SOME of rugby union's biggest names gave their backing to the Mixed Ability Rugby World Tournament as it kicked off in Bradford.

The inaugural competition, organised by International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS), got underway with an opening ceremony in Centenary Square yesterday.

Teams from nine countries including Argentina, Spain, Italy and France will battle it out with sides from England, Wales, Scotland and Republic of Ireland for the title.

Bumble Bees, Halifax Magpies and Castleford RUFC make up the English contingent.

A series of welcome messages were also held as part of yesterday's opening ceremony including from current England rugby union head coach Stuart Lancaster and RFU president and former England star Jason Leonard.

The pool games will be played today and these are split into four groups of three teams each. This will be followed by the knock-out stages on Thursday, with the third place play-off and tournament final rounding off the tournament on Friday.

Members of the participating teams warmed up for action by passing a rugby ball around among themselves yesterday.

Matches are being held at Bradford & Bingley Sports Club in Bingley - the home of the Bumble Bees - England's first mixed-ability rugby team.

Off the field, an invitation-only conference, featuring former Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe, will be held at City Hall tomorrow.

Former Minister for Sport and Tourism Mr Sutcliffe said: "Sport is a passion of mine and to have a first event of its kind in Bradford is superb.

"Disability sport is something I feel passionately about. This puts Bradford on the map."

An inclusive sports day also takes place in Centenary Square tomorrow. The event, organised by Bradford Disability Sport and Leisure, features a chance to try wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball and adapted cycling, between 11am and 2pm.

A festival, organised by Disability Rocks, will conclude the week-long tournament on Friday. This is at Bradford & Bingley Sports Club from 10.30am and includes an awards ceremony and band night at 7pm.

The current Minister for Sport and Tourism, Tracey Crouch, will attend Friday's finals day.

Mark Goodwin, director of IMAS and Bumbles manager, says the tournament will help put Bradford on the map.

He said: "I think it's a brilliant event for Bradford.

"It is the first of its kind in the world. Bradford has shown its passion for this event today. The good thing about this is its inclusivity.

"The good thing about this tournament is that it features teams with players with, or without disabilities."

Fundraising events were held for Bradford to host the tournament, including a successful £50,000 crowdfunding bid. A grant was also secured from the Department of Culture Media and Sport.