Ex-Edinburgh rugby stars aim for North Pole game

TWO rugby aces will trek 100 miles to the top of the world in a bid to make sporting history.

Steve Turnbull is hoping to set a world record for the northernmost rugby match ever played. Picture: SNS
Steve Turnbull is hoping to set a world record for the northernmost rugby match ever played. Picture: SNS

Former Edinburgh Rugby players Steve Turnbull and John Houston are part of a team hoping to set a Guinness World Record for the northernmost match ever played.

But before they scrum down, they must first march through one of the most inhospitable landscapes on earth to the Magnetic North Pole where the game is due to be played.

The gruelling challenge, which is expected to take three weeks, will see the 14-strong group brave temperatures as low as minus 40C and the threat of polar bear attacks.

Turnbull, 27, who retired from rugby in 2013 following a knee injury, described the challenge as “formidable but exciting”.

He said: “We have started training but nothing is going to prepare us for that. It’s an 
extreme environment. It’s 
going to be tough but it’s going to be fantastic. If we see a polar bear we will all carry shotguns with cracker shells to scare them off.”

Turnbull, from Broughton, decided to sign up after spotting a tweet about the Arctic Rugby Challenge, the Wooden Spoon charity’s most extreme challenge to date. He said it presented a “great opportunity” to raise a substantial amount of money for a cause which aims to transform the lives of disabled or disadvantaged children through rugby.

Houston, who retired from professional rugby last year, then learned of the challenge after his former teammate posted a link to an online fundraising page.

The 31-year-old, who also played in the rugby sevens national squad, said: “I said ‘I would love to do something like that’ and my wife said ‘Why don’t you see if you can get in?’”

The team is set to fly out to Resolute Bay in April, one of the most northerly communities in Canada, where the squad will undergo its final Arctic training before setting off on the trek.

Once challengers reach the finish line at the North Pole, they will attempt to play a seven-a-side match. The pitch will have to be marked out in the snow and ice, while the goalposts will be flown in or transported on snowmobiles.

The teams will be captained by rugby legends Ollie Phillips and Tim Stimpson, while former England and British Lions payer Lee Mears will referee.

The players will be wearing extra-large rugby strips over the top of their life-saving Arctic gear.