Brown backs Help for Heroes

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The Independent Online

Prime Minister Gordon Brown threw his full support behind the Help for Heroes fundraising match at Twickenham and praised the rugby world for supporting "the greatest of causes".

Brown, a former university rugby player himself, today hosted a Downing Street reception for the players and organisers of Saturday's event, which is on target to raise £1m towards the rehabilitation of British soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nearly 50,000 fans have already bought tickets to see England's 2003 World Cup winners Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill, Will Greenwood and Jason Robinson reunited against an International XV captained by former Wales centre Scott Gibbs and featuring legendary All Blacks winger Jonah Lomu.

Brown said: "It is great we are having this match at Twickenham and I want to thank Scott and Lawrence and all the members of their teams, some of whom are coming out of retirement and some of whom may be training for the first time in a long time.

"You can see how wonderfully the public is responding to the Help for Heroes campaign.

"I think this will be a great match on Saturday. I thank you all for participating in it. You are doing it for the greatest of causes."

The former Test stars were joined at Number 10 today by injured British servicemen who have been treated at the Ministry of Defence's medical rehabilitation facility Hedley Court, to where the funds will be channelled.

Brown paid tribute to those who had made sacrifices for their country and he made special mention of Help for Heroes, a charity which has raised £10.8m for injured soldiers since it was launched just 11 months ago.

"Churchill used to say that courage is the greatest quality of all because upon courage everything else depends. And it is the courage of our armed forces and the sacrifices they make that we acknowledge today," said Brown.

"It is a pleasure to have so many people who have done so much for our country, in sport and also in the armed forces, with us here today.

"The work that is being done in Hedley Court to make it possible for those people who are injured to have a better life and have the facilities they should enjoy is something we all welcome.

"I want to thank all those associated with Help for Heroes. I can’t think of a charity which has achieved so much in such a short period of time, raised so much money, brought so many people on board and is now known throughout the country as a national institution.

"To those members of our armed forces, and those people who have sacrificed for our armed forces, we thank you.

"To the organisers of Help for Heroes, thank you.

"And to the rugby players who have distinguished themselves in so many ways for our countries and serving the world of rugby, thank you very much for doing this for a wonderful cause."

The prospect of a fundraising match was born in a conversation between former England international Simon Halliday, rugby journalist Mark Souster and injured trooper Adam Cocks.

Cocks is being treated at Hedley Court after breaking his knee in several places when his vehicle was hit by two mines in one day while on reconnaissance detail in Afghanistan.

"I went straight to Hedley Court when I came back from the UK," said Cocks, who has five more operations ahead of him.

"My friend Simon Halliday and Mark Souster had this idea and they came to me in the middle of February. From there we have come from three guys to a committee of 45, playing a game at Twickenham and hopefully raising over £1million for Help for Heroes."

Hill, the former England and Lions flanker, has been moved to come out of retirement by the Help for Heroes cause and the sacrifices made by the British forces.

"As a professional rugby player you have some appreciation of the pain there is in going through the recovery process," said Hill, who underwent two knee reconstructions within a year.

"But you can only come to terms with a partial amount of what these guys have been through.

"We haven’t dealt with some of the mental side of going to war and some of the things they have to deal with friends and colleagues.

"There are some guys out there who have been through some difficult times and anything we can do to raise some funds to help them, we will."

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