Gloucester Rugby star Ed Slater: 'I don't want to wallow' after motor neurone disease diagnosis

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Gloucester rugby star Ed Slater says he has been humbled by the amount of support he and his family have received after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND).

The lock - who has represented England - announced last month he was retiring from the sport after doctors discovered the degenerative condition following months of tests.

On Monday morning he set off on a 350 mile bike ride with fellow players to raise money and awareness of the disease.

Ed Slater told ITV West Country: "Once we got the diagnosis it was absolutely devastating for me and the family but there is some sort of clarity about what is actually going on. Then you have to take it day by day and try not get dragged down by the enormity of it all."

MND is a degenerative disease which affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. There is no cure. It can lead to patients being unable to speak and walk. The NHS says the disease is rare and it mainly affects people in their 60s and 70s. But Slater is just 34 years old.

Slater said: "The outlook doesn't look great but it's all about how quickly you progress. Everyone is different with MND. That's part of the reason for this bike ride. Physically I feel like I am capable just. It'll be a massive challenge. There's a saying in rugby 'use or lose it' with the ball. For me it's probably use it before you lose it."

Slater has played at Gloucester since 2017. Previously he won a premiership title with Leicester and captained the side from 2014 to 2016. He was also called up to the England squad on multiple occasions, playing against the Crusaders in New Zealand where he injured his ACL.

Playing time in what was his final season with Gloucester was limited by months of medical tests as doctors tried to establish what was causing twitching in his arm.

Ed Slater sets off on his 350 mile bike ride.

On the 350 mile bike ride he was joined by several Gloucester Rugby players including club captain Lewis Ludlow and Billy Twelvetrees.

Lewis said: "The strength of the man when he came in and told the boys was something I've never seen before. How Ed, his wife and his three children have dealt with it is just amazing. If we can be a little part to help we will."

Dozens of Gloucester Rugby fans came to cheer on the group as they set off on their three day cycle which will see them return to Kingsholm stadium on Wednesday.

Slater says has been humbled and overwhelmed by the support.

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