TRIBUTES have been paid to a ‘truly inspirational’ rugby hero who has died after a battle with cancer at the age of 23.

Clubs across the county and beyond paid their respects following the death of James Addyman, who played for Keswick and Carlisle.

Following a trip to Australia in 2017, James was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer, and underwent months of gruelling treatment.

He had his right arm and shoulder removed, and for six months, spent three weeks out of five having treatment in the north east at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

In May this year, James revealed he was undergoing further chemotherapy after cancerous nodules were found on his lung.

Despite what life had thrown at him, James spent the last few years fundraising for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and rallied close friends and family in his charity efforts.

He has been looked after in their specialist Teenage Cancer Unit at the Freeman and been supported by the charity through his diagnosis, treatment and beyond.

Last year, he was recognised for his countless hours of work, and named as a sporting hero at The Cumberland News Community Heroes Awards.

Louise Miles, regional fundraising manager from the Teenage Cancer Trust Cumbria, paid tribute.

She said: “I first had the privilege of meeting James when, despite having his arm amputated, he abseiled without fear 150ft from the top of the Sandman Hotel, Newcastle, to raise funds and awareness for other young people going through cancer.

“There was a TV crew capturing the moment and they missed getting the footage they needed as he descended so on reaching the bottom James said “no problem” and promptly went straight back up to the top and did it again!

“James and his family have been truly inspirational raising funds for others despite going through such a difficult time themselves.

“From everyone at Teenage Cancer Trust we’d like to offer our sincere condolences to his family, girlfriend Ruby, friends, and his fellow rugby team mates-our thoughts are with you all.”

His rugby talent shone on the pitch during his time at Keswick RUFC, and latterly Carlisle Rugby Club, and has been described as an exceptionally talented back row player.

David Morton, secretary of Carlisle Rugby Club, released a heartfelt statement after news of his passing emerged.

It read: “It’s always very sad to have to report the death of anyone, but to have to do it for one so young is at best distressing, especially when you are writing about a talented young man taken from us at the young age of 23, and having had until recently, the world at his feet.

“James Addyman, from a farming family in the west of the county, played his early senior rugby for Keswick RUFC. He was an exceptionally talented back row player, with an ambition to improve his lot on the rugby field, and eventually he joined us at Carlisle.He was a talent that graced the field and his tenacious approach to our Game was widely admired.

“He was strong, gritty, and a great team player and would never have been out of place in any side.

“After a couple of seasons with Carlisle, James got the wanderlust and journeyed off with a pal to see the sights of Australia, his intention being to resume his rugby career on his return.

“It was whilst in Australia that he sensed something was amiss; he cut short his trip and returned home and very soon afterwards he was diagnosed with a cancer that eventually resulted in the amputation of an arm.

“Undeterred, he made a determined recovery, eventually taking to the field again playing along with his siblings for Keswick.

“Never one with idle hands, during his rehabilitation, he immersed himself in fund raising activities to support the Teenage Cancer Trust in recognition of the help and encouragement that they offered him and his family during the early days of his illness.

“A variety of escapades he undertook would have scared off many, including abseiling from a great height!

“Whatever his destination after his final journey, we can be sure that he will grace his new surroundings with the skill, dignity, humour and tenacity that we have all admired in his all too short life among us.

“All at Carlisle RFC are thinking of his family, girlfriend Ruby Nicholson, friends, and his team mates at Keswick following his untimely passing.”