The British Army Rugby League squad visited St Helens last week in preparation for their Challenge Cup game against Egremont Rovers last weekend.
Players and coaches took part in an indoor groundwork session with coaches from the Saints Foundation on Thursday (26 January) before moving outside for a session in freezing temperatures on the new artificial turf Rugby League pitch at Ruskin Drive Sports Complex.
Staff Sergeant Andy Fyles, who lives in St Helens, was attracted to Ruskin Drive as he knew the facility offered the team almost a cast iron guarantee of being able to train whatever the weather. Sub-zero temperatures across the North West would have meant the squad, which is only brought together a few times a year from their battalions in the UK and across the world, would have been unable to train.
The Mayor of St Helens, Councillor Dave Banks, and St Helens Council’s portfolio holder for leisure services, Councillor Seve Gomez– Aspron, paid the team a visit in the afternoon to wish them well ahead of their away tie against Egremont.
Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron said: “The council was delighted to be able to support the Army’s Rugby League team. When we took the decision to improve the facilities at Ruskin Drive, our ambition was to create a site that had the capacity to accommodate both grass route sports and higher level performers.
“Without access to our new artificial turf pitch, it is unlikely the Army team would have been able to prepare fully for their match against Egremont Rangers. We would also like to thank the physiotherapists from St. Helens College who supported the players over the two days they trained in the borough.”
Unfortunately the team lost a hard fought match 24-12 in Cumbria on Saturday afternoon (28 January), but the council and St. Helens Community Development Foundation are now exploring how the relationship with the Army’s Rugby League team can be developed further over the coming years.