Rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio
PUBLISHED: 16:34 13 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:28 20 February 2013
Rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio talks to Tessa Harris about Wasps, Wycombe and his new charity foundation
When I first catch sight of Lawrence Dallaglio OBE at Wasps training ground in Action, hes actually practising his golf swing in an office without a club I should add. One of the greatest rugby players of all time may have been more at home wearing his famous Number 8 shirt on the pitch than a cashmere sweater on the fairway, but he is also a keen golfer, often playing on courses in Bucks and Berkshire and often raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process.
Golf is a great way to relax, have fun and raise money at the same time, says Lawrence.
Since he left the rugby pitch on a momentous high last year when his team beat Leicester Tigers to the Premiership title in front of a capacity crowd of 81,600 at Twickenham, the former England rugby captain has a little more time to devote to the other things he cares about. One of his biggest priorities is the new Dallaglio Foundation, launched in November.
Lawrence explains: I lost my mother to cancer last year and I decided to set up a charity in her name. Ive got a number of initiatives and the club has adopted it as its official charity. Our logo is on the back of the team shirt and I have a laugh with some of the players that its the only way I can get my name on the shirt these days, he jokes. In reality, of course, his name will always rank near the top in the rugby roll of honour.
Winning virtually every accolade in the game, he can list honours with the Barbarians, World XV, British and Irish Lions, England and England 7s. He is also the second most capped England player with 85 caps and 85 test points to his name.
Lawrence may well have played his last professional game for the club where he has stayed throughout his remarkable 18-year career, but at 37 he remains very much at its heart. Joining Wasps as an Associate Director last year, hes now on the clubs new-look board headed up by Bucks millionaire businessman Steve Hayes, who also owns Wycombe Wonderers Football Club.
Hayes has big ideas for both clubs and his vision is certainly shared by Lawrence. For me the aim has always been for Wasps to be one of the eminent forces in European and world rugby. In order for us to do that we need to grow and clearly other clubs are playing in bigger stadiums, in front of bigger crowds, he says.
Adams Park, on an industrial estate in High Wycombe, is a far from ideal venue. It only seats 10,500 and match day traffic congestion and parking are always problematic. Just over the border in Berkshire, London Irish RFC enjoy the modern facilities of the 22,000 capacity Madejski Stadium at Reading and Lawrence feels Wasps need and deserve something similar. In order to be competitive, we need to move on, he says.
There is, however, no danger that the team that attracts such a loyal following from Buckinghamshire and Berkshire residents will be looking for a new home out of the area.
We are in talks with the council and there is a desire to keep Wasps in the Bucks area, says Lawrence. We are all committed to finding a viable solution for Wasps to build a 20,000-seater stadium in the Bucks area.
A spokesperson for Wycombe District Council said that a report they had commissioned on the financial viability of a new stadium concludes that the proposals are potentially viable and that there is a reasonable chance of meeting the Clubs (both Wasps and Wycombe Wonderers) ambitions for a new stadium in 2013/14. However it also acknowledges that there are significant challenges ahead.
The fan base is growing all the time and Wasps love being in Buckinghamshire
At the moment a site near Booker Airfield on the south side of the M40 is the preferred option. The Adams Park Stadium, is, however, on Green Belt land and its future use throws up more problems.
The fact that Wasps has never had the best training facilities or grounds, however, has not held it back on the sporting field. Says Lawrence: I joined the club because they were top of the league. I really liked what I saw. The club didnt have most amazing facilities. It wasnt glamorous but it had soul and character. For me its always been about the people.
He looks back on his time at the Wycombe ground, where the club moved in 2002, with particular affection. Adams Park coincided with the most successful period in the clubs history. We were the dominant team in European and world rugby for a couple of years. Indeed, in the seven seasons since the Wasps came weve won seven trophies, so its been a good ground to us.
He goes on: A lot of our supporters traditionally come from the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire corridor anyway and that whole Thames Valley area and when the opportunity came to move to High Wycombe we took it. Its an intimate ground and a very friendly place to go and watch rugby. Its also obviously a football ground and that suits the Wasps style of rugby which is fast and free flowing and attractive to watch.
Adams Park allows you to really engage with fans and ultimately its a ground, from Wasps perspective, which has been incredibly successful. He adds: The fan base is growing
all the time and Wasps as a team loves being in Buckinghamshire. We think its great.
Although Lawrence lives with his wife Alison and their three children in Richmond, he knows the area around Marlow and Maidenhead well, having trained at Bisham Abbey. As a child he used to live in Pinkneys Green until he was six and now enjoys eating at some of the areas best known restaurants as a treat he emphasises.
The day I received my OBE at Windsor Castle we went to The French Horn at Sonning to celebrate. I also like the Fat Duck and the beautiful Waterside Inn at Bray, he says. The Vanilla Pod in Marlow is another favourite, where owner Michael McDonald is a huge Wasps supporter and even sponsors young England player James Haskell.
Of course when Lawrence joined Wasps straight from school Ampleforth College way back in 1988, rugby was still an amateur sport. Made captain at just 23, he took the club to the English league title in his first season, and has since led them to numerous victories, most recently in 2007/08 with that famous finale at Twickenham.
So now Lawrences newest challenges are off the pitch. His most ambitious fund-raising project to date will coincide with Februarys Six Nations Tournament. He explains: Its the Dallaglio Cycle Slam. Were cycling during the Six Nations starting off when England play Italy in Rome. We go on to Paris, then to Twickenham, then Cardiff to Dublin to Edinburgh. The fixture list was a little bit unkind but we visit all six countries, taking in three of the matches. Theres a core of five or six of us and well be riding a total of 2,888 km in just 28 days. On each leg we shall be joined by 40 or so cyclists and well have a lot of fun.
The aim is to raise 1 million for Sport Relief and the Dallaglio Foundation, which will give its funds to Leukemia Research, Cancer Research UK, the RPA Benevolent Fund, DebRA, the skin condition charity and Help for Heroes. Lawrence also plans to be back at Twickenham, although not playing, for the big St Georges Day match when Wasps play Bath in their Guinness Premiership Round 21 fixture. One pound from every ticket will go to Help for Heroes. The match, set for April 24, 2010, becomes one of the biggest occasions in the Wasps calendar after the RFU agreed a three-year deal to host the game at the home of English rugby.
Itll be a great game on a great day for a great cause, says Lawrence. You cant argue with that.
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