A valued member of London Irish’s HITZ programme has been nominated for Premiership Rugby’s BREAKTHRU Achiever of the Year award.

The Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards take place at the House of Commons next month with a specially-selected panel picking the recipient of the award, which recognises participants who have excelled in any education, health or social inclusion programme.

One of the final three nominees is Ben Nutt, who despite suffering from ADHD has become a key and valued member of London Irish’s HITZ programme that has helped him improve his confidence, well-being and physical health.

Ben is up against Stephen Thomas, a regular at Gloucester Rugby’s Walking Rugby sessions, and Ian Rudge of Sale Sharks for the gong, and one of the award’s judges Dolly Theis said that with the incredible effort and dedication each candidate had shown, it was proving extremely difficult to choose an overall winner.

“Stephen’s [Thomas] story completely blew me away,” said Theis, from the Centre for Social Justice. “He has been so close to death on a number of occasions and as a result has suffered with confidence.

“Since taking up rugby, the shy and anxious Ben [Nutt] has totally transformed and become much more socially active with the rest of the players.

“Also, it cannot be underestimated how much Ian [Rudge] has developed and now helps other veterans boost their confidence.”

Every year, hundreds of people up and down the country give their time to help run Premiership Rugby initiatives such as – but not limited to – Aviva Tackling Numbers, HITZ, On The Front Foot, Rugby 4 All, Something To Chew On, Move Like A Pro, and Urban Rugby Squad.

From going the extra mile to help youngsters in the local area, to helping more girls and women get into the game, these ground-breaking schemes all seek to help the community reach new heights both on and off the rugby pitch.

And Theis is predicting an extremely close race between the trio of candidates ahead of the winner being announced on 4 July.

“It was absolutely fascinating to read about so many inspiring people and judging the winner for all categories was really tough,” she added.

“Working in social justice it was incredible to read about how rugby and sport in general has helped transform people’s lives on and off the field.

“Sport plays a massive part in improving mental health and that was certainly the case when looking at all the candidates.

“Each one had their own inspiring story and they would all be worthy winners.”

The winner of the award will be announced on Tuesday 4 July at the illustrious Premiership Rugby Parliamentary Community Awards at the Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons, and on Twitter via the @premrugby account. Use the hashtag #RugbyChangingLives to join the conversation​

Shortlist for BREAKTHRU Achiever of the Year award are:

Stephen Thomas – Gloucester Rugby

Ben Nutt – London Irish

Ian Rudge – Sale Sharks

The judging panel for the BREAKTHRU Achiever of the Year award are

Heather Taylor (Sport England), Lisa Bedding (Comic Relief), Dolly Theis (Centre for Social Justice), Suzy Christopher (BT Charity & Community Director), Matt Mitchell (Wooden Spoon), Heather Smith (Women in Sport) and Ross McKinley (Premier League).

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