x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dallaglio: I wish I was playing for Wasps today

The World Cup-winning No 8 is not the only one who is envious of the Wasps and Harlequins players who will meet on the lawn of the Emirates Palace hotel this evening.

Lawrence Dallaglio, the rugby great, likes Abu Dhabi so much he wishes he was playing again.
Lawrence Dallaglio, the rugby great, likes Abu Dhabi so much he wishes he was playing again.

ABU DHABI // In two and half years since retiring, Lawrence Dallaglio has rarely hankered after a return to the muddy-fields, ice-baths, high-impact collisions and high-stakes confrontations of professional rugby.

But the Emirates Palace hotel could make even the most wizened ex-player wistful about the past.

"I wish I was playing in this game, and there are not many times I have said that since I stopped playing," Dallaglio, the former England captain-turned-Wasps director, said yesterday.

The World Cup-winning No 8 is not the only one who is envious of the Wasps and Harlequins players who will meet on the lawn of the luxury hotel this evening.

Shaun Edwards, the Wasps director of rugby who is currently in camp with Wales ahead of the Six Nations, spent most of his latest newspaper column bemoaning the gloating text messages sent his way from the UAE.

Dallaglio and Edwards enjoyed stellar playing careers. They are not people who impress easily.

"A lot of players - and some coaches, like Shaun - get the chance to breath the rarefied air of international rugby," Dallaglio said. "For those who get left behind there is always the feeling of missing out. It is not bad for them to get one up on their international colleagues."

Richard Birkett, the Wasps flanker, takes up the theme. "I've taken a lot of pleasure in taking pictures of the us all enjoying the sunshine around the pool and sending it to the lads who've been called to the England training camp, like Joe Worsley and Simon Shaw," he said.

"It takes a lot to make those boys feel jealous of us, but they definitely envy the chance we're getting to come out here and play."

In his new role on the Wasps board, Dallaglio has been one of the key drivers behind bringing this evening's LV Cup match to Abu Dhabi.

The idea of playing a competitive UK fixture abroad has found some detractors back at home, but Dallaglio can only see positives from the project.

"It is a cynical view to say, 'Why are they doing this?'," he said. "The reasons are much more about rugby than anything commercial. It is about extending the reach of rugby and of Wasps into other areas.

"It should be looked at as an innovative and exciting move. I first came here in 1993 and was lucky enough to win the Dubai Sevens with White Hart Marauders.

"I played my first game for England here as a sevens player on the sand. It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

"Some of these younger players will remember this trip in the same way, and hopefully it will set them on the path to where they want to go for the rest of their careers."

pradley@thenational.ae