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A Life Less Ordinary – Lawrence Dallaglio

Lawrence Dallaglio, the rugby great on staying fit after peak sport, secrets of success and psychedelic time travel.

Lawrence Dallaglio played rugby for Wasps from 1990-2008. He retired from international competition after the 2007 World Cup final, his 85th appearance for England, with whom he won the World Cup in 2003. He also toured three times with the British and Irish Lions, winning three caps. He now works, among several things, as a pundit for BT Sport and for his charity, RugbyWorks.

Where do you go to think?
I live right next to Richmond Park, one of the most beautiful spaces in London. Monday to Friday it’s nigh-on empty, except for the deer, and it’s a great place to get lost and think. I might take the dog for a walk or just go for one myself.

What are the everyday pleasures that you can’t live without?
Good coffee and exercise. I spent the best part of 20 years getting smashed up playing rugby all over the world, but now it’s different. For me now, exercise is something I need to enjoy myself, keep fit and stay sane. Cycling tends to be my thing these days. Running with my frame and joints isn’t really right now. I just got back from a big charity ride, cycling from Geneva to Lyon, but I usually just ride around Richmond Park and Surrey.

My father taught me how to cook, but equally importantly he also taught me how to shop, because you can’t cook if you don’t know how to shop first

To whom do you look for advice most often?
My wife, Alice. I would have said my mum, before she died in 2008. I have been with Alice for over 21 years. We’re good soulmates and she can tell me the way it is very quickly.

What’s the best thing you’ve done for someone else?
I set up a charity, RugbyWorks, that gives young people an opportunity to improve their lives. We work with kids who have been excluded from mainstream education for one reason or another, and through the medium of rugby we help them get their lives back on track and then hopefully into full-time employment. I’m committed to it, and to the idea of giving back in this way.

What’s the best thing anyone’s done for you?
My parents worked their fingers to the bone to give me every opportunity I had to move forward in my life. They sacrificed things for themselves to put me through school and ensure I had the best possible start. That was unconditional love, which is the best thing you can give someone, quite frankly.

Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
Italy, and Lake Como in particular. I got married there, I am Italian by blood on my father’s side and Italy has been a very special place for me, with lots of fond memories. I go back once or twice a year.

What’s the best thing you can cook?
Anything Italian, really, from simple fresh pasta to something a bit more complicated, like osso buco [braised veal shin]. My father taught me how to cook, but equally importantly he also taught me how to shop, because you can’t cook if you don’t know how to shop first. He and I were lucky enough to do a cook book together, with 100 Italian recipes. The lovely thing about Italian food is that it’s seasonal, regional, simple and everyone likes it.

How do you make yourself happy?
Surrounding myself with family and great friends, with good food and good wine. This is really important to me, so I make sure that this sort of thing happens as often as it can. I’m very happy to be in a restaurant and let good cooks do the work.

Name the art and/or culture that most inspires you.
Modern art and architecture inspire me. My wife is a ceramic artist, and her mother was Picasso’s muse in 1954, and went on to become an artist in her own right. There are a lot of creative juices on that side of the family. I’ve lived in London all my life and one of the great things about that is world-class galleries, collections and exhibitions on your doorstep. I go as often as I can.

Can you name something you’ve bought that you would never give away?
I’m not really sentimental about material objects. My house? Possibly, but even then, we could live somewhere else. We don’t buy art because my wife makes it. Actually, I’ve got an Italian road bike that I really like. It’s handmade, by Milani, and it would be pointless to give that away because it wouldn’t fit anyone else.

When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised?
I’d have to say it seems like this happens a fair bit. I suppose that makes me lucky to know nice people who do nice things. One that sticks out is my last birthday [Dallaglio turned 45 in August 2017]. We were on holiday on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, which was amazing in itself, but the family got together and cooked me a wonderful surprise dinner.

When was the last time you made or created something?
A wedding anniversary card for my wife. Let’s say it was a very time-sensitive creation. A lot of thought and effort went into it, though.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I am immensely proud of setting up RugbyWorks, but that continues as a collective effort by many people. For myself, I’d have to say managing to play rugby for nearly 20 years.

What do you consider humankind’s greatest achievement?
Getting to the moon. Hard to beat that – well, Mars, perhaps. Would I go to Mars? I think I’d have go to the South Pole first.

Who best demonstrates, or has demonstrated, the courage of their convictions?
My mother Eileen. My sister died in 1989 [she and 50 others were killed when the pleasure boat she was on, the Marchioness, sunk after a collision on the River Thames in London] and there was no public enquiry. My mother bought one share in Ready Mix Concrete, the firm that ultimately owned the other boat, and went to the AGM. She listened quietly and when it got to any other business, she put her hand up, and spoke her mind for an hour-and-a-half. Everyone hung their heads in shame.

What song could you sing most completely right now?
Mack The Knife, the Louis Armstrong version. I think I could sing it all. You’ve got to remember that rugby players are brought up singing songs.

What’s the best journey you’ve ever been on?
Most memorable is my first trip to Ibiza, in 1989. I was 17. Need I say more?

If you could do one thing to change the status quo, what would it be?
We’re living in uncertain times, so I would confiscate all the nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and focus the attention on the real issues we need to deal with: mass starvation, poverty and inequality.

You’ve one trip in a time machine: where and when would you go?
I’d like two weeks in the psychedelic 1960s in England. Fun-loving, free-spirited times. I really like the idea of that. Or maybe one of the first Glastonbury festivals.

If money were no object, what would you buy?
A big house on the beach by the sea. Having lived in London all my life, I’d love to see what that would be like. It doesn’t have to be somewhere warm. Devon or Dorset would be great.