Defender Celebrates Inspiring Trailblazers to Launch Rugby World Cup France 2023 Partnership

Pioneering British rapper and actor, Kano, headlined the launch night with an exclusive performance in Paris

Friday 8 September, Paris, France: Defender has marked its Worldwide Partnership of the Rugby World Cup France 2023 with an event honouring Defender Trailblazers – modern-day heroes who are changing the face of rugby through their determination, resilience, and human spirit. 

Cast from the same mould as Defender, these rugby talents embody its strength of character. They include a 90-year-old doctor who refuses to hang up his shirt, international para-athletes, and the founder of the first LGBT+ friendly rugby club in France.

Rugby World Cup France 2023 kicks off on Friday 8 September, preceded by an audio-visual spectacle at the Palais de Tokyo, a modern art gallery in the heart of Paris that provides the perfect backdrop for Defender with its reductionist industrial design. 

The launch night was headlined by pioneering British rapper and actor, Kano, alongside the Rugby World Cup 2023 Limited Edition Defender. Famous for heroic capability and exceptional all-terrain adventures, Defender is now exploring a musical world it has much in common with, through innovative collaborations with renowned artists such as Kano. Like the best music, Defender represents losing yourself in the experience and taking the road less travelled.

Modern-day heroes 

On the eve of Rugby World Cup France 2023, the launch event celebrated Defender Trailblazers –individuals who represent the very best of rugby and inspire others to be capable of great things. Each has demonstrated immense courage, inner strength and determination in the face of adversity. The Defender Trailblazers will be immortalised in statue form, made with steel reclaimed from the vehicle chassis production process using 3D scanning technology.

The Defender Trailblazers are: 

- Ryuichi Nagayama: the oldest active member of Fuwaku Rugby Club is a 90-year-old practicing doctor who lives for the sport. He and his teammates are tackling ageism and he intends to play until he is physically unable to take to the pitch. Ryuichi explains his mindset, by asking: “Without rugby, what would I become?” 

- Cyril Leroy: founder of Les Gaillards, the first LGBT+ friendly rugby club in France, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2023. The club brings together players of all genders, ages, sexual orientations, origins and sporting backgrounds and unites around the values of rugby.

- Jacob Pickering: Jacob, 14, was born without his left forearm due to congenital upper limb deficiency, but he hasn’t let this stop him playing the game he loves. He began playing at the age of nine and relishes the physical challenge – he loves tackling.

- Zainab Alema: a female Muslim rugby player, Zainab runs Muslimah Rugby, a community for Muslim women in rugby. She is also founder of Studs In The Mud, a non-profit project that supports rugby in Ghana. She was shortlisted in the sports category for the 2022 Women of the Future awards. 

- Kylie Grimes: in 2009, Kylie started playing for the London Wheelchair Rugby Club, and then for Great Britain in 2011, before going on to play at the 2012 Paralympics. She also cycled 450km from Vietnam to Cambodia after a life-changing spinal injury to raise money for Regain, a charity dedicated to helping newly injured tetraplegics back into sport. 

- Irtiqa Ayoub: the 28-year-old from Kashmir, India, is levelling the playing field by introducing rugby to women in Kashmir and Muslims in the wider community. She dreams of playing for India and is the youngest Rugby Development Officer in Jammu and Kashmir. This fearless, passionate and determined advocate for the sport, aims to inspire girls all over the world.

Rugby World Cup 2023 Limited Edition Defender 

The exclusive Rugby World Cup 2023 Limited Edition Defender will also be present at the event. Taking inspiration from the Rugby World Cup 2023 Trophy Car – which has been touring France showcasing the famous Webb Ellis Cup – the Limited Edition Defender 110 is crafted in a unique specification. Finished in Santorini Black with Champagne Gold exterior detailing, including bonnet script and alloy wheels, with embroidered headrests and blue interior stitching, the collection of just 23 vehicles has been introduced exclusively to the French market.
Defenders of Tomorrow 

Defender’s “Defenders of Tomorrow” campaign celebrates the diversity and inclusivity of the game at youth level, with 96 mascots taking to the field. Defenders of Tomorrow has found 96 special youngsters who want to change the world for the better. Whether at home, school, in the local community or their rugby club, Defenders of Tomorrow play an active role in improving the lives of others around them. Every chosen Defender of Tomorrow from different countries will act as a mascot in the Rugby World Cup 2023, with Defender supporting the cause they are passionate about to protect and promote it for the future.  

Electric hybrid fleet

Defender is also supporting the Rugby World Cup France 2023 by supplying a fleet of Defender 110 plug-in electric hybrids, all capable of zero-emissions driving in EV mode for up to 51km (32 miles).


For all media enquiries and interview requests, please contact the team at Sassy:

Karun Jung


Tel: +44 (0) 7725 940 179 

Caitlin Warner


Tel: +44 (0) 7480 141 314


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