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Spirit of Rugby

In 2001 'Spirit of Rugby' were the words chosen by the game's world governing body, the International Rugby Board, in recognition of passion, commitment and outstanding contribution to the sport. No three words could better describe SKRUM's founder and the 2003 recipient of that award, Michael Collinson. Michael, a proud Yorkshireman and charismatic leader arrived in Swaziland in Southern Africa in 1985. He quickly fell in love with the country, its people and the rugby scene. A mining engineer by profession, Michael, along with his wife Linda, channelled his love and enthusiasm for the game into the Swaziland Rugby Union, becoming its President in 1998 and selflessly giving up hour upon hour as coach, assistant coach, waterboy, supporter and even cheerleader for every team that happened to be representing the country. In 1995 Michael suffered a freak accident during a friendly match against Lothair in South Africa. He broke his pelvis and crushed a disc in his lower back and was confined to a hospital bed for a number of months. Rehabilitation, followed, as did life with a wheelchair and walking sticks, but after a year away from the game he returned to rugby as the national team manager for Swaziland against Botswana. Unable to resist, he then spent two years in training and succeeded in returning to club rugby, and then the international game for Swaziland against Botswana in 1997. Due to a 2cm deflection in his pubic bone, Michael maintains to this day that - for a big man - he possessed an unbelievable side step. Tragically, however, his playing career was ended cruelly and permanently five years later. On Boxing Day 2002, Michael and his wife Linda were driving back from a friend's party in the Lowveld when they rounded a corner and hit a large bull, which landed on the roof of the vehicle across the passenger side, where Michael was sitting. A combination of paramedics, Linda, a member of the Swaziland front row and friend and Doctor Mark Mills brought him back to life but with the Swazi borders closed Michael had to wait 24 hours before a surgeon could operate, a wait that ultimately proved too long. While his broken collar bone, sternum and severe head injuries could all be treated, his severed spinal cord was beyond repair. Michael is wheelchair bound for the rest of his life, but remains the life and soul of the party. He still lives in Swaziland with his wife Linda and is still President of the country's Rugby Union. In 2007 he set up the SKRUM charity with the help of Linda to combine his two undying passions: rugby and helping to combat an HIV/AIDS endemic which has lowered Swaziland's life expectancy to just 32, and threatens to wipe out the population without action and education.