ITV has commissioned “Grand Slammers,” a brand new series featuring England’s Rugby World Cup champions exploring the world of rugby within prison walls.
The team, consisting of Captain Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Phil Vickery, Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen, Mike Tindall, and Matt Dawson, achieved the pinnacle of success by winning the William Webb Ellis trophy on a rugby pitch, marking a historic moment in England’s sporting history.
Now, two decades after their triumph in Sydney against Australia, these legendary players are reuniting for a unique challenge. The two-part series is set to air during this year’s Rugby World Cup, which will also be exclusively broadcast on ITV.
“Grand Slammers,” produced by Remarkable Factual, a Banijay UK company, will take viewers inside HMP The Mount prison. This facility houses one of the last remaining rugby pitches within an adult male English prison. The objective is to assemble and train a team of inmates capable of competing against a formidable opponent, the Australians.
The series promises a compelling exploration of how sport can transform lives. The England legends will share their personal experiences with the inmates, illustrating how rugby provided them with purpose and direction during their formative years.
The narrative will encompass conflicts, motivational talks, and the overarching theme of how the sport can be a catalyst for positive change in each inmate’s life. It will showcase the camaraderie, intensity, emotion, excitement, and laughter that come with being part of a team working towards a shared goal—beating the Aussies.
The climax of the two episodes will witness the legends joining forces with the inmates they’ve coached to recreate the historic Rugby World Cup final from two decades ago, this time facing off against a team of Australian expatriate rugby players.
Given the alarming statistic that 50% of released prisoners re-offend within a year, “Grand Slammers” will delve into how involvement in team sports can positively impact the lives of inmates, while simultaneously reducing the likelihood of reoffending. This ambitious project owes its realization to the support of HMP The Mount’s governor, John Gormley, and the Ministry of Justice.
“Grand Slammers” has been commissioned for ITV by Kate Teckman, Head of Development, Factual Entertainment.
Kate said; “In this new series, we’ll see some of the greatest sporting heroes England has ever produced reunite on the pitch for the first time in 20 years to go into a prison and build a rugby team with men who live their lives behind bars. For some of these England legends, rugby presented a positive pathway and an opportunity to fulfil their potential. So, with re-offending rates from ex-prisoners at an alarming level, these World Cup winners are engaging with young men who’ve made big mistakes to show them how the game they love can offer the possibility of taking positive steps to move forward. At a moment when rugby will be in the spotlight, during this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, Grand Slammers will provide a revealing insight into both England’s legends and the power of the sport that has defined so much of their lives.”
Grand Slammers was developed by Matt Winter and Executive Producers for Remarkable Factual are Helen Simpson, Tim Allsop, Jo Smith and Kitty Walshe.
Kitty Walshe, CEO of Remarkable Factual and RDF, said; “Grand Slammers would not be possible without the collective efforts of John Gormley and his staff, as well as our incredible sporting heroes who won the hearts of the nation 20 years ago. Everyone involved passionately believes that rugby is a sport that has the power to change people’s lives and what we see unfolding across the series is often raw with a range of emotions surfacing as our England legends bring their full commitment to their work with the inmates.”