Rugby

Rugby League Wheelchair World Cup: England’s victory could be the start of something special, says Tom Halliwell

Hosts: England Dates: October 15 to November 19
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and online; Live commentary on Radio 5 Live and Sports Extra; Live texts and highlights on the BBC Sport website and app

England captain Tom Halliwell believes his thrilling victory at the Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup can start something special for the sport.

And his trainer Tom Coyd wants the public to be involved in building his legacy.

Leeds Rhinos player Halliwell’s late try before 4,526 fans, a record crowd for the sport, sealed a 28-24 win over France in the Manchester final.

“This is just the beginning of wheelchair rugby league,” said the 23-year-old.

“He’s amazing and I’m grateful and happy to be a part of this and I can’t wait to see him grow into what he can be.

“Lifting the trophy is probably the best feeling in the world. I’ve been working very hard for the last five years and it’s great to know that the hard work has paid off.”

“This tournament has been innovative and shows what rugby league is all about.”

Halliwell led by example for Coyd’s side with a try in each half as England had to work hard at both ends of the pitch against the world’s number one team.

And an emotional Coyd said afterwards that the crowd had a key role to play in building up the victory.

He said: “Wheelchair rugby league is going to explode so go to your nearest club.

“Put yourself in a chair: disabled, non-disabled, male, female, just come down, play this game, and this could be you in a few years.”

Throughout the tournament, England have been focused on results, but also on raising the profile of the sport and creating a legacy, and the team have delivered on all counts, with record crowds and unprecedented media interest.

“We’ll enjoy tonight,” Coyd said. “The players have earned it. They’ve put their lives on hold, they’ve taken time off and they get what they deserve.”

“We talked about it at the beginning of the tournament and the goal was to win five games, and as a result of that, continue the legacy created before this tournament.

“We want to show as many people as we can how good this game is.

“But in the future, I want to see a regular competitive Wheelchair Super League in Britain and up to 10 new clubs in the next few years, some, not all, linked to Super League clubs.

“I also want to see more managers, because some clubs are run by players and managers, and have the sport as a main obsession rather than a rugby league cult, and we’re getting there.”

Crowds of over 3,000 watched the pool games at the Copper Box Arena in London, and those numbers built for a vibrant final.

Hosts England and defending champions France staged an exciting match, decided by Halliwell’s last goal.

“It’s hard to put this in context,” former England international Freya Levy told BBC Sport.

“The first wheelchair rugby league game in this country was played in a car park, and it wasn’t that long ago. And now we’ve won the World Cup in front of 4,500 people, all watching from home.

“The stage we’ve put this sport on…it’s just a huge thank you to everyone who’s made it happen, because this is a great time.”

Tom Coyd was appointed England manager in July 2020

Former England captain Martin Norris, who led his country to its previous World Cup triumph in 2008, added that new players were needed to “maintain the legacy”.

That was crucial, he suggested, to keep the momentum going towards the next World Cup, in France in 2025.

“I want these people who have seen to get in touch with their local club. We need volunteers, we need coaches, we need new players,” he told BBC Sport.

“Get involved. Anyone can play this sport. And if there isn’t a club, create one. The RFL will have your back. Get in touch with them. Just get it off the ground and let’s keep this legacy going.”

“What I want to make sure we don’t do is forget about it for three years and then we’ll have the same conversation again.

“We’ll keep beating the drum, we’ll keep pushing forward and we’ll make sure we have twice as many teams by the time we play the first game in France.”

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