Members of the Sunday’s Well Rebels at the launch of the International Mixed Ability Rugby tournament. Photo: Joleen Cronin

Cork to host world cup

Those were the words of James Healy who is part of the International Mixed Ability Rugby Tournament (IMART) 2022 Committee and a player as it was announced yesterday that Cork is to host the Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup in June. Four years in the making, the bid has fought off stiff competition from other would-be host countries, waited out a global pandemic, and spent endless hours working tirelessly with the EU, IRFU, Munster Rugby, Cork City Council, IMAS and others in an effort to bring this event to Cork, but IMART 2022 is finally coming to Ireland.

IMART and Mixed Ability Week (MAW), which had originally been scheduled for June 2020, will be played in Cork between 5-10 June. This will be the third edition of the worldwide mixed ability rugby showcase promoted by International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) and supported by the IRFU.

The first ever MAW will see new sports like football, rowing and boxing showcased, during this week knowledge workshops and international conference will provide the opportunity for this European Erasmus Plus for Sport supported event to spread the word and work of mixed ability sports to a wider audience.

In the region of 1,000 players both with and without disabilities, from 28 teams and 14 different countries such as England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Canada, Argentina and Chile will come together to play rugby under same World Rugby laws as the XV a side game with only minor adaptations such as uncontested scrums.

This year’s event is made extra special by the fact that it will host the first Women’s Mixed Ability Rugby tournament in Cork.

James Healy added: “IMART 2022 will be the biggest tournament to date with 24 men’s teams competing for the overall Winners Trophy as well as the much-coveted Spirit Trophy and four women’s teams fighting it out to take home the inaugural winners and Spirit trophies.”

International Mixed Ability Sports Director Martino Corazza welcomed the choice of Ireland as the host country: “Cork is a fantastic city, with a great rugby tradition, and Sunday’s Well Rebels are one of the best brilliant examples of rugby clubs being truly representative of their local community. We are incredibly proud of this event and recognise that staging the tournament in 2022 will give enough time to the teams to put in place the necessary arrangements. We trust IMART & MAW 2022 will spread IMAS’ inclusive message far and wide and inspire many more individuals, clubs and National Governing Bodies to take up Mixed Ability.”

Munster Rugby Captain, Peter O’Mahony, who is involved in IMART 2022 said: "I’m proud to support the International Mixed Ability Rugby Tournament coming to Ireland for the first time. Mixed Ability gives everybody the opportunity to be a rugby player regardless of size, shape or ability. This is an incredible opportunity to celebrate our core values, welcoming teams from around the world to experience our legendary Irish hospitality!"

Alan Craughwell, founder of the first mixed ability rugby team in Ireland, Sunday’s Well Rebels, and of Mixed Ability Sports Ireland, spoke of the ethos of IMART and how it’s representation in Cork began: “Mixed Ability rugby and Mixed Ability sports are providing real opportunities for people with and without disabilities to experience social inclusion. Sunday's Well Rebels became part the rugby family at 'The Well' in 2014, when I approached the club with the idea. Since then, the team has flourished. From the early days of 13 players, we now have more than 50 active players. It is a great example of real inclusion to see players with and without disabilities training, playing and, of course, socialising alongside each other every Friday night and feeling like valued members of Sunday’s Well Rugby Club.”