EXCLUSIVE: Ben Cohen hopes his father's death 'haunts' his attackers
EXCLUSIVE: Ben Cohen reveals his life has been ‘haunted’ by death of his father who was beaten to an ‘inch of his life’ breaking up a nightclub brawl and died a month later
- ITV reality show Grand Slammers will see rugby stars build a prison rugby team
- READ MORE: Mike Tindall jokes about having beer goggles as he says ‘we’ve all been there’ but he’s had them ‘more than most’
Rugby star Ben Cohen has revealed how he hopes his father’s death ‘haunts’ the three attackers that ‘beat him to an inch of his life’.
The former rugby international, 45, who left his wife of 11 years for his Strictly Come Dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff, appears in ITV’s new two-part series Grand Slammers, which airs on Wednesday and Thursday.
Alongside other players from the England Rugby team that won the 2003 World Cup, Ben enters HMP The Mount prison and attempts to build and train a team of inmates strong enough to compete against a formidable rival, the Australians.
During the programme, the former Strictly star opens up about the death of his father, Peter Cohen, the brother of 1966 World Cup-winner George.
Peter died from a blood clot a month after he was beaten up in his own nightclub in Northampton when attempting to break up a brawl in 2000. His three attackers were jailed for violent disorder.
During ITV’s Grand Slammers, the former Strictly star opens up about the death of his father, Peter Cohen (pictured together), the brother of 1966 World Cup-winner George
They have since been freed, but Ben says he hopes his father’s death ‘haunts them for the rest of their life.’
Looking at pictures of him and his father together on his mobile phone, Ben tells the cameras: ‘These guys started a fight, my dad tried to stop it and they beat him to an inch of his life.
‘I got called in to go to hospital, and then, pretty much the last conversation I had with my dad. He died a month later of his injuries.
‘They got done for violent disorder in the end, they got three years, I think and they were out in 18 months. Was it a long enough sentence? No. Of course not.
‘I hope it haunts them for the rest of their life because it has me,’ Ben adds. ‘All of this kind of stuff going through my head, you can let it chew you up, you can let it spit you out.
‘I know one thing that my dad would want me to do, is keep looking forward. “Don’t keep looking back, son”.’
Discussing why he decided to take part in the programme, Ben said: ‘I’m intrigued by the prison system, how it operates and who makes up the prison population.
‘I was interested to see how rugby could be used to help the prisoners find a different/positive path, and generate a sense of belonging. I was also attracted to the prospect of getting together with my old teammates.’
Ben Cohen (pictured) has revealed how he hopes his father’s death ‘haunts’ the three attackers that ‘beat him to an inch of his life’
Peter (pictured right) died from a blood clot a month after he was beaten up in his own nightclub in Northampton when attempting to break up a brawl in 2000. His three attackers were jailed for violent disorder
Ben, 45, who left his wife of 11 years for his Strictly Come Dancing partner Kristina Rihanoff , appears in ITV’s new two-part series Grand Slammers, which airs on Wednesday and Thursday. Pictured, Matt Dawson, Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall, Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson, Phil Vickery, Will Greenwood, and Ben Cohen
He said what he enjoyed most about making the documentary was ‘watching the prisoners grow and work together as a team.’
Ben added: ‘I also learned a lot about the infrastructure of the prison, the life inside, what they were in for, and insight into their daily lives.
‘It was also enjoyable catching up with my rugby mates and hearing about what they have been up to over the past 20 years.’
Elsewhere in the programme, Mike Tindall was surprised by his mother-in-law Princess Anne.
In a clip from the programme, Mike is seen talking to fellow rugby player Martin Johnson on the phone while at Royal Ascot with teammate Phil Vickery.
Following their conversation, the players notice the Princess Royal, 73, enter the room. Surprised, Mike says: ‘Oh, sorry. Do you want to join in, we’re teaching a prison rugby team how to play.
Looking at pictures of him and his father together on his mobile phone, Ben (pictured) tells the cameras: ‘These guys started a fight, my dad tried to stop it and they beat him to an inch of his life’
‘You can join the coaching staff if you’d like,’ he tells Princess Anne, while Phil adds: ‘You could be our team manager.’
A glamorous Princess Anne responds: ‘Oh, thanks very much. What’s the scheme?,’ to which Mike explains: ‘We’re going in and trying to coach and then they’re playing the guards.
‘I’ve seen a project elsewhere but it’s really difficult to keep them going,’ replies the King’s sister, before asking: ‘Am I allowed out?’
While helping the royal leave the room, Mike says: ‘Yes, you are allowed out, of course you are,’ to which the princess replies: ‘I have come to watch the racing.’
In the two-part documentary, members of the 2003 side including captain Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jason Robinson, Will Greenwood, Ben Cohen and Matt Dawson attempt to build and train a team of prisoners to be strong enough to compete against the Australians.
Playing out over two consecutive nights, Grand Slammers sees the players enter HMP The Mount – home to one of the only remaining rugby pitches inside an adult male English prison.
Elsewhere on the programme, Mike Tindall was surprised by Princess Anne during his new ITV reality show Grand Slammers (pictured)
The sportsmen are aiming to show their novices the spirit of rugby and its broad appeal with all the camaraderie, intensity, emotion, buzz and laughter that comes with being part of a team focused on a common goal.
Revealing why he decided to take part in the programme, Mike said: ‘Rugby has given me so much in my life, and been a fundamental part in carving out who I am as a person.
‘Sport has the power to change lives and with rugby I believe it’s a game that accepts everyone and makes everyone feel part of something – it has the ability to help anyone’s journey.
‘So when they came to me with this concept, combined with doing it with the 2003 guys, it felt like a really interesting thing to do.’
He added: ‘The show highlighted that even though sport has the ability to change lives, with prisons growing in size it means playing fields are getting lost to accommodate more prisoners which makes it harder to use sport as a way to rehabilitate and keep people from coming back.’
Playing out over two consecutive nights, Grand Slammers sees the players enter HMP The Mount – home to one of the only remaining rugby pitches inside an adult male English prison. Pictured, Will Greenwood, Mike Tindall and Matt Dawson
Grand Slammers was commissioned for ITV by Kate Teckman, Head of Development, Factual Entertainment.
According to Kate: ‘In this new series we’ll see some of the greatest sporting heroes England has ever produced reunite on the pitch for the first time in 20 years to go into a prison and build a rugby a team with men who live their lives behind bars.
‘For some of these England legends, rugby presented a positive pathway and an opportunity to fulfil their potential.
‘So, with re-offending rates from ex-prisoners at an alarming level, these World Cup winners are engaging with young men who’ve made big mistakes to show them how the game they love can offer the possibility of taking positive steps to move forward.
‘At a moment when rugby will be in the spotlight, during this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, Grand Slammers will provide a revealing insight into both England’s legends and the power of the sport that has defined so much of their lives.’
Grand Slammers ITV1 & ITVX 9pm Weds 27th & Thurs 28th September
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