“Sportsmanship is the foundation Rugby Union is based upon.” This is taken from the Rugby Football Union’s (RFU) core values, and, as all rugby fans will testify, sportsmanship is at the heart of the game.
After going hammer and tongs at each other for 80 minutes, rugby players will always shake hands after the game and go for a beer with their opposition – it is the cornerstone of the sport that has earned it its reputation of being a gentleman’s game.
There are many great rivalries in rugby, both on a professional and amateur level. One of these is in the Premier South A League of BUCS, between Exeter and Bath. Every year, these two establishments battle it out in a number of Varsities to crown “the best in the South West”, and the rivalry between the men’s Rugby Union 1st XVs is a fiercely competitive fixture, the Sandy Park leg of the event being held on 19 February.
Last October, when Bath hosted Exeter, it was as always a close-run affair. Bath won the fixture with a score of 38-27. During this match, Henry Waltier of Exeter University sustained a broken and dislocated right ankle, known medically as a Webber C type fracture, which can be potentially career ending.
“I didn’t really know what was happening,” Waltier said, thinking back to the injury. “It was a feeling of shock and uncertainty as I tried to get to grips with what had happened and how it was going to affect my university life.”
Due to the severity of the injury, Waltier was forced to stay at the Bath Royal United Hospital for four days and undergo surgery. Upon hearing of the situation, the Bath players visited Henry in hospital, a true act of sportsmanship, and the rugby family coming together to look out for one another.
“Even though Exeter are probably our biggest rival, when a serious injury like that happens, all of the on the field rivalry is put aside,” said Joel Vinnicombe, one of the Bath students who visited Waltier.
“Seeing someone in that much pain, and knowing that he would be in a local Bath hospital away from most of his family and friends, I think paying him a visit was the least we could do.
“I think rugby is one of the best sports in terms of sportsmanship,” Vinnicombe continued. “No matter how tough the competition is during the game, everyone shakes hands at the final whistle with no hard feelings.”
Waltier was very appreciative of the visit from both the Bath University players and their coach, saying: “I’ve always been aware of the strong links that arise from playing rugby, and the feelings of good sportsmanship. You play hard in the game but once the final whistle goes then you’re all friends at the end of the day.
“It was great of the guys from BURFC to come down and spend some time with me, and you always like to think that if you were in their position you would take time to visit them.”
Three months after the injury and Waltier is well on the road to recovery. “I’m ahead of schedule and have been walking since just before Christmas,” he said. “I have another operation coming up shortly and I am hoping that is the last time I’ll have to see the operating theatre.”
Henry is hoping to be up and running by the summer and back on the pitch next season. Despite this injury, he is hoping to still stay very much involved in the sport.
“Rugby has always been an integral part of my life and I love every aspect of the game,” Waltier said as he looks to the future. “Many of my best friends have been made through the game and I’m hoping that will continue.”
Mike Stanton, Sport Editorbookmark me