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SEVENTH PLACE FINISH FOR COWLING AT WHEELCHAIR RUGBY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS


Great Britain finished in a disappointing seventh position at the recent Wheelchair Rugby World Championships in Denmark. Britain's hopes of securing a first ever World Championships medal were ended following a 54-45 defeat to eventual champions Australia in the quarter-finals. Matlock's Ryan Cowling, who played a huge part in Britain's incredible gold medal success at last year's Paralympics, featured in every single match Britain competed in at the latest major tournament in the sport. Cowling was in reflective mood after returning home from Denmark and agreed with the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby CEO's assessment that the tournament was a "rollercoaster" for the team: "It was certainly a rollercoaster, I'd definitely agree with him there! We had a very good start to the tournament. We started with three difficult wins over Switzerland, New Zealand and Germany. But we then lost to France in a really frustrating game. We then had a really poor performance against The United States where we lost heavily and that meant we had to face the eventual champions Australia in the quarter-final. Australia were in tremendous form throughout the whole tournament. They were back to their best." Britain's preparations for the World Championships took a severe blow just before the start of the major tournament when key player Stuart Robinson was unable to compete due to health issues. Cowling conceded that the absence of Robinson had a huge effect on the squad: "It was a massive blow. He's one of our best players. Unfortunately, your opponents don't give a damn about that! I wouldn't want to use it as an excuse but it did have an impact on us in terms of the way we played and how we had to line up. It wasn't the greatest preparation. It happened so late on as well. The news of his absence only came through the day before we flew to Denmark. Playing in line-ups which wasn't hugely familiar wasn't great, but we had to get on with it. It certainly wasn't ideal preparation ahead of a World Championships campaign."







Despite a disappointing overall result for Britain, Ryan was delighted with how well the competition seemed to go down in Denmark and how well supported it was: "The games involving Denmark were fabulous. They were so loud. We got a chance to see some of their games when we weren't playing. The crowds in general for all the matches were very good. It was a well supported event and a good promotional event for wheelchair rugby in Denmark. They're a team on the up at the minute. They had some great results in the last Paralympics and ended up finishing fourth in the World Championships just gone. They beat France who are the current European champions and were close to pulling off an upset against Australia. It was a really good tournament for the hosts and they're a great bunch of people, so I was very pleased for them." There's no question that the seventh place finish in Denmark has fired Ryan up for the next two years in the sport. 2023 sees Britain host the European Championships in Cardiff while 2024 will feature the Paris Paralympics where Britain will attempt to defend their title. It's a huge couple of years for British wheelchair rugby and Cowling is desperate to atone for the disappointment of the 2022 World Championships: "I'm massively motivated now. It sounds a bit like a cliche but it was the kick up the backside you sometimes need. If you're not going forward and you're standing still, people will pass you and this tournament showed that some teams have passed us. If we want to be back competing for medals at the next Paralympics, we need to be ready for the European Championships next year. One positive that we can take though from the World Championships was that, even with a depleted team and different line-ups, we gave France a right good going. They were scared because we were so close to beating them. I think if we have a fully fit squad, we certainly have the quality to beat France at next year's European Championships. And we're the hosts next year too! We'll have good crowds in and plenty of home support which is always good. So yeah, I'm massively motivated." "It's an opportunity. If we want to increase participation in the sport and interest in the game, then we need to take this opportunity in Cardiff and really embrace it. I can't remember the last time we hosted a major wheelchair rugby tournament. It was a long time ago. Cardiff 2023 is a real chance for us to showcase wheelchair rugby at its finest in one of the best stadiums in Great Britain which is the Principality Stadium. We need to go to that tournament and win it to be perfectly honest. Anything short of winning it will be a disappointment...we need to go into the Paris Paralympics as the reigning European champions and really put a marker down to everyone else that we're there to compete and go for global medals again."

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