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British & Irish Lions
An experience both humbling and inspirational
Tom Hamilton in Brisbane
June 21, 2013
Scott Meenagh on duty for Horseback UK © Scott Meenagh

Rugby players are renowned for their bravery and ability to battle through the pain barrier. But it is nothing compared to what British & Irish Lions supporter Scott Meenagh has been through.

In the early part of 2011, Scott was in Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, stationed in Afghanistan - he had grown up dreaming of either being a rugby player for the Glasgow Warriors or joining the army. But on one fateful day, he was caught in an IOD explosion. His friend was killed trying to get him to safety. And while Scott survived, the blast cost him both his legs along with internal injuries.

A long period of recovery followed. He had to be rebuilt both physically and mentally. Two years on Scott, who is still in the army, is working for Horseback UK and is walking on his two prosthetic legs. The charity is based near Aberdeen which combines horsemanship and rural skills to teach injured servicemen and women skills which can integrate them into the rural community.

I met Scott, by chance, in a bar in Canberra - it was just about the only highlight from my time there. And what resonated from our conversation was the continued importance of rugby in his life - he was proudly wearing his Lions shirt when we spoke.

"I played Scotland Under-18s and rugby was my thing. It was my biggest goal in life, I only knew that and the army. Since I was wounded, I had a massive reception from the SRU. They have kept me massively involved, letting me come along to matches and do some coaching.

"And the Glasgow Warriors have also been brilliant. They have asked me to set up a two-day training programme for them. It's good to stay in rugby, I coach a few kids up North and it is good to have that relationship with the rugby boys."

And the 2013 Lions tour has been a key marker in his recovery. It is something he aimed for and managed to realise.

"The reason why I came on tour is because it is the trip of a lifetime. I know a couple of the Scottish boys and I wanted to come and see them do well. It is also a goal that I set myself. A big thing in my recovery was to regain my independence and to get out here to watch the Lions and to travel, by myself to the other end of the world.

Scott Meenagh before the Brumbies game
Before the Brumbies game © Scott Meenagh

"It feels good to travel as two years ago I was in a bed having my sister shaving for me because I couldn't do it. Now I am regaining my independence and I can reassess where I am going in my life. I can get a bit of thinking time while on tour, I can sit back, see some of the world and try and come up with an idea of what I will do with myself in the future. It's been incredible."

Whatever career Scott opts for in the future, sport will play an important part. "I gave wheelchair rugby league a go, but it's not the same. I find it really hard to go back into a wheelchair and play a sport after I spent so long trying to get out of one.

"My sport is now rowing. I just love to row and I work with horses, I ski, I kayak and I canoe. I can run and I have played in a few rugby matches, I turned out for my local club in a couple of 15-aside rugby matches. I was a non-contact player but it felt so good to be back with the guys again."

We spoke for about ten minutes and it was an experience equally humbling and inspirational. Rugby will continue to be Scott's passion and he will be there in the Suncorp Stadium on Saturday, and for the rest of the tour, cheering on the Lions.

The tourists may not have won a series for 16 years but it still has a mystical quality which inspires people to overcome even the most brutal of adversity.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum