TORFAEN Dragons’ Henry Swift has hailed walking rugby for putting the spring back in his step after going from a “bad place” because of mental health issues to taking on Wales legend JPR Williams at Principality Stadium.

The 70-year-old from Newport plays with the Cwmbran-based Dragons and at the start of the month took to turf at the home of Welsh rugby as part of an inclusion festival.

The 2019 Road to Principality initiative saw more than 100 teams and more than 1,000 players from all over Wales take part in a week-long series of community festivals, schools and club finals and one-off matches.

Eight groups took part in the first national walking rugby festival, a sport with an emphasis on helping seniors get active and be more socially connected.

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“I played rugby most of my life until I got a bit older and you don’t get out so much,” said Swift.

“Walking rugby has enabled me to enjoy some dressing room banter again and getting to play on Principality Stadium pitch is a dream for anyone!

“It’s been fabulous. Things hadn’t been great for me due to mental health issues. I tend to shrink away a bit, stay on my own out of the way, but the rugby community brings you together, involves you. It’s inclusive and I feel ok.

“Physically I keep myself fit but mentally I was in a bit of a bad place with nothing really going on and no one to talk to, other than the GP and sometimes you have to wait a long time for an appointment.

“I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere and I found things difficult but the guys at walking rugby know me, I don’t make a secret of my issues there – if you feel like you want to talk you can or if others want to talk to me they can too.”

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Triple Grand Slam winner JPR is part of the Pontyclun group that played at the stadium.

The 70-year-old said: “I thought I’d give it a go and I enjoy it, it encourages players to move the ball! There are no winners, it’s just a bit of fun and as people get on in age they can still participate.”

There are currently walking Rugby groups running in Aberystwyth, Cambrian, Cardiff, Cwmbran, Llanelli, Pontyclun, Pontypridd, Treorchy and Ynysybwl.

GPs, such as in Cwm Taf Health Board are even referring patients to walking rugby groups for its physical and mental health benefits.

To find out how to get involved, contact participation@wru.wales