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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Magnificent Sevens come to Border Park

KIELDER has long been a hotspot for walkers, cyclists and watersports enthusiasts.

But the remote village may now become a worldwide icon for rugby union, thanks to a promotional film shot at Border Park Rugby Club.

Chosen for its isolated location and picturesque background, the club was picked as the setting for the promotion of the soon-to-be launched Ultimate Rugby 7s (UR7s) website.

The aim of UR7s is to encourage members of seven-a-side rugby teams all the world over to post photographs, clips or news on one website to drum up support for the sport.

The 60-90 second promotional clip will be broadcast on the website in January when a global audience will be able to see what beauty and splendour the Kielder rugby club has to offer.

Newly-formed London-based production company Stamp Productions shot the footage on a bitterly cold Sunday in Kielder.

Border Park was seen as the ideal location for one particular member of staff, Ben Uttley – son of former England rugby union captain Roger Uttley.

Although both Roger and Ben are now living down South, they call the North-East their home and jumped at the chance of returning to the region.

Ex-England international Roger, who captained the national side’s first XV five times, was keen to show his face at Border Park to help promote the fast-paced and open world of rugby sevens.

He also hopes that the launch will encourage more sports fans to follow the game, as it is often disregarded for 15-a-side in the UK.

Roger played 23 games for England in the second row and in the back row, and four tests in the British Lions back row on the undefeated tour of South Africa in 1974.

A PE teacher, he has a holiday home in Falstone and spends as much time as possible in the North Tyne.

He hopes to make Falstone his permanent base when he retires next year, and was keen to return to a familiar stamping ground of Border Park.

“It was great to be back at Border Park, which is the real grassroots of rugby,” he said.

“The rugby club there is very important as it serves a small community yet plays a huge role within Northumbrian rugby.”

Ben, himself a former professional rugby union player for London Wasps, played his first-ever adult game at the Border Park ground as a fresh-faced 16-year-old.

When a string of injuries forced him to retire at just 21, he pursued a career in film, but still tries to stay in touch with his rugby roots.

Border Park is a ground Ben knows well so he jumped at the chance to show the rest of the world its beauty.

He said: “Our brief was to find a beach or a hot place, but we thought the video should be shot in a bit of a wilderness – a primal location where grassroots rugby takes place.

“I obviously knew Border Park from playing there and growing up in the area. The place looks great; it’s magical, and the location is fantastic.”

The short clip shows an ultimate rugby team, known as Heroes, pitched against the formidable force of the Demons.

And to further emphasise the good versus evil theme, the film will be shown in black and white.

Roger has a starring role in the production as a wise rugby scout on the look-out for the latest talent, but his work didn’t end there.

He also turned his hand to creating a scoreboard for the match and acted as driver for the Demons side from Newcastle.

The Demons were drawn from Northumbria University’s rugby squad, and their role was to provide the Heroes with some stiff opposition in a hard-fought encounter.

Only one man was capable of breaking through their defences – United States national rugby sevens player PJ Komongnan.

A member of the first all African-American rugby team from Hyde Leadership Public Charter School, in Washington DC, the 22-year-old was flown in from America especially for the shoot.

Komongnan meteoric rise in the game came about by accident.

One day, when he was in trouble at school, he was thrown a ball by the rugby coach and told to participate in training as a punishment.

It was at that point that he showed his potential as a rugby player, reacting at speed to avoid a mauling from the rest of the team.

His appearance in the video sums up the sport of rugby sevens – fast-paced and dedicated.

And to add to the primal feel of the film, Duke the hawk was flown in from the Kielder Birds of Prey Centre for a cameo appearance.

For further information on Ultimate Rugby 7s, visit www.ur7s.com

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