Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson by Paul Kimmage


Engage!‘ was the last word Matt Hampson heard before dislocating his neck while in rugby training with other young England hopefuls.

On a cold, grey, overcast day in 2005, the cream of young English rugby gathered at a Northampton training ground. Matt Hampson, ‘Hambo’ to his mates, was one of them. He had dreamt of playing rugby for England ever since he had picked up a rugby ball at school. His skill, conviction and dedication had brought him to the cusp of realising that dream, in an England U21 team that included Olly Morgan, Toby Flood, Ben Foden and James Haskell. But as the two sets of forwards engaged for a scrum on the training field, the scrum collapsed and Matt, who played tight-head prop, took the full force of two opposing sides. In that moment his life changed forever.

Paul Kimmage went to visit Matt as he recuperated, and wrote a piece for the Sunday Times which won him his third successive SJA sports interviewer of the year award. They struck up a friendship and here, Paul tells Matt’s whole story, in all its intimate detail. From the build-up to the dreadful day, to Matt’s recuperation, to his struggle to adjust to normal life again, to his family and friends, to other tragic incidents on the rugby field, to the response of the RFU, this is a story of terrible sadness yet unadorned triumph and joy, of anger yet of reconciliation and peace . . . of a boy who became a man.


This is a remarkably inspirational book.

As someone who enjoys watching rugby I was eager to read the full story of Matt Hampson and the catastrophic injury that changed his life in a second.

Matt and Paul have brought us a book which is brutally honest throughout and extremely well written.  We are given an insight into the struggles Matt, and those around him, have dealt with since that awful day. This book speaks of the human condition, not just the issue of tetraplegia. It puts life into perspective and makes you think twice before moaning about the trivial things in day-to-day living.

Paul Kimmage is an exceptionally gifted writer.  This book will come to mind long after you have finished reading it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys watching or playing rugby. Although it is important to remember that whist many injuries can occur during a game of rugby it is very rare that such a life-changing injury happens.


  • TITLE: Engage
  • AUTHOR: Paul Kimmage
  • PUBLISHER: Simon Schuster UK
  • PUBLICATION DATE: 31 July 2011
  • ISBN: 9780857205476
  • FORMAT: paperback
  • LENGTH: 412 pages


Paul Kimmage is an Irish sports journalist who, until his departure in early 2012, wrote for the Sunday Times newspaper in the United Kingdom. He is a former professional road bicycle racer. Kimmage was born into a cycling family.  (wikipedia)

Paul Kimmage is on Twitter

Matt Hampson Matthew “Hambo” Hampson is a former English rugby union prop who became a C4/5 tetraplegic after a scrummaging practice accident for England under 21 on 15 March 2005. Hampson took up rugby as a 5-year old for Oakham, joining Syston RFC when he was 12. (wikipedia)

Matt Hampson is on Twitter and Facebook and please check out Matt Hampson Foundation website

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