THE Bumble Bees, founders of mixed ability rugby and the first hosts of an IMART (International Mixed Ability Rugby) tournament, fly out to Ireland tomorrow (June 4) to take part in the third global tournament.

The event, which involves 28 teams from 14 nations, has grown since Bradford & Bingley Rugby Club hosted the first week-long IMART tournament in August 2015.

Then there were only teams from Scotland, England, France and Ireland, but it is Sunday’s Well Rebels, winners of that initial tournament, who will be hosting the jamboree this time from June 5-10.

Steve Balmforth, tour manager for the Bingley-based Bumbles, revealed: “The Irish RFU didn’t want anything to do with that first tournament but Sunday’s Well Rebels came over anyway.

“In fact, the Irish RFU only gave them permission to play in the tournament on the day they reached the final.”

Great friendships were forged that sunny week by the banks of the River Aire, however, particularly between Sunday’s Well Rebels and the Bumble Bees and it was realised what a great mechanism mixed ability rugby was for developing both mental and physical skills of the participants.

National governing bodies have also understood the potential mental and physical benefits, and now the outlook is very different, with opinions already turning by the time the second IMART tournament was held in Spain in 2020, won by Argentinian team the Pumpas.

Balmforth added: “The (current) tournament in Cork looks so well organised and we are just looking forward to getting out there and enjoying ourselves.”

The Bumble Bees will play six matches over the course of the week - three in their group and three more in a subsequent pool, the strength of which will be determined by their initial results.

A party of 40 Bumbles will be making the trip to Cork - 30 players and 10 officials - and among the 28 teams will be Halifax Magpies, Surrey Chargers, Harlequeens Latina, Worcester, Derby Bucks and old foes Llanelli Warriors and URA Clan.