Former England Rugby Captain & Founder of Dallaglio RugbyWorks
One of the all-time greats of British sport, the former England captain has a special place at the very heart of rugby.
He has given so much back too, raising millions for charity and also through his own charity, Dallaglio RugbyWorks, based on the values of rugby, helping thousands of young people reach their potential.
Lawrence, a huge welcome to our Leadership Interview. It’s a real privilege to talk to you.
Ok, so you got 85 caps for England and won 60. If you had to, what would you say is the best 60 seconds of your career?
Beggars can’t be choosers and all that but it would have to be 22nd November 2003. One could argue it’s the first time you run out on the field for England because that certainly feels like the best 60 seconds but after you’ve got one cap you kind of want a few more. Probably the excitement and relief of winning the Rugby World Cup final in 2003 in extra time though.
You’ve run into quite a lot of people at high speed in your rugby career. Who hurt the most?
Not one individual generally but the SA rugby team were, in my mind, the people that hurt the most. They were so physically big and strong and powerful during the time I was playing rugby, which was quite a while ago now. Certainly with the SA’s you ended up the most battered and bruised after a game against them. The more mentally challenging games were against NZ.
Can you describe to us in everyday terms how it felt for Jonah Lomu to run into you at full speed?
He did try but naturally, I knocked him back several times. I was lucky enough to play against the late, great Jonah Lomu and he was in the winning side which was a shame but such was his impact on the game of rugby in such a short space of time. It wasn’t just his size that was intimidating but the speed he could run at really.
If you can imagine someone as quick as one of 100 metre runners but also as big as and powerful as anyone bigger than that so it was quite terrifying but he was a phenomenal player really.
I actually managed to break his nose but not on purpose I might add! I was making a tackle and as he was scoring, would you believe, against England in the 1999 World Cup and I got pushed in the back by one of his teammates and my knee might have accidentally hit/pushed his nose. That probably wasn’t best thing to do. Rugby is quite gladiatorial, let’s put it that way!
What qualities did you discover in yourself early on that made you such a natural fit for getting the captain’s armband? Did your young age, 25, hinder you or encourage you?
I always had tremendous belief, both self-belief and also belief in those around me so I think ‘powerful persuader’ is really best way to describe someone in my field.
if you can take people with you in a powerful and emotional way, then you have got every chance of being successful. The self-belief you are going to win and capable of winning is crucial as a lot of people don’t have that, then being able to communicate it too.
If something needs to be said, then you say it and if it doesn’t need to be said, you don’t need to say it. It’s about having that feel for what needs to be said at the right time.
In terms of age, when you are young, you don’t tend to think so much. It’s more about your deeds than your words. I certainly enjoyed it and felt my life experiences before I played rugby helped enormously. I’d already been through a fair bit so it prepares you quite well.
What first gave you the confidence that you could become a leader or motivation to try your very hardest?
Probably thrust in quite early on without any thought really and once you are in that situation, it’s sink or swim really.
I was thrown in at the deep end a little bit and looked around the room. There were people a lot older than me as well but I think you just get on with it and you know you have got the help, support, and encouragement of others and that’s just as important.
Obviously, someone has to make the decisions but over and above that, it’s about sharing and collective responsibility really and making sure everyone feels that they can make a good contribution.
In 1994 you were a surprise pick to tour South Africa and meet Nelson Mandela. What was he like? Was it a good learning experience?
It was quite a historic time. We were the first sports team to tour there post-apartheid so that in itself made it quite a historic occasion.
The country was swept by this euphoria and this amazing feeling really and hope for the future. I remember lining up on the pitch against South Africa and Nelson Mandela coming down the stairs being introduced to everyone. President FW de Klerk was right behind him, who was equally important in the whole peace process, so it was amazing to be involved in a moment in history as there was a man who was imprisoned and probably wrongly persecuted and there you were. Mandela having been around for such a long time. He had an amazing presence about him and unifying presence and I think that’s the key.
It was great honour to meet him in 1994 and the photo of him and Pienaar a year later in the World Cup remains one of the most iconic sporting photos you’re ever likely to see really.
Perhaps you don’t get too nervous or flustered in those situations but it was an amazing feeling, a moment you don’t tend to forget.
You’ve rubbed shoulders with some highly influential business leaders and sportspeople. Who have you met that has that thing? That greatness that’s hard to quantify?
From a sports perspective, we all have heroes growing up and I had many but it would have to be when I got to meet Viv Richards who played cricket for Somerset and the West Indies. He has an aura about him and was a gentleman, very generous and warm with his time. That for me was one of most inspirational meetings I have ever had.
Then from a business perspective, I spent some time with Sir Richard Branson. He has a very different aura about him but equally as positive and energetic a man as you’re ever likely to meet. Very warm, kind, enthusiastic and very ‘can do’ and actually very inspirational.
Branson has a restless energy and a spirit we’d all love to have and there’s a magic about being around him. He was fun!
Read Part Two here Influential Leaders: Lawrence Dallaglio