THE SEARCH is on to enlist 21 military volunteers to play key roles on the opening day of next year’s Rugby League World Cup wheelchair tournament, taking place on Armistice Day at the Copper Box Arena, London.

The armed-forces volunteers – to be known as “James’ Squad” – will have special roles to play at the opening fixtures when hosts England take on Australia, and Spain play Norway.

James Simpson, who plays for England and Leeds Rhinos wheelchair teams, is helping to recruit the volunteers. A lifelong Rugby League fan, James joined the Yorkshire Regiment 1st Battalion in 2001 and undertook several overseas missions from Central America to Iraq during his ten-year stint in the military.

In 2009, while in deployment in Afghanistan, James tripped an IED whilst on a routine patrol, causing life-changing injuries which saw him lose both of his legs, three fingers and the muscle from his right forearm.

Following a lengthy recovery process, James discovered the sport of Wheelchair Rugby League while watching his beloved Leeds Rhinos at Headingley in 2013.

After a couple of training sessions with the Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair team, he was hooked and has played ever since, going on to represent England at the World Cup in France in 2017 – and he is hoping to represent England next year.

James said: “A total of 21 nations will be competing in the Rugby World Cup in 2021 and having 21 members of the military in the arena alongside me will be an emotional and proud moment. I look forward to reading the entries and creating James’ Squad.”

The wheelchair tournament will be contested by eight teams over 15 days with the showpiece final taking place at the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool on Friday 26 November.

  • Wheelchair Rugby League is an inclusive sport – not solely a disability sport, as able-bodied people can compete as well and both men and women can play in the same team.
  • Personnel within the Armed Forces have the opportunity to apply for the volunteer roles until 30 November
  • To apply for tickets visit


  • The Rugby League World Cup is the pinnacle major event of rugby league, globally contested every four years. RLWC2021 will be a breakthrough moment in the tournament’s history with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being staged together for the first time.
  • The three tournaments will take place across 21 venues throughout England. Both the women’s and wheelchair competitions will be contested by two groups of four teams, whilst the men’s tournament will see 16 teams compete across four groups.
  • All 61 games in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions will be broadcast live on the BBC.