MILITARY veterans as Bannockburn Rugby Club are extending an open invitation to veterans and forces personnel in the Stirling area.

Led by Director of Rugby Jimmy Samuel – himself a serving officer in the British Army – the six-strong group are encouraging more of Stirlingshire’s vets to join the club and try rugby.

Providing a camaraderie familiar to those who served in the armed forces, rugby encourages physical fitness and mental wellness in a structured environment.

And at a time when the nation remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice, joining a rugby club presents an opportunity to help combat the loneliness experienced by some veterans.

In recent academic research by the Universities of Anglia Ruskin and Birmingham, exercise was likened to ‘medicine for mental health’ in military veterans.

While current coronavirus measures may prevent an immediate return to the normality of training and matches, veterans can still get involved at Bannockburn RFC – with the club’s social media pages giving a flavour of lockdown life at the rugby club.

Sandy Dove, former Royal Marine and current Bannockburn RFC player, said: “I really enjoy the physical challenge, but there are also a lot of mental health benefits to playing rugby, as well as camaraderie and sense of belonging – similar to what I experienced with the Royal Marines.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: Sandy Dove in actionSandy Dove in action

“There’s a real team spirit and structured environment at Bannockburn and it’d be great to see more veterans down at the club.”

Jimmy Samuel, Bannockburn’s director of rugby, added: “In Remembrance Week we remember those who didn’t make it home – but also those who are still here. It can be lonely once you’ve left the forces, but there’s a place for everyone at our club.

“Veterans and forces members have the physical and mental attributes that could help our club on and off the pitch. 

"In the long term, we want to be the go-to club in the area for veterans and serving personnel. They will always be welcome here.”

Bannockburn Rugby Club are taking part in a socially-distanced Poppy Run this weekend, raising funds for the Royal British Legion ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Training is open to all and anyone interested in joining can contact the club through its Facebook page