TAGS: London IrishOspreys LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS READING, ENGLAND – JANUARY 16: Sailosi Tagicakibau scores the first try for London Irish during the Heineken Cup Pool Three match between London Irish and Ospreys at Madejski Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Reading, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images) London Irish have finally got back to winning ways. Their back-line functioned very well and looked dangerous throughout, but it was their power in the forwards that saw them through. They competed well at the breakdown, won a few penalties at the scrum and their driving game was superb. They always attacked in numbers to overpower the Ospreys defence and did the same when they were on the back foot to prevent the Welsh side scoring.Now they have their confidence back they will look to revive their Aviva Premiership ambitions. From then on, the Ospreys were chasing the game and simply couldn’t keep in touch. Dan Biggar missed two penalty goals and when they moved James Hook to fly-half, in an attempt to play a more dangerous attacking game, they still couldn’t make it across the whitewash.The Ospreys have already said this season that the Heineken Cup quarter-finals were their target – now they will have to focus on the Magners League as yet again they fail to live up to the expectations in Europe. And with no Welsh side able to qualify for the last eight, the Millennium Stadium will be offering no one home advantage for the final. So London Irish ended their run of ten straight defeats – and the Ospreys ended their hopes of making it to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, writes Rugby World Features Editor, Sarah Mockford.The Exiles love to play rugby, to spread the ball wide and create space for each other. Often this season it has cost them but against the Ospreys it paid off. Delon Armitage enhanced his England claims by slicing through the Ospreys midfield seemingly at will and was involved twice in the move that led to Sailosi Tagicakibau’s early try.The Ospreys had chances of their own, particularly from restarts, but they couldn’t make the pressure tell, even when the Exiles were down to 14 men late in the second half. Too often they drove forward on their own rather than in numbers and they couldn’t break through the Irish defence, which was immense throughout.The same could not be said of the Ospreys, who were broken easily again in the first minute of the second half. Daniel Bowden split the midfield, passed out to Elvis Seveali’i and he put Topsy Ojo clean through to score under the posts.
Alan Lewis shows yellow to Springbok Bakkies Botha during an international against New ZealandInternational referee Alan Lewis has announced his intention to retire from refereeing at the end of this season. With 45 major international test matches to his credit, including a Rugby World Cup quarter final and games across the RBS 6 Nations Championship and the Tri Nations, Lewis is one of the longest serving IRFU International referees.He also holds the record for matches in European competition with an incredible 83 matches, 71 of which were Heineken Cup matches, including three semi finals and the Heineken Cup Final in 2007.Talking about his decision Alan Lewis said, “Now just feels the right time to finish up. It’s a natural progression and one I have been discussing with my family and Owen Doyle in the IRFU over the past few months. I feel very privileged and honoured to have been involved at this level for so long. I have enjoyed every minute hugely.” Commenting on the recent announcement of the Rugby World Cup referee selection he added, “Of course there’s a twinge of disappointment (at not being selected), I wouldn’t be human if there wasn’t. The main thing now is to wish all match officials great enjoyment and success in New Zealand.” Owen Doyle, IRFU Director of Referees said, “What an extraordinary and successful career Alan has had and his record speaks for itself. He has always brought so much to the game, both on and off the pitch. His dedication and his enthusiasm have been unsurpassed. I am really now looking forward to continuing to work with him, albeit in another capacity. His expertise and communication skills will help enormously in developing the next generation of elite referees.”Caleb Powell, IRFU President commented on hearing the news and said, “Alan has made an immense contribution to our game, both domestically and on the world stage. His commitment and ability serve as a real example to all those aspiring to referee at the highest level.” LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Referee Alan Lewis shows Bakkies Botha of South Africa (L) the yellow card during their rugby union Test match against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland on July 10, 2010. AFP PHOTO/BRENDON O’HAGAN (Photo credit should read BRENDON O’HAGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Or perhaps you’d like a digital version of the magazine delivered direct to your PC, MAC or Ipad? If so click here. For Back Issues Contact John Denton Services at 01733-385-170 visit Eoin Reddan training with IrelandMartin johnson had warned about premature talk of a Six Nations Grand Slam. The England manager knew only too well that playing Ireland in Dublin in the final round would be a sizeable obstacle in his side’s bid for a clean sweep – but no one predicted that the men in green would derail the chariot in quite such spectacular fashion.Until that final round, Ireland had gone through the championship in fits and starts. They defeated Italy with a last-minute drop-goal, lost to France at home, crucified a 12-point lead against Scotland to scrape a 21-18 win, and came up six points short against Wales. England, on the other hand, were enjoying a run of victories that had last been seen in Johnson’s playing days. But it was Ireland who came out of the blocks firing and they stormed to a memorable 24-8 win.Ireland scrum-half Eoin Reddan says that the result – and the performance – had been a long time coming, to the frustration of the team. And the fact that it came against an England team in pursuit of their first Grand Slam since 2003 made the victory all the sweeter.