It’s the most inclusive sport in the world: England wheelchair respond to comments made by France boss

Josh McAllister
Seb Bechara, England Wheelchair. PA Images.

Sebastien Bechara embraces teammate Rob Hawkins of England after victory over France in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup Final. IMAGO/Will Palmer/ Images

England wheelchair head coach Tom Coyd and star player Seb Bechara have both responded to comments concerning the safety and inclusivity of the sport made by France boss Sylvain Crismanovich.

Ahead of the World Cup final, Crismanovich shared his concerns of the impact non-disabled players are having on the sport. He once again raised those views following his defeat to England at Manchester Central, claiming the game was “too physical”.

He said: “I think we are risking that we are developing the game for able-bodied athletes only and giving them the preference to be involved in the game.

“Perhaps I am responsible for France’s defeat tonight that I opted to play three or four paraplegic athletes tonight where England did not select any.

“A stand-out example of this was the incredible try that Jack Brown scored at the end of the first half and his dive, and we simply cannot award tries like this because it would not be possible for a paraplegic athlete to utilise his body in the same way and is far too dangerous.”

England wheelchair respond

England’s Coyd and Bechara had their chance to respond in the press conference following their 28-24 win in front of a record crowd of 4,526 in Manchester.

Golden Boot winner Bechara lost part of his right leg in a motorbike accident a decade ago. He said: “There’s four abled-bodies in each team. They played two-able bodies for the whole game, so did we, so it was equal in that part. It’s been the rules forever.

“I don’t think it’s played a major part in it making it dangerous for any of the disabled players. It’s the most inclusive sport in the world. It’s brilliant how it is.”

Head coach Coyd added: “There was a large portion of this World Cup where we had no able-bodied players on the pitch. And equally where we’ve had large portions with two able-bodied players on the pitch.

“I don’t know why you’d want to change the product that’s out there.

“This is a sport that is safe at the participation level and at the Championship level. You can play rugby league safely in a wheelchair as a disabled person.

“I don’t understand why you’d want to take away what’s just happened out there. This World Cup has changed the world, let’s keep driving that.”

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