James Pritchard has an impressive list of achievements in his rugby career, and to get a testimonial with the Bedford Blues is just another accolade of his.
Referred to as a ‘club legend’ by Blues head coach Mike Rayer, Pritchard – known as Skippy – has had the whole of the 2014/15 season dedicated to him for his testimonial year as a thank you from the club for his commitment to the team from Goldington Road.
That celebration is continuing tomorrow when a Bedford Blues select XV prepare to go head to head with Skippy’s Invitational XV at the home of the Blues, with a percentage of the proceeds from the night going to the NSPCC.
Speaking about the family fun night, Pritchard said: “It’s a get together, a celebration, ultimately to have some fun and make it a fun evening, not just for the players but for everyone coming down.
“Hopefully those who will come down will see a pretty good game of rugby with some of Bedford’s favourite players, people I’ve either played with or looked up to.
“As well as some Canadian guys who will be looking forward to some game time before we head into camp for the World Cup, but ultimately I want it to be a big family outing where everyone can come down and have a bit of fun.”
Throughout the season, events have been going on for a player who appeared 19 times for the Blues in all competitions, and his strong and consistent performances for Bedford earned him a call-up for the Barbarians team that played Herriott in April.
Scoring 19 points in a team that ran out 97-31 winners, Pritchard’s impact on a rugby field is still stand out. When discussing the event, it is fair to say he was a proud man to wear the famous black and white hooped jersey.
“That was a hell of an experience; ever since you started playing rugby you watch those sort of games on television and watch the big names that have turned out and worn the jersey, and to be actually included in that elite group is a hell of an honour.”
Pritchard’s consistent goal kicking has seen him become an invaluable member of his side as he tallies up the points for whoever he plays for; this season his conversion rate from the tee was an impressive 76 per cent for Bedford.
With that, and his ability to spot gaps in defences to score tries, he has racked up the points on an individual level. Pritchard is Bedford’s and Canada’s all-time leading points scorer, and he is destined to appear in his fourth World Cup later this year for the Canucks.
With the tournament happening here in England, the Rugby League convert is desperate to be included in what is expected to be the biggest World Cup to date.
“Yeah it’s awesome that it’s here in England. With that to look forward to, my concentration has turned there now and to try and secure a spot in the Canadian side.
“If selected in the squad, to be able to take part in a World Cup in the country where I played the majority of my rugby will be brilliant, especially that Milton Keynes game.”
Pritchard’s Canada face France at Milton Keynes on October 1, and with many Blues fans considering making the short journey to show their support for Canada, it just goes to show the popularity the number 15 has in and around Bedford.
A fact that isn’t lost on the man brought up in Parkes, Eastern Australia. “You can’t fault the support we’ve got here at Bedford, they turn out for us week in week and out and they give it their all. They spend their hard earned money to come and watch us play, and as players, we appreciate everything they do for us,” he said.
‘Skippy’, and everything he has done for the Blues down the years makes Rayer’s comment a warranted one. A word that is often muttered in and around the pubs of Bedford over a pint of Charles Wells when discussing the full-back, and this Friday is just another opportunity to show the town’s gratitude towards the man.
With a number of Bedford - current and former favourites expected to put in their gum shields for one more time – it is expected to be an entertaining, if not lung-bursting 80 minutes for everyone.
Bouncy castles and raffles included, it’s going to be an enjoyable family occasion for all who make the journey, something the father of two is hoping to achieve. Thus showing why he fits Bedford Blues perfectly, a family man playing for a family rugby club.