“The criticism (from the media and public) wasn’t unfair, people just wanted us to play better than we were,” says Reddan. “Teams always want to stop whoever’s trying to win a Grand Slam. We knew we had it in us, so we were trying to stay positive and not get too bogged down in our excuses or a lack of confidence. We weren’t very happy with the way we played against France and we knew when we got back to the Aviva (Stadium) we were going to have to put in a better performance. Everyone was so up for that game.”So if Ireland had their best performance waiting in the wings all along, why did it take until the final week of the championship for them to show their true colours? One area where they outweighed their red-rose opponents was in experience, something which Ireland have in abundance, and Reddan says credit must be given to Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell for the intensity they brought to the pitch. The duo also helped the team alter their approach for the final match, and to worry less about the game plan and concentrate more on their pride in the green jersey.“One of the most important things is their work-rate,” Reddan says of the two talismans. “Physically they’re good, and they’re competitive. It’s great to have guys who are so talented, and their ability to keep on working for 80 minutes and keep the team moving is phenomenal. They were honest in what they said about being physical on the day.“Irish teams in the past have had an abundance of spirit but probably lacked technical skills, whereas we were technically very good but probably weren’t playing with as much emotion as we could have been. So we needed to tap into that natural passion that people have when they play for Ireland and not worry about the technical side too much.“The tough work was done in training, so we focused more on being abrasive and we were technically a lot better because of it. Focusing on individual rivalry wasn’t going to help. We had to set our own standards for ourselves.”The battle for Ireland’s half-back positions was as fierce as ever during the Six Nations, and Reddan claimed the starting jersey against Scotland, Wales and England ahead of Peter Stringer and the injured Tomás O’Leary. He played alongside Ronan O’Gara for the trip to Murrayfield, but by the time England arrived in Dublin his Leinster team-mate Jonathan Sexton had been reinstalled at No 10. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS The pair will return to the Aviva Stadium later this month to take on Leicester in the Heineken Cup quarter-final, a team that Reddan is familiar with from his days at Wasps. He knows how tough it will be to tame the Tigers, who are dominating the Aviva Premiership, but he is looking forward to entertaining them in Dublin.Reddan won the Heineken Cup with Wasps in 2007 and would dearly love to win the title again, not least because decent form in Europe would help him keep his nose ahead of his Munster rivals in the race to the World Cup. But Reddan is a team player, and while he has loved being in pole position he says everyone has an important place in the squad whether or not they’re in the starting XV.“I’ve been playing the game for a long time and I know sometimes you’re the one getting picked and sometimes you’re not,” he says. “You can still have a big impact when you’re not picked by taking it in the right way, and putting your best foot forward for the sake of the team.“There’s nothing you can do about the World Cup now. You’ve just got to try to focus on the club and push as hard as you can there. It’s all go, and you’ve got to keep on going and keep your head down and push as hard as you can.”With such competition for both half-back positions – and throughout the squad – Declan Kidney will be the envy of many of his coaching counterparts come September.This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.Find a newsagent that sells Rugby World in the UK
NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: Andy Long of Northampton looks on during the Aviva Premiership match between Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers at Franklin’s Gardens on April 14, 2012 in Northampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images) Experienced hooker Andy LongThe twice capped England international, Andy Long, possesses a wealth of first class experience and will add to Gloucester’s front row options next season with the likes of Darren Dawidiuk and Huia Edmonds already on board.Having started his career at Bath Rugby, he has since gone on to represent Munster, Rotherham, Newcastle Falcons and Northampton Saints. His stay at Franklin’s Gardens has seen him win an LV= Cup winners medal and anchor the Saints set piece in the absence of skipper Dylan Hartley.As well as representing his country, the Poole born player is also closing in on 200 Premiership appearances – a significant achievement. Despite all he has achieved in his career, Long admitted that the prospect of playing at Kingsholm for Gloucester is an exciting one. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS “I’ve been fortunate enough to play for some great clubs in my time, but I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to joining Gloucester and playing in front of one of the most passionate crowds in rugby. I’ve always relished playing there and have experienced some great battles in front of the Shed.“Gloucester have made some great signings for next season and I’m looking forward to playing my part in what should be an exciting season. In the meantime, however, I’ve still got work to do for the Saints and am 100% committed to that. The club have been great to me and I’ve enjoyed my time there.”
