Mark Sweeney a PhD Student in the Department's Combustion Research Centre was selected to play for the GB Pioneers student rugby team against Norway in July.
The Pioneers are a unique development concept. Our students continue to break new territory. Their desire is not only to play Rugby League but to teach others and share their love of this fantastic sport.Gerard Keenan, Team Manager
The Pioneers are a selection of student rugby league players drawn from 14 different universities across the UK, with equal representation from Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland. They travel to nations where rugby league is emergent to train with, and play a test match against, the national side, in order to assist the development of the sport there. The trip involved joint training and educational sessions with the Norwegian players before the test match in Oslo.
Selection is based on a combination of rugby league ability, dedication to the development of rugby league within the student's university, and interpersonal skills. University coaches can make recomendations to the selectors, and final selection is based on this and personal interviews with the candidates. The Department has very strong representation in the University's Rugby League team (3 PhD students and 2 undergraduates from the Department were varsity winners last season).
Since their inception the Pioneers have provided the first taste of international competitive Rugby League for emergent Rugby League nations. Essentially the Pioneers act as the first step on the international scene. The previous Pioneer's test matches have been against:
- 2009 - Norway
- 2008 - Ukraine
- 2007 - Latvia
- 2006 - Czech Republic
- 2005 - Estonia
The Pioneers have laid the foundations for each of these countries to develop Rugby League and now each is participating in either European Shield or European Bowl competitions.
Gerard Keenan, Team Manager commented, “The Pioneers are a unique development concept. Our students continue to break new territory. Their desire is not only to play Rugby League but to teach others and share their love of this fantastic sport.”
Mark is currently working on his PhD in stratified combustion in the Department's Hopkinson Laboratory. He says; "It is great to be able to combine academic work at the highest level with extra-curricular pursuits such as this."