tens and sevens rugby played to a sombre backdrop. Robbie Anderson was only 13 when he lost an 18-month battle against cancer in 2006, but he still created a trust to help young people and their families cope with and fight cancer on a daily basis.
Every day in the UK, six teenagers are diagnosed with cancer and a modernised ward at Leicester Royal Infirmary is tangible evidence of the difference the Robbie Anderson Cancer Trust has made to the lives of young patients.
Support from Robbie’s Rugby Festival has allowed the trust to purchase two vital pieces of equipment for the hospital’s ward 27: an ultrasound bladder scanner and a cannula scanner. Both reduce the trauma, stress and bruising for the patient while undergoing treatment.
A group of school friends played an old boys’ reunion match in Robbie’s honour in 2009 and ten years on that has morphed into one of the largest tens tournaments in England, attracting 30 teams and thousands of spectators.
The event has become a permanent fixture of the summer calendar with rugby royalty including Neil Back, Sir Clive Woodward, Eddie Jones, Dan Carter, Christian Wade, Warren Gatland, Sam Warburton, Richie McCaw, Sonny Bill Williams and Billy Twelvetrees showing their support over the years.
The tens tournament, played over four pitches, is the focal point of a packed day.
Another key ingredient is Jake’s Round Robin, a six-team social tournament named after Jake McCarthy, an old boy of Loughborough GS pupil and Manchester Metropolitan University.
In 2012 he suffered a seizure on holiday in Thailand and was found to have a brain tumour that, on 24 December that year, took his life. The past decade has seen a 16% rise in deaths from brain tumours in the UK and the Jake McCarthy Foundation raises awareness of the symptoms to ensure early diagnosis.
Every year his friends enter a team in his memory and thus, in the true spirit of rugby, people are coming together and giving back to the game.
Funds raised from the festival have helped the Jake McCarthy Foundation to fund the recruitment and three-year placement of a dedicated Senior Research Associate at the University of Plymouth.
* 2009 Loughborough Endowed Schools
* 2010 Syston RFC
* 2011 Team Schweff (Loughborough Endowed Schools Alumni Team)
* 2012 Syston RFC
* 2013 Syston RFC
* 2014 Seals (Loughborough Endowed Schools Alumni Team)
* 2015 Do it for Dawson (Durham University Alumni Team)
* 2016 Seals (Loughborough Endowed Schools Alumni Team)
* 2017 Do it for Dawson (Durham University Alumni Team) & Hinckley RFC (shared)
In addition to the Robbie Tens and Jake’s Round Robin, this year again features a ladies sevens tournament that was launched last year to much acclaim.
Entrants for this year’s tens tournament include clubs such as Syston, Long Eaton, Melbourne, Derby, Leodienisans and Quorn.
There are several invitation sides from universities and local schools, while one name to catch the eye is Team Mayne. They play in memory of Richard Mayne, who died on the Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down in 2014. The team is based in Market Bosworth, where Richard was deputy head boy at Dixie Grammar School.
While the players work up a sweat, spectators can spend time in the Rugby Village, which features a bar, physio tent, gin tent and hot tub among other attractions, or enjoy a refreshing Pimm’s in the Summer Garden.
Following a full day of pitch action, festivalgoers are invited to attend the FESTIBALL. Celebrations will include a drinks reception, dinner, dessert stations, numerous charitable activities, live music and photo booths, as well as an exciting line-up of entertainment.
Nottingham Rugby are one of the many event sponsors and Neil Back, who started his senior career there before finding wider fame with Leicester and England, is an ambassador.
“Events like this bring the rugby family together and there is something available for everyone,” says Back. “It started very small and now there are 30 teams. I live in Leicestershire and know members of both families involved. They raise money every year while having a great time.”
Over the past decade, the event has raised more than £61,400 for the two charities.
The desire to raise funds and awareness for the charities is at the heart of Robbie’s Rugby Festival, and the bar has been set high.
“We are immensely proud of the legacy Robbie’s Rugby Festival has and cannot thank our supporters enough,” says Georgie Fowle, co-founder of Addo Events who organise the festival. “Their generosity has enabled the festival to make a real difference to those affected by cancer. Yet despite the mighty figures raised to date, it is a mere drop in the ocean. Robbie’s Rugby Festival needs as many people as possible to join in the fight against cancer.
“We look forward to welcoming familiar faces and newcomers alike as we hope to smash previous year’s figures and keep supporting our charities to continue their vital work.”
Entry to the rugby is free (donations welcome) and tickets to the FESTIBALL are £60, with tables of eight, ten and 12 available, priced from £440. To book visit robbiesrugbyfestival.com