Q&A: ER 2015 Ambassador Maggie Alphonsi
One of Women’s Rugby’s leading lights, Maggie ‘The Machine’ Alphonsi, is one of the England Rugby 2015 Ambassadors alongside Lawrence Dallaglio, Will Greenwood and Jonny Wilkinson. She’s already played in two Women’s Rugby World Cup Finals with England, losing both times to New Zealand, the most recent a 13-10 loss on home soil in 2010. The flanker is targetting another in Paris in two year's time, but she took time out to talk about her Ambassador role.
How did the ambassador role come about?
The organisers (England Rugby 2015) wanted the Women’s Game to be part of the lead-up to RWC 2015 and I was kindly asked by (ER 2015 CEO) Paul Vaughan to take that role on. To be part of a big event in your own country, to help to promote it, is something I’m very passionate about. I love the Rugby World Cup so I couldn’t turn it down. It’s a massive honour – not many people get the opportunity to do that. How many people can actually say they’ve been to a RWC. I’m very fortunate to be in that position and along with Lawrence, Will and Jonny, we’re going to do our best to promote it and express what it will bring to our nation.
What does the job entail?
It’s to try to make sure we promote the tournament’s key values and the legacy we want to achieve. And it’s about making as many people as possible, not just fans, want to be part of it.
What kind of legacy do you want RWC 2015 to leave behind?
The biggest thing is to create more opportunities for people to get involved in the sport. What we see after most big sporting events is more people wanting to take up the sport, so hopefully we’ll see more females and males doing that, as well as people getting involved at grassroots level, for example as as a volunteer or assistant.
What lessons have been learned from last year’s RWC in New Zealand?
RWC 2011 was obviously a fantastic event but hopefully RWC 2015 will be even better. RWC 2011 was hosted in such a way that everyone who went out to New Zealand had a great experience and similarly RWC 2015 will be unique to England.
With the population and sporting landscape of the UK differing greatly to New Zealand, Paul Vaughan has spoken about creating hubs of support for rugby around the venues.
By having regional centres you’re opening up the games for more people to see. And by playing games in areas where rugby may not be the first sport, that’s going to be very beneficial.
How would you sell a RWC to someone who isn’t a hardcore rugby fan?
Having been involved in a (Women's) Rugby World Cup myself, the biggest thing people need to appreciate is that you get to watch some fantastic rugby – the best teams in the world competing for the biggest prize in rugby. If you look at RWC 2011, the Final was amazing, the games leading up to it were amazing, but what’s really special about a RWC is the atmosphere it brings. It’s an opportunity to be part of that.
What’s been the highlight of the Ambassador role to date?
So far it has been expressing my values and getting out the message that I want people to be part of it. I want to engage everyone, from every background, be they male or female, and from every area of England and I have a voice to do so – that’s quite special.
What are you most looking forward to about RWC 2015?
I’ve never been to a Rugby World Cup in my own country, but to be part of something that’s going to be so big, I’m very excited. Having the 2012 Olympic Games in our country is absolutely fantastic – the nation is joining in with it, people want to be part of it and RWC 2015 will get the same response, people will want it to be successful and are very much looking forward to the home team doing well.
But before 2015, you’ll be looking to go one better at Women's Rugby World Cup 2014?
I hope so! You’ve obviously got to get there first, but to have the experience of winning a RWC, that feeling must be amazing. 2014 in Paris will be absolutely fantastic and what would be better than to win the Women’s RWC in 2014 and then for the men to do exactly the same in 2015?
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