- Luke Cheyne named as England Deaf captain
- 25-year-old Cheyne has been partially deaf since birth
- Find a club near you here
As a six-year-old learning how to play rugby at Barkers Butts RFC, Luke Cheyne looked up to numerous players who had gone from pulling on the yellow and blue shirt of the Coventry club to the white of England.
From Neil Back to Danny Grewcock and Tom Wood, Cheyne was inspired to join their ranks and lead his country. And now he will get the chance.
The 25-year-old, who has had partial hearing since birth, has been named as the new captain of England Deaf.
"Rugby is a sport where it doesn’t matter what disability you have, you are welcomed."
Founded in 2003 to give deaf and hard of hearing players the chance to represent their country, England Deaf have become one of the world’s leading sides and in the process helped promote deaf rugby across the country.
‘It never held me back’
“I was born entirely deaf in one ear, and I think my hearing is starting to deteriorate in my other ear,” says Cheyne. “It is what is is, I didn’t let it hold me back.”
As a youth player, Cheyne climbed through the ranks at Barkers and as a senior player has represented Sale FC and Sedgley Park, playing in National One for the latter – the third tier of English rugby.
“Being partially deaf is one of the cards I’ve been dealt, you just learn to take it in your stride. Rugby is a sport where it doesn’t matter what you look like or what disability you have, you are welcomed and there is a role for you.”
Supporting your teammates
With England Deaf being made up of players with a range of hearing levels, Cheyne says the challenge of communicating on the pitch and at key moments has brought them together as a team.
“Every rugby team is the same, you have to learn how to communicate with your teammates effectively. It is the same with England Deaf.
“The difference is we have to recognise the needs of that player. We have players who are completely deaf so I need to be able to communicate with that player as well as another who may have entirely different needs.
“You learn to appreciate the visual element of communication much more and using our sign language support staff is crucial as well. The most important thing is just getting to know your teammate so we can support each other on the pitch."
A landmark year
Cheyne was first selected by England Deaf in 2012 and credits the team for transforming deaf rugby across the country.
The international team have quite a season ahead of them, including a three-match series at home to New Zealand this November as well as the World Deaf Sevens next year.
Flanker Cheyne says to be part of deaf rugby’s growing impact is the greatest honour.
“To be named captain, this season in particular, is a massive thing for me. I think it will be the biggest in our history.
"But I feel a responsibility for helping to promote disability rugby, and sport in general, and England Deaf has shown how the boundaries can be broken down."
And while Cheyne has never let his hearing hold him back in the sport, he is aware that others in a similar position may think rugby is not for them.
“Rugby is a sport for all. I’ve been involved in sport from a very young age and I don’t think my life would be what it is without rugby.
“I would encourage anyone to get involved, regardless of disability. You might be surprised that you can still represent your country."
To keep in up to date with Cheyne’s international career, as well as for more information on how to get involved in men's or women's deaf rugby, click here.