CHRISTMAS has been saved by a festive-spirited rugby team.

Grove Rugby Club has come to the rescue by offering to host Wantage charity champ Ray Collins' annual Christmas Day dinner for the elderly and vulnerable.

The tradition looked set to fold this year after the Wantage Health and Wellbeing Centre, where it used to take place, closed down.

Mr Collins, founder of the Ray Collins Charitable Trust, said he had run out of alternative ideas until the rugby players came forward to offer their Cane Lane clubhouse.

Not only that – the club has also offered to pay for all of this year's food as well.

Mr Collins, who manages Peter Ledbury electricals in Grove Street, Wantage, said: "We want to say a massive thank you to club chairman Chris McCarthy, Phil Connolly, Jackie Nicholl and all the committee and club members for this amazingly generous offer.

"Because of this, more than 60 elderly and vulnerable people who live in isolation will get the Christmas they all deserve.

"Grove RFC have literally saved Christmas for all our dinner guests: to say we are extremely happy would be a huge understatement."

Several club member have also offered to help out on the big day.

Mr Collins held his first Christmas Day dinner for the lonely at Wantage Health and Wellbeing Centre in 2015.

After asking people in Wantage and Grove to nominate friends or neighbours who deserved a treat, Mr Collins and a team of elves ended up feeding dozens.

The tradition carried on growing over the next two years, with live entertainment and thousands of pounds worth of roast dinners and figgy pudding served up.

Then in January this year, Oxfordshire County Council's cabinet agreed to cut the number of day centres for the disabled and elderly in Oxfordshire from 22 to eight.

That included Wantage, and the beloved centre – which Mr Collins helped raise £11,000 to redecorate five years ago – finally shut in the summer.

Mr Collins said: "After the closure, we struggled to find a suitable venue with the right kitchen facilities.

"Then, in a conversation with Steve Broadley – owner of KA Fitness – he mentioned Grove RFC had the facilities, and the club didn't hesitate offering their help."

Mr Collins said he was now hoping that the club would be able to host the Yuletide tradition for years to come.

He added: "We look forward to forging a great partnership and working alongside these amazing people helping our community and those in need."

Club chairman Chris McCarthy said the entire membership was pleased to be able to help out.

To find out more about the trust's work and volunteer opportunities, email