Fife Clan coach James Moncur dedicates ‘Spirit of Rugby’ award to his players

He was presented with the Scottish Rugby Writers' Community Hero award by Jamie Lindsay of Breadalbane Finance

James Moncur of Fife Clan is presented with his Scottish Rugby Writers' Spirit of Rugby Community Hero award by Jamie Lindsay of Bredalbane Finance Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
James Moncur of Fife Clan is presented with his Scottish Rugby Writers' Spirit of Rugby Community Hero award by Jamie Lindsay of Bredalbane Finance Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THESE are worrying times for supporters of rugby in Scotland and beyond, with player safety issues and a lack of finance presenting existential threats to the future of the global game, while dwindling player numbers and problems in the development pathway further feeds anxiety closer to home.

A perfect antidote to this sense of doom and gloom – a reminder of what the sport is really all about – was available at Duffus Park in Cupar, home of Howe of Fife RFC, last month, when Fife Clan took on Strathmore Clan in a match which showcased Unified Rugby at its finest.

The game was competitive but well-natured. And while there was plenty of skill on show, the willingness of players to push beyond their comfort zone to see what they could achieve was what really warmed the heart.


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“That was great …  it’s always great,” grins an out-of-breath James Moncur – coach and an ‘enabler’ for Fife Clan – after the final whistle.

“These guys have spent so much of their lives being told what they can’t do. When they are at school it is: ‘You sit there on the sidelines … you watch these other people play rugby … you get angry too quickly … you don’t know the rules … you can’t catch’ – but we don’t give a toss about what they can’t do. That’s negative thinking.

“All we’re interested in is what they can do – to maximise their potential and push them a bit to hopefully achieve something they didn’t believe they were capable of.”

Unified Rugby is a version of full contact rugby which brings together those with learning disabilities and non-disabled players in the same team, promoting equality, diversity and social inclusion through participation.

The genesis of this excellent branch of the game was the formation of Trust Rugby International (TRI) in 2010, as “a proactive, Scottish-based charity whose goal is to bring individuals and communities together through the game of rugby, benefitting health and well-being by increasing physical activity and improving access to sports for people with learning disabilities”.

In 2013, TRI became an associate member of the Scottish Rugby Union, and there are now several ‘Clans’ providing rugby opportunities across Scotland (in Kilmarnock, Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeenshire and the Borders), as well as in England and Europe.

 


“The guys all love being treated as part of the team,” Moncur continues. “So, if they drop a pass they should have caught, or they are being a bit lazy, then we’ll let them know – because that’s how they expect to be treated as part of the team.

“They can go into their shells a bit during matches because it is a big occasion, which means sometimes these games are a bit slow to get going, but the more we train and the more we play, the more confident they get.

“We train once a week during the season, and we try to do other stuff on top of that, so we had an evening when we got a nutritionist in to talk to the players about how they need to feed and fuel themselves, we had a tour to Aberdeenshire a few years back, we’ve been out bowling, to the deer centre, and so on.”

For Moncur, the key thing is to not limit his players with preordained expectations, and his face lights up as he talks about full-back Dale Lynch and scrum-half Robbie Simpson.

“The holy grail for a Clan coach is to get one of these guys up to senior rugby, and that’s what Dale has managed to do,” he explains. “He came to us from athletics, he’s quite a big physical chap, and he is now training with the Howe senior team. They’ve very much taken him under their wing and he’s running drills with the first team backs, hitting bags, and that is just great.

“Robbie is registered blind,” Moncur reveals. “He has no vision in one eye and only 20 percent in the other one. When he first joined us, we put him on the wrong wing and every time the ball came his way it hit him in the face, so we put him on the other wing but that wasn’t much better, so then we moved him to scrum-half where you don’t have to do much catching and he just took off. He loves it, and you saw him today, he’s everywhere on the park.

“But then there are other players who have different expectations, so in their case it might be about encouraging them to have the confidence to run at another player with the ball, or to try to throw a pass even though they haven’t done that in a game before.

“We have different coloured scrum caps to make sure that people who don’t want to be tackled aren’t put in a position they are not comfortable with, and it generally works really well. There is a fine line between managing the game and patronising people, so you are not diving out the way, you are tackling them or getting in the way, depending on who you are up against.”

 

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Moncur’s work with Fife Clan led to him recently being selected by The Scottish Rugby Writers for the Spirit of Rugby Community Hero of the Season Award [sponsored by Breadalbane Finance], but he shrugs off that accolade as almost meaningless compared to what he gets from his involvement with the team.

“I just love it,” he says. “We were at practice the other night and the players were coming up with moves and running them against me and the other coaches. It was fantastic because they were backing themselves to show off what they’ve learned from being part of this team.

“I love that Dale is getting a chance with the Howe senior team, and I just love being part of that really positive team environment. The games are always played in great spirit, then we go to the clubhouse afterwards and have a laugh together.”

  • To find out more about Unified Rugby click HERE.

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

4 Comments

  1. Wasn’t aware of this either, fast appraising my 50th Birthday, but fancy giving this a go if this is replicated in Glasgow

  2. Have had the privilege of watching these guys….proper good news story. Well done TOL for showcasing them.

  3. Wonderful story – wasn’t aware of Unified Rugby but reminds us about grass roots rugby for all and the benefits it can bring as well as the tolerance towards people of all capabilities. Puts a bit of perspective on the normal grumblings on this site that we normally participate in. Well done to James and all the players and to David for the well written article.

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