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Quartet put forward for Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Achiever of the Year award

Quartet put forward for Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Achiever of the Year award

Four inspiring youngsters have all been shortlisted for Premiership Rugby’s PLAY Achiever of the Year award supported by Gallagher, and judge Victoria Partridge believes that any of the quartet would be a deserving winner.

With the Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards taking place at the House of Commons on Wednesday 17 July, a specially-selected panel faced the daunting task of whittling down the nominations to a final four for the prestigious gong – which rewards a participant who has excelled in any programme that introduces rugby to new audiences.

Every year hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run Premiership Rugby initiatives such as – but not limited to – HITZ, Project Rugby, Tackling Health and Move Like A Pro.

The PLAY Achiever of the Year Award recognises those who have overcome physical, cultural or social barriers to become involved in the game whilst embodying the spirit of the PLAY campaign.

And, according to Victoria, Marketing Director, Brand & Partnerships at Gallagher, the competition has never been higher.

“This was an incredibly difficult award to judge,” she said. “Every single person shortlisted has had to overcome personal issues and their effort to conquer these barriers is inspiring.

“In each case, rugby made a difference to their success and helped them to face their future with confidence. They all absolutely deserve to be recognised.”

Shortlist for PLAY Achiever of the Year award, supported by Gallagher:

Jess McConnell – Bath Rugby

Jess has cerebral palsy, Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Type 2 diabetes and was initially apprehensive when she first came to Bath Rugby. However, after joining the Bath Rugby Ladies Mixed Ability Team delivered as part of Project Rugby, Jess became a larger than life character within the team and her rugby skills have improved dramatically. She makes everybody laugh and feel welcome around her and being part of a team has had a hugely positive impact on Jess’ social confidence, helping battle the isolation she had been feeling earlier in the year.

Kascie Higgins – Northampton Saints

Kascie was diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy at the age of one and because of this traditionally struggled to be active and take part in sport. But after taking up wheelchair rugby at Northampton Saints Kascie then joined Project Rugby and is now a dedicated and regular member of the Northampton Heathens Mixed Ability Rugby team. Kascie is a tireless ambassador for disability sport and advocates that young people with disabilities take up any sport so they can benefit from the positive physical and mental benefits which rugby has helped him gain.

Howard Coppenhall – Sale Sharks

Howard is a recently retired engineer who initially felt ‘lost’ after stepping away from the routine of his work. He decided to join the Sale Sharks Walking Rugby programme and is now at the centre of every session he attends, making everyone laugh and encouraging everyone to get involved. Howard has come out of his shell and with his rugby ability coming on leaps and bounds he has become a great ambassador for Walking Rugby.

Cheick Kone – Worcester Warriors

Born in the Ivory Coast before moving to England, Cheick had no previous knowledge of rugby. But after attending a Project Rugby session he is now a regular player for Wolverhampton Rugby Club and is now part of the Worcester Warriors U16 academy after demonstrating his ability. He has also had the opportunity to go to Wellington College for the England U16 festival. Cheick is now calmer, more positive about his future and has settled down in school with his academic studies.

To read more about Premiership Rugby’s community programmes, please visit while you can join in the conversation via the hashtag #ImproveAMillionLives

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