Interview with World Cup Winning Rugby Legend – Lawrence Dallaglio OBE
September 4, 2023

World Cup Winning Rugby Legend 

Lawrence Dallaglio OBE

by Jon Orchard

Lawrence, thank you for talking to What’s the Buzz? Magazine. Let’s journey back to 2003. Could you share your recollections of the tournament and the final? Additionally, in your perspective, what additional element do you believe is essential to secure victory and claim the World Cup?

There have been 9 Rugby World Cup Tournaments since the inaugural one back in 1987 and all but one tournament to date have been won by the three Southern Hemisphere Countries NZ, South Africa and Australia. We won the Six nations Grand Slam in 2003 and later that Summer beat both NZ and Australia away from home before going on, as the No 1 ranked side in the world to win the World Cup on that famous night in Sydney on 22nd November 2003. We won 7 matches including that final v Australia. The most important thing about winning is believing you can win and that belief was certainly a key ingredient in our overall success in the tournament.

We managed to get to the final with very few injuries and selected our strongest possible team to take the field that night. The other crucial ingredient to winning was the overall strength and fitness of the team and squad. In a game that went to extra time we were able to make changes late in the game that ultimately affected the outcome of the match itself. We were undoubtably the fittest team in the world at that time..

You must be excited for the upcoming world cup in France, how do rate England’s chances?

England seemed to have struggled to build on their success in reaching the World Cup Final in Japan 2019. The RFU decided to continue with Eddie Jones as Head coach but made the decision to remove and replace him with Steve Borthwick only a year out from this year’s tournament. Perhaps the lack of expectation and pressure will help them to spring a few surprises but their current form is patchy and they are still searching for the consistency and quality in their performances to challenge for the trophy itself. I can’t remember a tournament where England’s form and results have been so far away from what I would call the best teams in the world. Whilst England do have a favourable pool and draw, the winner is more likely to come from the four highest ranked teams currently in the World – Ireland, France, South Africa or NZ with in my opinion current holders South Africa and Hosts France probably being the pick of these four..

Who was the best player you played with?

I’m very proud to say that the best players I have played with and against are English. Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard, Richard Hill, Neil Back, Jonny Wilkinson and Jason Robinson to name a few would go down in history as some of the greatest players to ever have played Rugby in any era.

Your charity, Dallaglio Rugbyworks is changing young peoples lives all over the country. Can you tell me about the charity?

Of course! RugbyWorks is a venture I’m really proud of. Approximately 160 young people are excluded from school every week, which has a drastic effect on their future. To put it into perspective, 63% of the prison population have experienced school exclusion and only 4% of these young people get “good” GCSEs. Exclusion disproportionately affects those from disadvantaged backgrounds, which is why RugbyWorks exists, to change the odds for these young people.

My team are doing some fantastic work across England and Wales engaging young people in our programme using the power of rugby. They build fantastic relationships with these young people to not only increase their physical fitness, but to teach them the key life skills they need to succeed. They encourage them to take part in CV workshops and Career Taster Days, which allows them to experience the working world and see where they could fit in someday in the future. This is an opportunity most of these young people would not get elsewhere. To supplement all of this, we also run mental health workshops and specific programmes for girls with additional workshops focusing on body positivity and female health. 

Currently, 89% of our young people are in sustained education, employment or training when they leave the programme compared to the national average for excluded young people of 62%. Despite this, there is still lots of work to be done and we need support to reach even more young people, so I’m excited to see how much more we can grow over the coming years..

A big part of your charity is the Dallaglio Cycle Slam. I have been lucky enough to cycle with you, I found it incredibly challenging and very rewarding. The 2024 Slam is set and people can sign up now. Tell me about the slam?

Cycle Slam is the largest fundraiser we do at RugbyWorks, so as you say, it’s a huge part of the charity. We started the event in 2010 where myself, Freddie Flintoff and a group of exceptional and dedicated riders cycled between all of the Six Nations stadiums, which was pretty spectacular. Over the years, the Slam has evolved and gone from strength to strength and we are returning in 2024 for Cycle Slam number 7!

In April 2024, we will be heading back to Italy and starting the ride in Rome. We will be heading across the Italian Riviera to eventually finish across the border in Nice over 10 days of cycling. Italy obviously holds such a special place in my heart and the scenery we’ve got coming for this Slam is just beautiful, so I’m very excited for this ride.

As much as we get to cycle through and experience this spectacular scenery, I can’t tell you how tough it can get, I mean it is a charity cycling challenge after all! There are a few really tough days on each stage where you cycle up some pretty tough mountains and of course the heat doesn’t always help. However, the camaraderie on the Slam is like no other. You are so highly supported by the peloton around you and you are powered to go on by the fantastic cause you know you’re raising money for. There’s no feeling quite like it.

We also have the most fantastic team organising the Slam, so the hardest part of your day is the cycle itself. Your food is all taken care of, your luggage is in your room by the time you get to the hotel and you have mechanics, physios and medics on hand when you need them. The service is like none other!

I’m sure you’ll agree Jon, there’s no event quite like the Slam. It is truly special and I’m excited to welcome a whole new group of riders on the 2024 event. If you’re a keen cyclist, then this certainly is the event for you. You can sign up on our website and join us in April 2024, it’s going to be a good one!

You can find more information about the Cycle Slam here

Watch the Cycle Slam film from 2022.