The impending RBS 6 Nations Championship has the temperature rising for the current England rugby squad. For former England rugby stars Tim Stimpson and Ollie Phillips, the mercury will soon be hurtling in the opposite direction as they prepare to rewrite the record books by holding a 7-a-side rugby match at the North Pole.
Due to get underway around mid-April depending on local weather conditions, the Arctic Rugby Challenge 2015 will see participants flown beyond Canadian territory to begin a trek of up to 100 miles that will take them to the current magnetic North Pole. The team will then aim to set an official world record by staging the northernmost game of rugby in the sporting history.
World class maritime and polar adventurer, Jock Wishart, will be leading a team that will include former England international fullback, Tim Stimpson, England 7s and Gloucester winger Ollie Phillips and former Bath hooker Lee Mears. Whilst he’s very much up for the challenge, Stimpson has admitted that his Arctic experience is not what it could be.
“The worst I’ve experienced is playing full back and catching a ball that you can’t feel. That’s when you know it’s cold, but I’ve never been in a seriously sub zero environment” he told The Essential Cyclist. “Fortunately - or unfortunately - I’ve signed up now, so I’m pretty buggered” he added.
Ice sheets, polar bears and temperatures as low as -50°C - to say nothing of 21 nights in a tent with a gang of rugby blokes - are among the perils that await, and the former Welford Road favourite is all too aware that sound preparation will lie at the heart of the project’s success: “We need to be able to work together as a team so that when we are up there everybody knows how one another works and to make sure we all stick together”, Stimpson told the Mail Online.
Last week the group practiced GPS navigation techniques and went through intense team-building sessions at Ogmore Castle in south Wales, where steep dunes were used to help introduce the difficulties of hauling gear through snow and ice.
It should all be worth the effort: The team aim to raise £300,000 for Wooden Spoon, a charity which uses rugby to help improve the lives of disadvantaged children and young people throughout the UK and Ireland. The Arctic Rugby Challenge is the biggest fundraising activity the Wooden Spoon has been involved in, and the significance of the task is not lost on those involved.
Lee Mears said: “I am hoping the boys can do the stuff at the North Pole, but while we are all going to be competitive we need to make sure we get there safely firstly, and that will be the biggest challenge. To be part of such a momentous occasion, a world record attempt and then to raise a serious amount of money is fantastic.”
The Arctic Rugby Challenge 2015 is Wooden Spoon's toughest challenge to date. You can get involved in the conversation by tweeting @wsarticrugby. Messages of support can be sent to each team using the hashtags #teamtim and #teamollie
If you would like to support the Arctic Rugby Challenge and help the work being done by Wooden Spoon, you can donate at: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/timstimpson1
You can also donate by texting the code ARCT01 £2, £5 or £10 to 70070.
To keep track of the expedition and for more information head to: http://www.arcticrugbychallenge.org/