An inspirational young Ulster rugby player who was left paralysed for life after a horrific onfield accident spoke of his pride today as he prepares to answer Ireland's call.
Ballyclare man Craig McMillan is jetting off to Paris to represent Ireland's wheelchair rugby team this week.
The 25-year-old is one of 15 members of the team who are following Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell and company to the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on Friday, to play two exhibition games against their French counterparts in Paris.
Joining him on the team is Downpatrick man Bernard Rooney.
Male and female athletes with a disability will compete on both sides in matches on Thursday and Saturday.
The two teams include a number of former rugby union players who sustained spinal injuries.
Wheelchair rugby combines elements of rugby, basketball, football and ice hockey. It is played on a basketball court, and tries are scored by carrying the ball over the opponent's goal line. There are no scrums or line-outs but Craig says it is a "full-contact aggressive game".
Craig, who plays for the Dublin-based Gaelic Warriors club, took up wheelchair rugby after his neck was broken while playing in a school rugby match for Ballyclare High School on Boxing Day 1999. He spent six months in hospital after his injury, but returned to school, finished his A-Levels and went on to graduate from university.
"Wheelchair rugby is more than a bit of fun or a bit of exercise," said Craig.
"It is also an extremely competitive game and is played with passion and aggression.
"The whole team is looking forward to two tough games against the French and we hope that we can provide Ireland with a bit of impetus by getting one over on the French before their big World Cup game in the Stade de France in a couple of weeks," added Craig.
Anyone interested in watching or participating should contact Craig on 078 6753 6234.