King of the Hill

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King of the Hill

Rugby World Cup winner Richard Hill talks to us ahead of his Dubai visit

By David Light

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Published: Tue 23 Apr 2013, 8:44 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:09 AM

It may not possess the international acclaim St. Patrick’s Day appears to garner, yet nonetheless, for the people of England St. George’s Day is held in equal esteem and its popularity has only enhanced over the last few years.

In Dubai, the annual Long Lunch in honour of the patron saint, always held at one of the city’s swankier establishments, has also gone from strength to strength with its unique mix of jovial patriotism, great food and national star guests.

This year The Westin will welcome rugby World Cup winners Richard Hill and Neil Back alongside the current Miss England, Charlotte Holmes, who will all endeavour to entertain with an amusing question and answer session during the meal.

Here we speak to Richard to find out more.

What can you tell us about the Long Lunch?

For me, it’s all geared around the Restart rugby charity which will be the beneficiaries. They do some fantastic work and help with families who have to deal with the difficulties in life that result from injury in the game.

Do you do this type of thing often?

I have been known to. This will be the fourth time in Dubai. If you look at the weather we have had to endure in the UK, it will be a welcome break.

The rugby scene here mostly revolves around the 7s. Does the discipline have much of an international following?

The Dubai 7s is one of the prestige tournaments of the 7s calendar. The sport is gaining momentum since its introduction into the Olympics. It gives countries less traditionally associated with rugby the chance to break into the game. America, Portugal and Kenya are all doing well.

Do you believe many players can make the step up from 7s to full 15s?

Lots of people have made the step up. I didn’t do a huge amount, but I did travel to some tournaments. It gets your hand in. You experience tournament rugby against fellow professionals.

You recently stated you’re leaving your club, The Saracens, after 20 years with them. How does it feel to be doing so?

It has been a special two decades with one club. It’s not to be anymore, but I’ll look to stay in the game. I still want to hold my association with rugby and I feel I have a lot to offer younger players. There is so much pressure on an 18- year old coming into the game right now. They don’t necessarily get the support they need on or off the pitch.

Did you feel you had sufficient support at that age?

I was fortunate in that England were monitoring myself during the amateur days. They kept me grounded in order that I would go on and represent my country.

There wasn’t as much of a network then as there is today, though. However, that’s the way it should be, as it’s a professional sport now.

Do you think the rise in profile of rugby players has contributed to the added pressure for young professionals?

In comparative terms they are superstars today, but not compared to footballers. Since the 2003 World Cup I believe the visibility of the players has increased in England and we saw that by the 2011 World Cup where their every move was documented.

What is your professional view of the last World Cup from an England perspective?

It was a tournament that didn’t end the way anyone wanted. There will always be high expectations. There were some off-field antics, which marred things, but ultimately it comes down to results that weren’t good enough. We have to look forward to 2015 when England will host the tournament.

Just how often do people ask you about your World Cup win?

I get a question every so often. I don’t mind talking about it. We all worked extremely hard and it was the product of many years worth of effort. We made mistakes along the way, but it all came together at the right time. Receiving that trophy after that game against Australia was definitely one of the proudest moments of my sporting life.

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