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Hereford's Liam Rowe stars for England Deaf Rugby Union team
LIAM Rowe is an international rugby player - but he hasn’t told his team-mates at Wyeside.
The 21-year-old, who lives in Putson, has been involved with the England Deaf Rugby Union since March 2007.
“I don’t normally tell anyone about it - it’s something that I have always kept quiet,” said Liam, who played in England’s win over Scotland in March.
“I got involved through my coach at Hartpury College, Stephen Penfold, who helped me to reach the standard needed and mentored me though the process.
“The best part was helping me to come to terms with my disability. I still now hide the fact I’m disabled but when I play rugby with the deaf side I feel a sense of pride.”
Liam works part-time as a barman at the Heart of Oak pub and has been playing for the second and third teams at Hereford Rugby Club.
He has been playing rugby since taking up the sport at the age of four in his home town of Wootton Bassett.
“I wasn’t born deaf, but I became deaf in my right ear through ill-health,”
explained Liam, a former Hartpury College student.
“I suffered several allergic reactions to milk and eggs which caused an infection that could not be treated in children.
“This resulted in several operations and I eventually lost the hearing in one ear.
“Over the years I have overcome a range of medical problems with breathing difficulties, skin rashes and allergies and this has made me a strong person.
“One side of my face was paralysed when I was 16 years old but that problem is OK now.
“I have to eat sensibly owing to my allergies and rugby training helps my breathing.
“Without having the illnesses I may not have been so focused on my health and fitness which now allows me to play rugby and be part of a team.”
Liam lives with his partner Amy Powell and their eightmonth- old daughter, Lily Paige Rowe.
His rugby career took off when he attended Hartpury College and was chosen to play for the England deaf side when he was 17.
Liam has represented England in full deaf internationals on two occasions.
He made his debut in a 55- 10 home defeat to Wales in March 2009 and also played in England’s 36-17 victory in Scotland in March.
The England Deaf Rugby Union was set up in 2003 and are the latest elite development team recognised by the RFU.
“My favourite position is outside-centre but both Hereford and England use me on the wing,” he said.
“The England deaf squad is a great because it gives hope to hundreds of people who think they can’t be a topflight athlete.
“I have had the pleasure to work with young disabled children and show them just what can be achieved no matter the barriers we face.
“Being deaf isn’t a disability to sport - it’s an obstacle to overcome and teaches you to use your other senses.
It’s not a disability in my everyday life.”
There is just one difference between deaf rugby and the traditional version played on sporting pitches all over the world.
“The calls are exchanged for sign language and this improves your awareness of the game and your team-mates,” said Liam.
“However, as I play with both hearing and hearing-impaired players, the standard of rugby remains at a high-skill level.
“The sport of deaf rugby is growing.
Wales are the world champions, while Ireland are putting a team together and New Zealand and Japan also have teams.”
Liam has also played for the British Barbarians and is working his way back from injury.
He hopes to secure his place in the England squad for matches against Wales in February and Scotland in March.
“My family have played a big part in helping me to achieve what I have so far,” said Liam.
“My proudest moments have been having my family in the crowd for my first cap against Wales and starting for the Barbarians against Wales on my 19th birthday.”
● Details about deaf rugby from England Deaf Rugby Union’s Lyndon James on 07748 966643.