‘Rugby values’ are two words often thrown about in English school rugby circles perhaps sometimes without too much thought as to what they actually mean.
In Lawrence Dallaglio, English rugby has a man who seems to have a perfect understanding of what rugby values are and what they embody, particularly for young people and those who need a helping hand in life. As his Dallaglio Rugby Works charity launched its rebrand in a collaborative new office space in central London, he spoke to NextGenXV about his school rugby experiences, his charity, and the positive force that he believes rugby to be.
The 2003 Rugby World Cup winner spoke from personal experience, his sister tragically lost her life in the Marchioness disaster in 1989 and Dallaglio felt that rugby played a crucial role in keeping him on the right track in life.
“My life changed from the age of 16 onwards and I needed something that was going to help me to switch things in a positive direction, and that became rugby. So I think I know better than anyone the power of what a sport like rugby can do to really put you on a positive path to change your mindset and to make you start living and breathing those values.”
He has used that tough personal experience in his work through Dallaglio Rugby Works, instilling the values he felt through rugby at Ampleforth College to help young people that need it: “We’re an educational charity that uses sport, and in this case rugby, as a hook to get people to move their lives forward in the right direction. We use the values of rugby about respect, teamwork, discipline, enjoyment, and sportsmanship because I think those values of rugby are really important metaphors for what happens in your life.”
It was a tough rugby upbringing at Ampleforth, though, nowadays even at school level player workload is managed carefully, but back in the 1980s it was just rugby, rugby, and more rugby.
“Ampleforth is a Benedictine school, a Catholic school…and there was only one thing they took more seriously than religion at Ampleforth, and that’s rugby. That was made pretty clear when I first arrived. Rugby was very much part of the curriculum, we used to train at first break, second break, every break, in fact there were no breaks and if there were they were filled with rugby training. So it was very much part of your everyday life.”
“It didn’t come naturally to me initially, and it maybe became a bit more fun when I grew from about five foot eight to about six foot four, over one summer. It was the start of a journey for me at Ampleforth really because that’s when I started to take rugby seriously. I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would end up playing professionally or as a career, it was just a hobby, along with a number of other sports at that time.”
A hobby at the time, perhaps, but the man who would go on to captain England for a period, tour three times with the British and Irish Lions, including a series win in South Africa in 1997, and captain Wasps to Premiership and European Cup titles, enjoyed some serious success in his school years, too.
He was a part of the only side ever to win both the Open and the Festival at the Rosslyn Park 7s when Ampleforth did the double in 1989 and it was a feat that Dallaglio gained a huge amount from, and workload that would put the frighteners on plenty nowadays!
“It was my first experience playing seven-a-side rugby and I really enjoyed it. It was great to come down to London as the Northern side and take on all sorts of teams from all over the country…we played four consecutive days of sevens and managed to win the tournament, it was a great experience and gave me the feeling of what it’s like to be in a tournament, to be part of a winning side, and that experience of going up there to pick up a trophy and be part of something collectively. I think that’s the real buzz, it isn’t an individual sport rugby, it’s a collective sport and you rely on each other.”
Ultimately, you sense that that’s what it all comes down to for Dallaglio, that collective aspect that he wants to bring to his charity’s work:
“What I (first) loved about the game is that it is a game that is genuinely played by all shapes and sizes. I think it’s a community that is inclusive and I really felt that (at Ampleforth), I felt part of a family. It celebrates difference and togetherness and I think that’s something that is quite unique about rugby, in fact, it’s our differences that bring us together and unites us on the pitch.”
In these strange times both in life and in sport, never has that sentiment rung truer as rugby, and schools rugby in particular, looks to emerge better and stronger as the world reopens.