A gutsy and star-studded celebrity team is set to take on the Wheel Blacks, New Zealand’s national wheelchair rugby squad, in a charity exhibition match at the Auckland Spinal Unit this Sunday.

Actor Robbie Magasiva and All Blacks Keven Mealamu, Tana Umaga, Benson Stanley and Buck Shelford are just a few of the famous faces that have taken up the wheelchair rugby match challenge to fundraise for the New Zealand Rugby Foundation (NZRF) and raise awareness of its rugby supporters’ website, www.no8.co.nz. Funds raised from the match will help the NZRF continue its support of the Wheel Blacks, along with providing care and resources to seriously injured rugby players and their families.

The not-for-profit organisation launched www.no8.co.nz in order to create an online community for passionate rugby supporters that would celebrate New Zealand’s national game, as well as serve to benefit injured players.

Wheel Black Dan Buckingham says, “It should be a fun game. We hope to show that life doesn’t stop after an accident, and you can get back into the things you love”.

Wheelchair rugby is a full contact sport that combines elements of basketball, rugby and ice hockey. The Wheel Blacks won gold at the 2004 Paralympics and have just returned from competing at the World Championships in Vancouver.

New Zealand Rugby Foundation CEO, Andrew Flexman, says he hopes the match will show what a difference rehabilitation and the right support makes to seriously injured players.

“Wheelchair rugby gives injured players something of their old lives back,” says Andrew. “It’s vital rugby continues to look after its own by supporting our rugby mates through the rough and smooth.”

With over 140,000 New Zealanders over the age of 16 playing rugby, the NZRF is a vital player in the national game. As well as supporting injured rugby players and the Auckland and Burwood Spinal Units, the NZRF aims to help prevent further critical injuries through rugby safety and injury prevention initiatives such as RugbySmart, and supports other areas of ‘rugby in need’ such as wheelchair rugby, NZ Area Schools rugby, player insurance and club rugby.

The No8 Celebrity Wheelchair Rugby Match will be held at the Auckland Spinal Unit Gymnasium at 30 Bairds Road, Otara, Auckland, at 1pm on Sunday October 10. Rugby supporters are encouraged to get involved with the wheelchair-rugby action online, make a donation, read player profiles and enter online competitions by logging onto www.no8.co.nz.

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