Rugby at the top of the world
In May 2015 an extraordinary event took place at the Magnetic North Pole. 14 players ran onto a makeshift rugby pitch, complete with portable, lightweight, posts and completed the world’s ‘most northerly rugby match’. It was the culmination of two years of planning for me, having conceived of the plan and organised the polar expedition which got the teams there.
It is completely bonkers to play a match in conditions which would, in all other circumstances, lead to an immediate cancellation. But that was always the point. I’ve loved rugby since my days at Dumfries Academy and to help Wooden Spoon raise tens of thousands for their amazing work with kids was all the motivation we needed to get the job done. So, with me watching from the side lines with a my leg strapped after an injury, the guys played in temperatures well below zero (at least minus 15!). Former England 7s captain Ollie Phillips team and Tim Stimpson’s 7 clashed under the eye of referee Lee Mears.
The teams had been dropped onto the ice over 100 miles away for their expedition to walk to the pole a week before. They had been training with me at several boot camps including learning to haul their own kit on pulks by dragging tyres behind them over sand dunes. It’s tough, tough going!
When the team got to the ice, the real fun began. Conditions varied from terrific to horrific. But all of them made it – learning a lot about their own limits, about team work and about conquering fear. Congratulations to every one of them. They are all official world record holders.