During winter, make sure you are keeping to your training regime and ensuring your body has the right nutrients by eating a balanced diet; as we’ve mentioned, plenty of protein is essential for muscle recovery, but don’t skimp on vitamin-packed superfood fruit and veg like dark greens and berries, as well as snacks like almonds and brazil nuts for natural energy. Other key winter ingredients are legumes and pulses (like kidney beans) for extra protein and fibre, and invigorating herbs and spices such as ginger and cayenne pepper. Easier than eating a whole meal, and convenient for carrying to training, whey protein in powder form has significant benefits to a training diet. Protein is the essential building block of muscles, and when you’re training hard, your muscles are the components of your body doing the most work. Eating protein-rich foods or drinking a protein shake in the ‘golden hour’ after exercise helps replenish the body with essential protein used during exercise, therefore combating fatigue, muscle soreness, and improving the quality of your muscle.We’ve found that taking in whey protein through powder or shake form is one of the most effective for training purposes, and can be a lot more economical that purchasing other forms of low-fat protein (like organic chicken). Buying in bulk, just like with most purchases, is useful too, and can be a lot easier on your wallet. If you’re just starting a regular, intense training regime, then buying whey protein in bulk will ensure that you’re fully equipped for the rugby season and won’t be missing out on vital training and recovery time. Tonga’s forwards practice their lineouts as the team prepares for their next 2011 Rugby World Cup match, in Wellington on September 27, 2011. AFP PHOTO / WILLIAM WEST (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images) LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS DURING THE colder winter months it can feel like a struggle to train, but following a strict yet fulfilling training and diet regime can help you to retain your form, as well as increasing your overall fitness and abilities.Naturally, human beings are geared towards sunshine and warm weather; running around in the freezing cold is the antithesis of what our bodies want to instinctively do during poor weather and wintry conditions. We’re more likely to store fat in winter as a protection against the cold, as well as our body clocks being altered through darker mornings and evenings. All in all, winter can seem like a terrible time for the human body – but with a series of useful exercises and simple dietary changes, keeping your body fit and healthy for the rugby season is possible.During colder weather it’s even more important to get your muscles suitably prepared before a match or full training session, so ensure that you do plenty of prep exercises as well as a warm-down afterwards in order to help your body recover.Alongside a range of exercises to help your body train effectively through the colder winter months, having the right sort of diet is essential. While our bodies might be crying out for plenty of carbs and winter stews, one of the most essential components for a training diet is protein, which helps muscles recover quickly after exercise, and builds up muscle mass. One of the simplest ways to up your protein intake during winter is to use powdered forms of protein, such as whey protein, immediately after a training session.
