Take That, Laura Wright, Ella Eyre, Andrea Tryana, Collabro, a 48 piece orchestra, Vernon Kay and….. The England Rugby Squad and Coaches. Looking at that list before the Wear The Rose Live Event at the O2 Arena and it all looked a bit odd really!
That’s a very mixed list and this is going to be very mixed piece about the evening – consider yourself warned! I was contacted over the summer about a project being put together on behalf of O2, they were looking for 100 keen and committed, social media savvy England rugby fans; would I be interested. The whole thing sounded just up my street so it was a resounding yes from me!
And so I became a part of the Rose Army movement, personally that’s involved me taking 15 England rugby shirts to The Oval while the Ashes was going on in a bid to get cricket fans on film, swapping their shirts for a rugby jersey (believe it or not I’ve only just cottoned on to them being jersey’s not shirts!). I managed to get my 15 videos and not only that, 7 of those filmed were Australians and one Welsh! One Aussie shouted “Go Poms!” at the end of his video, the Welshman looked as if his skin was crawling but he still wore the Rose!
The following weekend I had a tougher job of trying to persuade rugby league fans to Wear The Rose, I was amazed that it was harder than getting Australian cricket fans in the white shirt! But, I persuaded a few and one of them is even featured in The Sun! (ironic that the one fan photo in a double page spread is of a league fan!)
The other 99 were off and doing quite crazy things as all this was going on, including getting French rugby fans and a whole Ice Hockey team to Wear The Rose, we had a LEGO men animation to peruse, all properly kitted out too!
The Wear The Rose has weeks to run, but as a reward we were all invited to this odd event at the O2 Arena. As a big Take That fan on top of being a rugby fan it was a no brainer for me. Oddly there are 4 of us from Chelmsford in the Rose Army and I met 2 of my fellow rugby mad friends, Paul and Matt at Stratford, it was good to arrive with company at an event for a pleasant change.
There were lots of familiar faces as we all rocked up in our England shirts, we were led in turn the the O2 Blue Room where we could introduce ourselves and mingle, oh and take lots of Wear The Rose selfies of course! I along with Andrew had a bit of a secret mission we’d been primed by email about answering a couple of questions during the evening on the big screen, so met with Andy the warm up compere/comedian. A 5 minute chat and we’d sorted out what was going to be asked and answered.
We took our seats and waited for the evening to fully start, the England squad were heartily cheered as they walked in to take their seats. Our seats were near enough to the lads for people to grab some selfies and get a few autographs; I made a beeline for Jonathan Joseph for my 3rd photo with him, at some stage I guess he’ll think I’m stalking him! I had a lovely chat with his parents and was very interested to learn that his sister is in the England Netball set up, what proud parents they must be!
So, what was this evening going to be like, I think before I go into more detail I can sum it up in one word! Inspirational! The very amusing Andy warmed the enthusiastic crowd up before Vernon Kay came to the stage. I enjoy watching Vernon on the TV and he was a real presence live, perfect for this event. The evening was to be a mix of musical performances, introductions to the players, short interviews and for me the real highlight a short speech by Stuart Lancaster England’s Head Coach.
We were introduced to the squad by category if you like, first of all the Front 5, who almost to a man looked uncomfortable, Jamie George tripped as he was coming up the steps, but he’s a very confident young man and wasn’t perturbed at all. It seemed that the more ‘glamorous’ the position the more confident the players were. Although James Haskell, who, as an aside, has to have some of the biggest hands I’ve ever seen, was great on the microphone.
What was completely plain from the conversations with Vernon was the regard the players hold each other in, the team spirit shone through! This is a group of men from various Premiership clubs, rivals week in week out, yet it’s clear that they’ll give everything for each other during the World Cup!
I’ve trawled the internet to get excerpts from Stuart Lancaster’s speech, I really can’t emphasise enough just how inspiring he was – so here are a few of his words.
“Let’s be on the front foot about being English, we want people to believe in us from Cornwall to Cumbria because we believe in ourselves.
“We don’t want a fear of failure to kill any of the dreams we have. This is a young side but I’m very proud of every one of them. There’s one intangible that these 31 players have got and that is heart”
Stuart emphasised the importance of being proud to be English and being loud and proud in support of the England team; it was wonderful! I hope the recording will be available for as many people as possible to see.
For many in the Arena the England boys were the main attraction, but of course Take That had drawn the odd person in. I am a fan myself and I have to say they were as always wonderful! Even with their dwindling numbers they put on a great show!
The event was quite remarkable – what a way to send the team off to action! A quick mention for the Make Them Giants animation, it’s a must see! Oh and I have my few moments up on the big screen – I wasn’t at all nervous, well not until it was over!