Defender Trailblazers –individuals who represent the very best of rugby and inspire others to be capable of great things. 6 Defender Trailblazers have been identified - a group of inspiring individuals who, like Defender, encourage others to do exceptional things and strive to achieve more in a world full of potential. Each has demonstrated immense courage, inner strength and determination in the face of adversity. The Defender Trailblazers have been immortalised in statue form, made with steel reclaimed from the vehicle chassis production process using 3D scanning technology.
The Defender Trailblazers are:
- Ryuichi Nagayama: the oldest active member of Fuwaku Rugby Club is a 90-year-old practicing doctor who lives for the sport. He and his teammates are tackling ageism and he intends to play until he is physically unable to take to the pitch. Ryuichi explains his mindset, by asking: “Without rugby, what would I become?”
- Cyril Leroy: founder of Les Gaillards, the first LGBT+ friendly rugby club in France, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. The club brings together players of all genders, ages, sexual orientations, origins and sporting backgrounds and unites around the values of rugby.
- Jacob Pickering: Jacob, 14, was born without his left forearm due to congenital upper limb deficiency, but he hasn’t let this stop him playing the game he loves. He began playing at the age of nine and relishes the physical challenge – he loves tackling.
- Zainab Alema: a female Muslim rugby player, Zainab runs Muslimah Rugby, a community for Muslim women in rugby. She is also founder of Studs In The Mud, a non-profit project that supports rugby in Ghana. She was shortlisted in the sports category for the 2022 Women of the Future awards.
- Kylie Grimes: in 2009, Kylie started playing for the London Wheelchair Rugby Club, and then for Great Britain in 2011, before going on to play at the 2012 Paralympics. She also cycled 450km from Vietnam to Cambodia after a life-changing spinal injury to raise money for Regain, a charity dedicated to helping newly injured tetraplegics back into sport.
- Irtiqa Ayoub: the 28-year-old from Kashmir, India, is levelling the playing field by introducing rugby to women in Kashmir and Muslims in the wider community. She dreams of playing for India and is the youngest Rugby Development Office