Wheelchair Rugby League World Cup: France coach Sylvain Crismanovich questions influence of non-disabled players

Rugby League World Cup final 2021: England v France
Venue: Manchester Central Date: Friday, 18 November Kick-off: 19:30 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, BBC iPlayer and online; Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra; Live texts and highlights on BBC Sport website & app

France coach Sylvain Crismanovich has suggested non-disabled players are having too much influence on wheelchair rugby league.

France face hosts England in Friday's World Cup final in Manchester and teams can have two non-disabled players among the five on court at any one time.

Crismanovich feels that has contributed to "some very violent collisions" during the World Cup.

He added that the sport should "look back at some of the original rules".

France founded wheelchair rugby league and one of the sport's selling points has been its inclusivity.

England's Jack Brown took up wheelchair basketball and then wheelchair rugby league to share a sport on an equal level with his younger brother Harry, who lost both legs to meningitis as a baby.

He has played a pivotal role in England's run to the World Cup final while another non-disabled player, Nicolas Clausells, is one of the key players for defending champions France.

"The World Cup has been a great spectacle and allowed a lot of people to discover the sport and admire the athletes taking part," said Crismanovich.

"But I think we've got to be aware of the fact that there's been some very violent collisions as well.

"There's an element of the tournament that's almost been focused on able-bodied play and there is an element that we shouldn't be really utilising the same force when we've got disabled athletes taking part in the sport.

"My concern is that tomorrow night, if a disabled person - in particular a paraplegic wheelchair user - comes along, they might say it's not a sport for them given the violence and some of the collisions that they will witness.

"We need to look back at some of the original rules of the game, because when the game was founded it was for disabled athletes and able-bodied athletes were invited to join in.

"Now the sport is so popular there are a lot more able-bodied people taking part and it's obviously impacted on the way the game is played."

What Jack Brown is doing for wheelchair rugby is phenomenal

England's James Simpson says there is room in the sport for two different types of wheelchair rugby, at the grassroots and elite levels.

"When I speak about the sport, I remind people that you are watching the tip of the spear of the game and it's inevitable that with the speed, agility and the way people move, that chairs are going to hit each other quite hard - that's the nature at this level of the game," he said.

"You don't get that at the grassroots level. You get slower, more inclusivity, where people aren't just crashing each other, they're just there to have fun and get fit."

France are looking to seal a hat-trick of World Cup titles after beating England in the past two finals.

Jack Brown played in each of those games and also helped England to victory in the inaugural final against Australia in 2008.

"Jack Brown is a very, very good player, and what he is doing for wheelchair rugby is phenomenal," said France captain Gilles Clausells.

"We know Jack and we are obviously going to mark him, but he can't win the World Cup on his own and we've also got some very good players in our team, the likes of Jeremy Bourson.

"If we win by one point, that will be fine by me."

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