SEB BECHARA hopes to be blowing his own trumpet by inspiring England to World Cup glory – after annoying some of his bandmates by ducking out of important concerts to play rugby.
Top of his priority list, though, is scooping the trophy while opening many people’s eyes to the brutality of wheelchair rugby league, just like he did with his girlfriend.
The England star, born in Nottingham, is expecting plenty of banter as he has lived in the south of France since the age of 10 and many Catalans Dragons clubmates are in adopted homeland’s side, which is the favourite to win.
However, the competitive edge will not be dulled as the sport goes to the next level. Put simply, this is rugby league but players are in a wheelchair – the hits are as fierce, the action as intense.
And musician Bechara hopes to attract a lot of new fans of the discipline during a bid for the trophy, just as he did when his other half first saw it.
He said: “When my girlfriend first saw wheelchair rugby league, I was just playing a lower-level club in France.
“Her second was a Test match between England and France last year. She was like, ‘Wow, this is not the same sport at all. It’s incredible.’
“Club games just don’t have that level of impact – they don’t have that level of bang-on hits. It can get brutal between teams at international level.
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“Chairs hit each other at such speed, strength and force. It’s just a different sport.
“Away from rugby, I play the trumpet professionally with a traditional Catalan orchestra and my summer was packed with events with them but with rugby, I had to miss a few.
“The chief wasn’t happy when I told him!”
Bechara lost the lower half of his right leg in a motorcycle accident in July 2012, aged 18, but after adapting to life with a prosthetic leg, he is back in the saddle.
He is now a key cog of coach Tom Coyd’s side that starts its bid for glory against Australia tonight as the wheelchair game in the UK goes to a new level – beating the Aussies will be one thing, though. Toppling the French is another.
Living in France, Bechara believes their superiority in the sport comes from having handball courts and facilities aplenty, the court is the same size.
The 28-year-old added ahead playing at London’s Copperbox: “France are to the wheelchair game what Australia are to the men’s running game – they won the 2013 and 2017 World Cups and have always been a dominant force.
“They’re the team that is that hard to beat. There’s a tougher championship in France and handball, which has a court the exact same size as us, is huge whereas sides in England have played on smaller.
“Games there attract a few hundred people, that adds to the pressure. In England, as venues are so small, you get 10 or 20 on the sideline.
“So normally at big games, you’re not used to the noise. To the French, it’ s something they do every week but I’ve noticed the standard of the England side has gone up massively.”