QA Staff Member Participates In Charity Rugby Match At Twickenham

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

On Tuesday 15 April, Mr Edward Hellings, Director of Finance at Queen Anne’s, participated in the annual Commons & Lords vs Trentham/Newcastle charity rugby match at Twickenham. The game raised £15,000 for the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) Injured Players Fund.

Below, Mr Hellings gives his account of the game at Twickenham:

“Most people think I am mad still playing rugby. “At your age?” is the usual response, followed by a facial expression somewhere between disapproval and bewilderment.

So when someone says to you: “I can get you a game playing at Twickenham,” the first thing that goes through your head – unless you are on the verge of joining the England squad – is “you must be mad!” And that is exactly what I thought when the idea was first raised. The expression of disbelief on my face obviously showed, because it was quickly explained to me that the Commons and Lords played a charity game at Twickenham each year and that my contact, who works in Parliament, was the match manager.

I didn’t dare to hope too much more until about 4 weeks before the day, when I got the email confirming my selection as a guest player. And then the questions really started: “What will it be like?” “How different will it be on the pitch from watching in the stands (which I have done a fair amount of)?” “How embarrassed will I be if I spill the ball over the line?” “Do I want to carry on playing for the rest of this season – what happens if I get injured on the Saturday before the game?”

The last game of the season passed without injury, so on 15 April I set off for the ground with family in tow. The weather was unseasonably warm – sun cream was sneaked into my kit bag (not by me – as if I would use that on the pitch!) and at about 10.30am, I was let in through the large wooden gates from the West Car Park and into the Members’ Lounge.

After a short while, we were into the changing rooms and introductions, distribution of kit and general geeing up took place before the match. Having a Lord and a few MPs around does not seem to curb the normal high jinks that go on before a game, along with the good natured ribbing about everything and anything. We wandered out for a photo call and, warm ups completed, we went back into the changing rooms, and then back out to play. The Commons and Lords kit is based on the green of the Commons benches and the red of the Lords benches; I was lucky and escaped a fine for having the red and green socks on the wrong feet – a quick change before kick-off put that right.

Being on the pitch in a 82,000 seat stadium when there are maybe 200 people watching the game is quite an eerie experience. Every call on the pitch echoes around the ground, and you wonder how any player hears anything when there are 82,000 people shouting at you. The stadium looks big from down there, but not as big as I had thought it might; and the pitch is just massive. The Hellings/Queen Anne’s School crowd provided a nice touch, apart from being the biggest supporting contingent, by sitting in the Royal Box with Mrs Harrington in the Queen’s seat. Many thanks to all those who came along – but some people just never know their place!

And as for the game? I played half of it, with the time on the pitch being shared round. It was so familiar, with the usual routines of calling, passing, running, tackling, covering that it should have felt like any other game. But for any English rugby fan, Twickenham will never be like anywhere else. It is boyhood dream stuff.

The size of the pitch also plays tricks with you. Playing in the centres, and having defended an opposition move from our left to right, breaking down near our right touchline, the opposition switched the ball back quickly. A glance over my shoulder confirmed the worst – our full back, the other centre and one of the wings were caught up in the breakdown on our right. On smaller pitches, you can get away with this because you can crowd the midfield with other players. Not here – there is just too much space to defend. I was left to track the 70 yards or so back across to our left to help an inexperienced winger. When our winger was taken out by a well timed pass, that left me to catch two of them. No heroic, try saving tackle happened though. Their winger, with about 15 yards to go was thrown the ball, and dropped it. I like to think it was all down to the pressure of my chase and the touch judge was good enough to acknowledge my efforts. Those who pulled me up off the turf, lungs burning, might take a different view…

Briefly, a dart at the try line beckoned, but the pass didn’t reach my hands and picking the ball up from my toes at full pelt was never one of my strong points. I had to settle for nailing the opposition centre when I kicked the ball on. And all too soon it was over. But I left the pitch with no regrets. I had played at Twickenham; I had given it my all – we won (for those interested in the score it was 28 – 19), and we had helped raise about £12,000 for the RFU’s Injured Players Fund which helps those who have been injured, sometimes very seriously, playing the game. All in all, a very satisfying day.”

Written by Mr Edward Hellings, Director of Finance

Please see below for some photographs from the match. Thank you also to Leo Wilkinson Photography: