A keen sportsman throughout his life, Matt Lancett’s involvement with the Warriors Community Foundation mixed ability team has launched him into the international spotlight.
Sessions provided by Premiership Rugby’s ground breaking Project Rugby programme, in partnership with Gallagher and the RFU, engaged thousands of people per year from traditionally under-represented groups, including those with disabilities.
Matt suffered a stroke in August 2017 and was left with homonymous hemianopia – without left-field of vision in both of his eyes. He also suffers with headaches, hyper sensations and numbness down his left side of the body.
Having previously run marathons and been a keen footballer, he got involved with the visually impaired rugby team at Warriors before establishing himself as a lead figure in their mixed ability squad.
Matt is one of the inspirational people that we will be turning the spotlight on across Round 12 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (March5-7) when all matches will be dedicated to our award-winning community programmes that benefit around 250,000 people annually.
Warriors Community Foundation adapted sports lead Chris Stephenson believes Matthew’s selection to tour Japan with the Change Foundation’s visually impaired England team in 2019 was a testament to his progress on and off the field.
“He’s blossomed since he started coming down to our sessions,” said Stephenson. “His impairment was quite new at the beginning and he was low on confidence and a bit apprehensive, but he quickly realised his disability wasn’t the end of the world.
“He went over to Japan alongside fellow Warriors player Chris Styles and I know that was a massive experience for both of them.
“After proving himself with the visually impaired group, we pushed Matt towards the mixed ability team here at Worcester and he’s just gone from strength to strength.
“The way he interacts with everyone around the place is phenomenal and before the pandemic hit, we were having conversations about him gaining his coaching qualifications and joining our staff.
“Rugby has provided a huge boost for Matt, and I know on top of his commitment to the Project Rugby sessions he is a full-time Worcester supporter now. He meets up with another member of the visually impaired team for every game, which is great for him socially.”
As well as those with disabilities, Project Rugby aims to increase participation in the game amongst those with ethnically diverse or lower socio-economic backgrounds through sessions delivered by community staff at each of Premiership Rugby’s clubs at more than 200 locations across England.
Stephenson explains however this is just one aspect of a huge community effort at the Warriors Community Foundation, who have worked hard to overcome the challenges presented by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic over the last 12 months.
He added: “It’s been tough over the last year or so – I think we’re all Zoomed out! We’ve just been trying to keep people occupied and in touch with each other, because we know how important the social aspect of things is to a lot of our guys. Matt has stepped up in that respect because he’s someone who takes charge of the chat rooms. But I think I speak for him and everyone else when I say that we can’t wait to get back out onto the pitch.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Matt’s story is inspiring and shows what people can achieve with the right support. He shows exactly how important it was for Premiership Rugby to launch Project Rugby and we thank the vital support we have received from Gallagher, the RFU and of course our clubs in bringing it to life.
“Project Rugby succeeds because it engages and develops new audiences through rugby and stimulate a lifelong interest in the game and Matt is the perfect example of this.
“We’ve engaged thousands of participants each year through the delivery by community staff from Premiership Rugby clubs, providing accessible opportunities for people to participate in the game at a time and place that works for them. We look forward to introducing many more to the sport we all love.”
John Court-Jones, Gallagher client director and club liaison for Worcester Warriors, added: “What an inspiration Matt is to all those he is so committed to supporting through Project Rugby. His story reminds us just how important, inclusive and impactful this initiative is in connecting individuals and communities with its 100% focus on ability, not disability.
“Gallagher is incredibly proud to play our part in delivering Project Rugby on the ground and witness first-hand the confidence it builds and lives it changes, both here in the Midlands and further afield. We too can’t wait to get back to the pitch and our teams are primed to pull on their volunteering vests to support as soon as grassroots sport restrictions allow.”