WHEN Nathan Webb runs out at Ovenden Park next month to face home club Halifax Magpies he'll be following in the international footsteps of men like England grand-slam skipper Eric Evans.
Nathan, 33, a Tameside Council markets and town-centre cleansing operative in Ashton, will be representing Aldwinians RUFC as a member of the Mixed Ability Rugby International Team (MARI).
MARI is a version of the 15-a-side sport open to all, no matter what their level of talent. Its ethos is summed up in one sentence: "where everyone is included we will accomplish great things." Nathan is autistic and has dyspraxia, but everyone is welcome. MARI isn't restricted to people with special needs or a disability.
It's also 100 per cent pure rugby with no quarter asked or given. It involves as much passion and commitment as any England v All Blacks clash at Twickenham. Bumps and bruises are as much a part of the MARI game as they are at any other level.
Nathan, who comes from Droylsden and plays as a number-eight third-row forward, got into union though Chris Stone, a former director of rugby at Aldwinians. He began training with the Audenshaw club in 2014, soon started playing regularly, and appeared in the 2015 IMART World Cup.
Since then he has represented clubs across the North West and is captain of Winnies Warriors (Aldwinians' mixed ability team).
Earlier this year he played for Halifax Magpies in the IMART World Cup in the Republic of Ireland, and has now been selected to play for the Mixed Ability Rugby International Team which is made up of players from multiple clubs from around the world.
The first leg of the MARI 2022 tour starts with a game against Halifax Magpies on Friday, December 2.
Nathan said: "It's a great honour to be chosen as a member of an international team and I'm really looking forward to the match at Halifax.
"I train hard with Aldwinians but I'm lucky to have my job in cleansing. I do a lot of walking around Ashton to keep the market and town centre clean and that helps me a lot with my fitness."
Cllr Vimal Choksi, Tameside Council's executive member for towns and communities, whose portfolio includes markets, commented: "All of us at Tameside Council are immensely proud of what Nathan has achieved. To become an international at any level of rugby is an incredible feat.
"Nathan does a great job within cleansing too and over the last five years has become a hard-working and highly valued member of the markets team. I'm sure everyone at Tameside Council and across the borough joins me in wishing him the very best of luck in the upcoming match in Halifax. I'm sure he'll put in a first-rate performance."