Rookie coach to make England wheelchair rugby league bow in Sheffield
England’s wheelchair rugby league team will make their long-awaited return to action in Sheffield this weekend under a new head coach who’s just 25.
Tom Coyd was still a schoolboy when former soldier James Simpson, one of the stars of the England team, had both his legs blown off on a tour of Afghanistan in 2009.
He is also 19 years younger than England’s oldest player, Wayne Boardman, who was paralysed following a motorbike accident 15 years ago.
But on Saturday he will take charge of the national team for the first time in a sold-out clash against Wales at the English Institute Of Sport (EIS).
"I’m so aware of how much life experience they have got,” said Kent-based Coyd, who graduated from Leeds Becket University with a sports science degree in 2017.
“The last thing I would ever look to do is to come in and try and tell them how to live and how to act.
"Taking an interest in people and trying to know what they are about is a really good start to earning people’s respect.”
Saturday will be England’s first taste of competitive action since 2019 and a valuable warm-up for the World Cup, which will be held domestically from 11 to 26 November.
The EIS will host all six games in Group B, which includes current champions France, as well as both semi-finals.
“I can’t think of a bigger springboard for the sport,” said Coyd, who combines coaching with work as a salesman and helping the Man v Fat initiative.
"I think you could compare it to the explosion that Britain saw after London 2012.”
Officials want to double the number of wheelchair rugby league teams in England from 20 to 40 by 2025, with a side in every major city in the country.
The mixed-sex sport was only invented in 2006 and is played by teams of five, who each have two able-bodied players to make it more inclusive.
Smaller-sized pitches and fewer participants make the pace of wheelchair rugby league more akin to basketball, said Tom, who admitted he can’t wait to make his bow in charge.
"I get nervous just the same as anyone else but I find that’s when I perform best.
"Adrenaline just brings out the best version of me.”