A text arrived as I was driving down to Bristol to my hotel where I was staying before I made my way to Cardiff for the Wales v All Blacks game. Being the responsible driver I am I ignored it until I parked up. Dave Nicoll In The Loose main man was asking me if I wanted to interview either Ben Youngs or Richard Wigglesworth on Monday evening? I had to think for about 30 seconds before I replied along the lines of ‘Do cows produce milk?’
The interview was to be a phone call, kindly arranged by O2 England sponsors; crikey that was a whole new thing for me to contemplate! Stupidly I felt quite nervous about the prospect! You’d think face to face would be more nerve wracking – but nope I felt quite worried about messing it up as I answered the phone to Richard or as we Saracens fans know him – Wiggie!
I had no need to be concerned as in common with the other Saracens players I’ve met and interviewed Richard was very easy to talk to; a pleasure in fact. I usually go with the flow but this time I’d prepared some questions – so here we go!
What was your earliest rugby memory?
Starting at Kirkham Grammar School at the age of 11 Richard had never played rugby before, never really picked up a rugby ball. He went to the after school trials, was picked and played a game the following Saturday!
What is your best club rugby memory?
This was too hard to pick one answer for – Richard explained that winning the Premiership Final with his first club Sale was a dream; playing with close mates he’d been with for years as a professional. Yet he couldn’t separate winning the same final against Leicester Tigers with Saracens in 2011. Having made a big move south ti only his second club that was an amazing experience.
What is your best England rugby memory?
At the age of 31 Richard has been in and around the England set up for years playing in the U18’s schools team and being a prominent member of the U21’s team who won the Grand Slam in 2004. His best memory (so far) comes from his 1st start against France, to run out at a lively Stade De France was a great experience; to score the winning try off the wall at the age of 24! Slipping past one of his team mates added to the joy.
Which fellow Saracen do you most admire?
Richard did consider this question but moved quite easily to Charlie Hodgson;a man he’s played inside of for all but one year of his professional career! His consistency & longevity at the top level of the game over a period of 15 years sees him put in outstanding performances week after week.
Which international player do you most admire?
I deliberately didn’t ask which England player did Richard admire here as I wanted to give him a world wide choice of scrum halves. This again came easily as he spoke about Joost van der Westhuizen a man of astonishing ability; he scored 190 points in his 89 appearances for South Africa and is recognised as one of the greatest of all time.
Joost is suffering form the debilitating motor neurone disease and is raising awareness across the world. He visited both Saracens and the England camp recently and in Richard’s words it was a privilege to meet him – he was humbled to meet and talk to the great man.
What does your week look like when you’re in the England Camp?
This seemed a strange question but it’s hard to have any concept of what life in the England Camp may consist of. It seems there are lots of meetings through the week; On Monday morning the whole group meet to review the game; then the players head into a weights session, before another short meeting followed by some rugby training.
On Tuesday the group split into their forwards and backs teams largely working on defence. By Tuesday evening players have an idea of whether they stay or return to their team. Wednesday is a day off so players all tend to go home on a Tuesday evening to have family time if applicable.
Thursday sees them back in the gym lifting weights before a team session – then on Friday that famous captains’ run we’ve all heard about!
What’s it like joining into a team with men who are in effect rivals for every other game?
The game of rugby can be very lively on the field; we often see ‘handbags’ exchanged but every game finishes with a handshake – It’s great to join the others in the training camp.
What other sports do you watch? And which team do you support
Richard answered my two questions in one with a very quick response – he’s a Manchester United man! But to his wife’s disquiet he’ll watch most sports especially if England are playing – as a good Lancashire man he enjoys a spot of cricket viewing too!
We spoke briefly about his hopes for both his club and country this season and of course in 2015. In his words ‘ There’s nothing bigger than playing for England and playing in the shirt is enough motivation every time’ He, like all England and Saracens fans hope both peak at the right time.
A Monday night release of 3 players including Danny Care suggests we’ll be seeing Wiggie run out at some stage in that England shirt on Saturday; this week I’ll be there and will be yelling him on and willing him to score the winning try, against the Australians this time!
Get behind the scenes news from Richard Wigglesworth and his England team-mates with O2 Inside Line. New YouTube episode every Wednesday athttp://o2.uk/InsideLine. #o2insideline