THE Countess of Wessex was at Worcester Arena to watch schoolchildren battle it out in the national final of the Inclusive Zone Basketball championships.

The Countess watched the final as part of her role as royal patron of the British Wheelchair Basketball, a position she took up after enjoying the sport during the London 2012 games.

She was greeted by local dignitaries and introduced to guests including Professor David Green, the vice chancellor of the University of Worcester, Malcolm Tarkenter, the chairman of British Wheelchair Basketball and Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee, by Worcestershire Lord Lieutenant Patrick Holcroft.

Sophie, who married Prince Edward in 1999, was the guest of honour at a lunch before presenting the winners and runners-up from schools across the country with their awards.

She wore black capri-style trousers with a white jacket and black suede and leather stiletto heels with her hair pinned back to show off drop pearl earrings.

At lunch she sat next to Sophie Carrigill, who was announced last week as captain of Great Britain women's wheelchair basketball team.

The team which is based at Worcester Arena started its 'shut-in camps' this week in preparation for the 2015 European Championships, due to be held at the Hylton Road arena.

Miss Carrigill who studies Sports Psychology at the University of Worcester, said: "I knew I was on her table but I didn't know I was sitting right next to her.

"I was a bit nervous but she was really nice and really chatty and interested in basketball and what we are doing here in Worcester.

"She said how thrilled she was to be a part of it and how exciting she finds the game."

The Countess also presented Christopher Whitehead Language College pupil Emily Clarkson, aged 16, with her award for winning a competition to design a logo for the European Championships.

Emily had been allowed to delay an art exam in order to attend the event.

She said: "I only found out today that I had won.

"It was a shock really.

"I didn't know she was going to be here.

"She said sorry for pulling me out of my art exam."

At the event, Tudor Grange Academy Worcester represented the West Midlands at the finals after winning the regional heats putting forward a team made up with students Kieran Milner, Ross Anderson, Ryan Newberry, Edgar Johnson, Thomas Creese, Ben Shuker, Thomas Brown and Jack Davies.

IZB brings able-bodied and disabled pupils into a single team and has grown hugely in popularity since the Paralympics.

PE teacher Lucy Taylor said: "We just fell into it.

"They got involved with the Worcester schools games a couple of years ago and we've managed to win the regionals two years running.

"The students love anything different.

"It's not like traditional sports you do in schools.

"It also gives disabled pupils an opportunity to play against other schools where, with others sports, they might never get picked but this reverses that on its head because we need them so we have gone and recruited them.

"It also gives the able-bodied pupils a lot more appreciation of what it's like to be disabled."

Professor Green said: "This is a great day.

"It's the first major event that Her Royal Highness has been to in her new role as patron.

"It's a marvellous national event and it's very good for Worcester.

"It will bring a lot of business into the city.

"This is just a little taste of what it will be like when the European Championships are here in 2015."