A huge Leicester Tigers fan has seen his dreams of representing the club he loves become a reality with the assistance of the Project Rugby programme.

James, 25, lives with Down Syndrome, meaning he is unable to play full contact rugby and has traditionally struggled to be a part of local teams.

But determined parents, Linda and Ian, set up an SEN tag rugby team in their local area and despite a family relocation to Derbyshire temporarily putting his dream on hold, James hasn’t looked back since joining the newly-formed Leicester Tigers Down Syndrome rugby team.

He has also enjoyed an unlikely reunion with coach, Megan Kirby, the pair having previously met on an international disability rugby tour in Venice.

“James has developed into an inspirational coach,” Kirby said. “His understanding of how to guide the older children to help them achieve new skills whilst adapting to provide more flexibility and guidance to the younger ones is incredible.

“He helps instil confidence in young people to give team sport a go and seeing a coach with Down Syndrome has helped reassure parents too that it’s possible to play safely.”

James has become a player coach, helping deliver Project Rugby sessions as part of the programme delivered in conjunction with Gallagher, title sponsor of Premiership Rugby, and the RFU which is designed to introduce as many people as possible to the benefits of rugby. 

James, who is among the inspirational individuals being celebrated during Community Weekend in Round 14 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (March 29-31), added: “I feel pride in being part of a team again and coaching allows me to share my passion for rugby.”

Over Community weekend, all games will be dedicated to the award-winning community programmes run by Premiership Rugby in collaboration with its shareholder Clubs and Club Foundations.

Wayne Morris, Community & CSR Director, Premiership Rugby said: “We are delighted that the team at Leicester Tigers has helped James not only to play a team sport again but to pass on his love of the game to inspire others. 

“The Down Syndrome team at Tigers is a great example of how Project Rugby opens opportunities for anyone to experience a sport they never thought they could play.”

Chris Noah, Managing Director of title partner Gallagher’s Leicester Office, adds: “James is a shining example of why we stay committed to the programme which provides opportunities for those with disabilities to play rugby.

“He is an inspiration to us all and most importantly the young people he coaches. His story demonstrates the power of rugby and the rewards of not only playing but coaching too.”

With a specific focus on engaging participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, no matter their background or disability, Project Rugby sessions introduce rugby to novices at easily accessible, familiar locations within local communities, run by coaches and volunteers from Premiership Rugby Clubs and Club Foundations spread across the nation.

Since its inception in 2017, over 100,000 people have participated in Project Rugby sessions held at over 200 different locations across England.

To find your nearest Project Rugby session visit: www.premiershiprugby.com/community/project-rugby