WHAT IS WHEELCHAIR RUGBY?

Wheelchair rugby is a team sport for people with disabilities and made its first appearance in Canada in 1976. We'll explain the rules to you and tell you how it has spread in France and around the world.

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Wheelchair rugby is a team sport for people with disabilities and made its first appearance in Canada in 1976. It debuted at the Paralympic Games in 1996, as a demonstration sport. It officially became a Paralympic sport at the 2000 Games. Wheelchair rugby is played with a volleyball on a court the same size as a basketball court, with games being contested by two teams of four (plus eight replacements).

1. THE RULES

Teams are made up of four players on the court and eight replacements. Lasting 32 minutes, matches consist of four eight-minute quarters. The ball can be played in any direction, by being bounced or passed. The player in possession must perform at least one dribble or pass within ten seconds. Although wheelchair rugby is a full-contact sport, illegal use of the hands and excessive force that is likely to injure a player are penalised. A goal is scored when at least two wheels of the ball-carrier's chair cross the opposition try line.

2. THE PLAYERS

In each team there are attackers and defenders who are classed according to a points system based on the ease with which they can move. The classes range from 0.5 to 3.5 points. Players who have the most difficulty in moving are termed defenders and are classed between 0.5 and 1.5, while attacking players are classed between 2 and 3.5. The total number of points allowed on the court at any one time for a team is 8. Players are classed by the  IWRF (International Wheelchair Rugby Federation) following a visit by a team of classifiers.

3. HOW TO PLAY WHEELCHAIR RUGBY

Wheelchair rugby is played by paraplegics, triple amputees, people with cerebral palsy, and people suffering degenerative diseases and paralysing conditions. Only athletes with tetraplegia/quadriplegia can play the game competitively. People with a handicap affecting two limbs can play the game recreationally. Players are also required to use manual wheelchairs. 

The wheelchairs must be sport-specific, in accordance with the  official rules of the game. There are two types of wheelchair: 

- Defensive wheelchairs are fitted with extended bumpers

- Offensive wheelchairs are fitted with a rounded bumper and wings.

Players must also wear  gloves and strapping. Gloves can be bought in DIY stores and balls and strapping in sports shops.

4. WHEELCHAIR RUGBY IN FRANCE 

Wheelchair rugby is growing in popularity in France. There are now more than 20 clubs across the country. The teams are divided into two leagues: a top league and a bottom league. The top league is called the France Nationale 1, which crowns the national champion at the end of the season. The winning club is presented with a shield known as Le Bouclier de Catusse. Five teams play in the top league. The bottom league comprises 17 teams, who play in the Nationale 2 and Nationale 3 divisions. The winners of these divisions are crowned Nationale 2 and Nationale 3 champions. 

The following are just some of France's wheelchair rugby clubs: Stade Toulousain Rugby Handisport / STRH (Toulouse), Cap Sport Art Aventure Amitié / CSAAA (Paris), Les Mambas (Carquefou), ASM Clermont Handisport (Clermont Ferrand).

5. WHEELCHAIR RUGBY AROUND THE WORLD

Wheelchair rugby has been a Paralympic sport since the Sydney Games in 2000. France is currently ranked seventh in the world. 

In response to the growing recognition and popularity of the sport, an increasing number of competitions are being organised, such as the European Championship and the Rock'n Rose Europa Cup , which is contested by six countries and the fifth edition of which was held in Toulouse on 31 May-3 June 2018. 

Wheelchair rugby is a spectacular sport that continues to grow in France and around the world.

What do you know about the sport?