Lawrence Dallaglio: 'Lol's' Legacy

Matthew MaloneyCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2009

One year has now passed since Dallaglio last scrummaged for London Wasps and over 2 years has passed since that faithful night in the Stade De France where he was to make his last appearence for England; ironically against the very team he debuted for England against, the current top ranked team in world rugby union, South Africa.

It is now time too look back on the legacy of an undoubted great of the game.

Although this piece in no way seeks to make a definitive assessment of Dallaglio's legacy within the game, perhaps it should be seen as hopefully a reflection of the tone future treatments of his career, successes and triumphs will take.

Without doubt, Dallaglio is one of the most decorated players in the modern game, particurlay in terms of the professional era in the Northern Hemisphere.

With 5 English Premiership titles, 3 Powergen Cups, 2 European cups, 4 six nations championships and a career pinnacle World Cup winner's medal,  Dallaglio can look back at his medal haul with a level of satisfaction very, very few players have had or will have the privilege of having.

Of course like many other great sportsmen or women, the trophies, titles and medals are also a reminder of the sacrifices made to attain them.

In Dallaglio's case, a litany of troubles come to mind here, not least the highly controversial and potentially career destroying News of the World cocaine scandal in which he became mirred in whilst captaining his country for the first time.

The tragic loss of his sister in his teenage years in the Marchioness Disaster and later, the breakdown in his relationship with his spouse and mother of his 3 children also must spring to mind.

As he himself puts it: often rugby became more an "escape" and a "home from home" than a job or lifestyle as life went on.

Dallaglio is an unbelievably frank man at times, labelling himself an "emotional retard" and "indulgent" in his book. And you do get the impression, rugby often became a professional excuse of sorts for him not to deal with self-confessed, more important aspects of his life.

Do the personal troubles then add more colour or provide an unforgivable blot to his legacy as a great of the game?—I think the former.

Dallaglio was made to pay dearly for his foolhardiness as part of the 'honey-trap' the News of the World had prepared for him. He was stripped of the captaincy and fined (which he informs us he later got back, by way of apology from th ERU).

Although the ramifications of the "show-trial" set up by the ERU may have ended many an England career, Dallaglio eventually did take a paper to court winning damages and reparing his reputation somewhat. The retirement of Martin Johnson and his reinstatement as England captain was the final triumph in this sorry chapter, although bittersweet in itself as he was to retire, temporarily as it turned out, himself.

Triumph over personal misfortune isn't the only thing that must factor in when considering his legacy: The sheer longevity and breadth of his career is almost unparalleled within the game.

Beginning his career in the amateur days of rugby union in England, Dallaglio was called upon to adapt and later shed some of the more enjoyable aspects of that bygone era.

He freely admits never "having seen the inside of a gym" until his early twenties for instance. Likewise, a recurring theme in his book is a fondness for a trip to the pub.

Of course, this isn't to paint Dallaglio as a working class hero of sorts, he did come from a decidedly middle-class family, but nonetheless the change to professional rugby and his later excelling during the professional phase of his career winning titles with Wasps right up to his retirement provide an interesting caveat to his achievements.

Longevity indeed.

Son of an Italian immigrant and an Irish mother with decidedly Irish roots Dallaglio faced many major decisions quite early in life as regards international rugby.

Its impossible to say whether I'd be writing this if he really had ended up an Italian international (of course as an Irish international it would have been very interesting indeed!) but clearly for his own sake, in hindsight he made the right choice.

Massive disappointments with the schoolboys selection where rewarded with a breakthrough period with the first England Sevens world cup squad which went on to win the first ever World Cup in that code of rugby.

The trailblazing, much like the later success in the World Cup and appearances in consecutive world cup finals didn't end just with England however. The breadth of his career is perhaps finally illustrated with his adventures with the Lions.

As a winning Lions tourist as part of the now legendary 1997 (and last successful) Lions Tour to South Africa, Dallaglio left a quantifiable legacy outside of England and the Northern Hemisphere.

Although later tours were to be marred by injury, in almost ironical fashion being forced to pull out of the 2005 tour was to save his relationship with his now wife and keep his family together.

The end of his Lions career was to provide Dallaglio an opportunity to save his personal and family life and an important realisation for the Wasps man was gleamed about keeping his eye on the ball off the field as well as on.

Finally, Dallaglio's role at Wasps for close to two decades cannot be understated.

Captaining the club successfully in the transition from the amateur and professional eras and leading his only club to unprecendented domestic and European success, he is sure to be never forgotten by Wasps supporters, probably attaining the recognition of being the greatest Wasps player of all time in this regard—for both his playing and his undoubted loyalty to the Wasps ideal of a "family club".

So when assessing Dallaglo's legacy then, taking into account the trophies, personal problems he had to overcome, the longevity of his career, and the breadth of his achievements as Wasps captain, England captain and regular international, Lions Tourist with the England Sevens it is impossible not to understate that "Lol", like him or loathe him is one of the all time greats of rugby in my opinion.

There may have been better no. 8s out there in the past (or then again maybe not), there were probably better England captains previously, and obviously even more legendary Lions Tourists (through injury misfortune limiting him to one test series you could argue) but taking everything above about his legacy into account however, it is hard even for me as an Irishman, not to respect Dallaglio's career and what he brought to the table as both a rugby player and a man.

This has been a review of Lawrence Dallaglio's autobiography 'It's in the Blood: My Life'.


"Lawrence is a born leader. If you had a group of blokes stuck in the jungle, he would become a leader of that group"—Martin Johnson (current England head- coach, ex-Leicester and England captain)