RWC 2015 a golden opportunity to inspire
England Rugby 2015 Ambassador Lawrence Dallaglio reflects on the recent celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of England’s Rugby World Cup 2003 success.
One of the most memorable experiences from my childhood was going to the Rugby World Cup 1991 Final at Twickenham as a young teenager.
Seeing Australia beat England on home soil that day created a memory and a dream for me and an aspiration to one day become a world champion with England.
Eight years later I had the honour of representing my country at RWC 1999, and then at RWC 2003 I was fortunate enough to realise my dream and lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Sydney.
Rugby World Cups have given me many unforgettable memories over the years, both on and off the field of play, and the anniversary celebrations to mark 10 years since that unforgettable night on 22 November 2003 have given the RWC 2003 squad even more memories to cherish.
The celebrations kicked off on the Thursday night with an England Legends v Australia Legends match at The Stoop in London. It was a wonderful occasion and a great chance to catch up with old friends from both sides, and the very fact that the Australians travelled across the world to participate in a celebration of a RWC final they lost at home is a gesture which epitomises the truly unique values of this sport.
Although I wasn’t able to play in the match myself it was a real pleasure to see some of the legends in action again. Steve Thompson scored a wonderful 80-metre try and managed to throw in a couple of dummies before crashing over the line, and Jason Robinson showed he still had a few moves and clearly demonstrated that he could still be playing a very high standard of rugby – I even heard a few calls for him to come out of retirement after the game.
England ran out 17-12 winners on the night but the result was of secondary importance as the main focus of the night was to raise money for charity. The match was attended with more than 5,000 spectators and a very decent amount of money was raised for an extremely worthy cause.
The anniversary celebrations continued on Friday evening with a gala dinner hosted by the RFU in south London, with almost the entire RWC 2003 squad in attendance. It was a great occasion and we all felt very honoured that the RFU hosted such a magnificent event in our honour.
We re-lived many of the special moments from the tournament with a question and answer session with RWC 2003 head coach Clive Woodward and captain Martin Johnson, and I was also given the opportunity to get up and tell a few tales from that memorable night in Sydney.
We met at a hotel in central London beforehand and it was great to see that the old camaraderie was still there. Interestingly enough everyone sat in almost exactly the same place as they did on the coach 10 years ago.
It’s clear that the whole squad still has a very vivid memory of the tournament even 10 years on and I think that the vast majority of English rugby fans also remember where they were that day.
The evening was mostly spent reminiscing and looking back at what English rugby achieved in Australia 10 years ago, but it also brought very sharply into focus that we will be hosting a Rugby World Cup right here in England in just under two years’ time, and I’m pleased to say that the organising committee is right on track to deliver a spectacular tournament, and hopefully the best RWC that there has ever been.
The current crop of England stars are themselves taking massive strides towards ensuring that they give a good showing at RWC 2015, and on the Saturday we were all invited to the England v Australia international at Twickenham.
It was very special to be back at Twickenham with that squad for the first time since RWC 2003. Jonny Wilkinson even joined us, fresh from his Friday evening match with Toulon, and at half-time we gave a pitch-side trophy parade which the crowd really connected with. The fans play such a big part in the game and it felt great to engage with the Twickenham faithful again.
I am immensely proud to be one of the England Rugby 2015 Ambassadors for the tournament and having been inspired by the Rugby World Cup from a young age myself, I know that RWC 2015 is a golden opportunity to inspire a generation of youngsters to play and support the Game and ultimately to create a lasting legacy for the Game in England.