RWC winner Dallaglio returns to his roots
When Lawrence Dallaglio talked last week about how excited he was to see Rugby World Cup 2015 coming to England in two years’ time, it was fitting that the venue for the media briefing should have been Staines RFC as the England Rugby 2015 Ambassador has a deep and long-lasting connection with the club that first introduced him to the sport.
The formative years
In 1980, the London-born youngster played his first game of rugby at the age of eight for Staines, where he would spend the next five seasons playing minis rugby. The young Dallaglio could scarcely have imagined that one day he would be returning to Staines as one of the most decorated and successful England players of all time, and the former back row was clearly excited to be back.
“Staines was my first ever rugby club and I’ve got some wonderful memories here. This is really where my career as a rugby player got going, back in the days when it was a hobby and we were just playing for a bit of fun. I had a great few years here and it’s really nice to be back.”
Dallaglio is also a big believer in the value of encouraging youngsters across the country to take up the sport from a young age, and wants to see more people get involved with all aspects of rugby.
“Only a few clubs are elite and professional. The rest of the Game is about grassroots and rugby at every level. People up and down the country start playing the Game as young as six these days. It’s all about getting people involved in the Game, not just in terms of playing Rugby but also off the field too.”
Even after he moved to London Wasps and received his first England call-up, he didn’t forget his roots.
“I remember making my England debut several years after leaving Staines and presenting the club with the shirt I wore against South Africa at Twickenham. So it really is great to be back here and celebrating just two years to go until RWC 2015 in England.”
After leaving Staines, Dallaglio was very much a one-club man, playing for Wasps between 1997 and 2008 and amassing 180 appearances for them. His career eventually came to a fairytale end as he led Wasps to a 2007/08 season Premiership Final victory over Leicester in front of 81,000 at Twickenham, in what was his last match for the club.
Inspired by rugby’s showpiece event from a young age, RWC 1991 left Dallaglio with some unforgettable memories.
“I went as a young teenager to watch the RWC 1991 Final at Twickenham, and saw England lose by a couple of points to Australia. That created a memory and a dream for me, and an aspiration to one day try and get there myself and I was lucky enough to do that and get a wee bit of revenge on Australia.”
Dallaglio went on to realise his dream, making 17 RWC appearances for England at three tournaments between 1999 and 2007, and was the only player to play every minute of the victorious RWC 2003 campaign in Australia. The powerful number 8 played 85 times for England during his career, with his first and last Tests coming against South Africa in 1995 and 2007 respectively.
More than just a tournament
Over the course of his career Dallaglio has seen the Game go from strength to strength in England, and he believes that RWC 2015 will act as a catalyst to encourage more people to play rugby.
“Rugby has been growing for a long time and RWC 2015 is an opportunity for it to get even bigger, and to make the sport as accessible as possible. The tournament arrives here in two years and it’s a very exciting time for the sport in this country.
“It’s really all about getting people talking about and celebrating the Game over the next couple of years. And when RWC 2015 kicks off we’ll build on that excitement and inspiration, and give people lasting memories way beyond the tournament.”