It was only the second defeat of the season for Ulster and the win moved Munster above them in the table, up to fourth place. The SaintsSemesa RokoduguniBath stole a valuable away win at Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership thanks to an 88th minute try from wing Rokoduguni. Trailing 10-6, his team had laid siege to the Chiefs’ try-line since the 79th minute, earning a series of penalties and opting to scrummage each time. Exeter kept Bath out until a scrum was finally completed without the referee needing his whistle and the visitors attacked. They patiently kept the ball through 11 phases before George Ford found Rokoduguni on the right with a great pass.The wing had been indicating he fancied his chances in a one-on-one against Gareth Steenson and sure enough he stepped the Chiefs fly-half, leaving him lying on the turf, then wrong-footed Olly Woodburn and dotted the ball down over the line. Ford’s conversion added the finishing touch to the 13-10 win. Mitch LeesWhen a team loses by three points there are lots of “if only” moments to contemplate and after Exeter Chiefs’ 13-10 home loss to Bath, one of those was a soft penalty conceded by Mitch Lees.Midway through the second half, with the scores tied at 3-3, Lees played Kahn Fotuali’i at the back of a ruck when the scrum-half didn’t have the ball, then foolishly looked up at referee Ian Tempest to check if what he was doing was OK. It wasn’t, and Tempest awarded the penalty which George Ford kicked from 45 metres to give Bath a narrow lead. Not me, ref: Steve Shingler (centre) plays it cool as Aaron (lying down) is sin-binned. (Huw Evans Agency)Steve ShinglerThe naughty Cardiff Blues fly-half owes his brother Aaron a drink or three after tackling him off the ball in the last 12 minutes of a pulsating Welsh derby and then raising an imaginary yellow card in approval as referee Lloyd Linton wrongly sin-binned the Scarlets flanker for the challenge instead of him.Steve Shingler had already blotted his copybook by throwing out a foolish pass which was easily intercepted by Aled Thomas to create a length-of-the-pitch try from DTH van der Merwe. That had put the Scarlets 21-7 up but the game was still just about in the balance at 26-15 when Aaron Shingler was sin-binned for the off-the-ball challenge which was actually made on him, not the other way round.Referee Linton attracted a lot of criticism for this mistake and other controversial calls during the match and in the case of the sin-bin error, he was badly let down by his assistant referees and the TMO, none of whom alerted him to the fact he had shown a yellow card to the wrong man. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Josh MatavesiThe Ospreys centre played out of position in the No 10 jersey and piloted his team to a 35-17 Guinness Pro12 win over the Dragons, earning the Man of the Match award. Matavesi’s break and deft offload set up the first of two tries for the ever-impressive Keelan Giles (who has now scored eight tries in four games for the Ospreys) and the Fijian also took on the place-kicking duties and converted all five of his team’s tries.Matavesi was asked to play outside-half because both Dan Biggar and Sam Davies are on Wales duty and he showed that he can do a sound job as playmaker.Perfect ten: Josh Matavesi (left) slotted in well at fly-half. (Photo: Huw Evans Agency)Tom KessellYou don’t have to score a try to be a Saint and Northampton’s replacement scrum-half Kessell earns his place on this week’s list with a crucial, match-winning turnover.The Saints were 23-20 up on Gloucester with 80 minutes of their Aviva Premiership clash gone, but were hanging on for dear life at Franklin’s Gardens as the visitors attacked. Charlie Sharples was hauled down five metres from the line and Kessell got stuck in at the breakdown, preventing the Gloucester wing from recycling the ball. He earned a penalty for Northampton, bringing the match to a close and securing the win.Kessell had already scored what turned out to be the winning try in the 69th minute, so it wasn’t a bad 20 minutes off the bench for him. That winning feeling: Zebre’s delighted players celebrate a rare victory. (Photo: Inpho)The SinnersEdinburghThe Scottish team became the first to lose to Zebre in the Guinness Pro12 this season, falling to a 19-14 loss at BT Murrayfield.Giovanbattista Vendetti scored the winning try after Damien Hoyland raced up out of the line on the wing to attempt an interception and Federico Ruzza then popped a short pass to Vendetti who scooted up the left to score.Edinburgh had trailed 12-0 earlier in the game so the defeat was definitely not down to that one mistake by Hoyland. Allan Dell knocked on with the line at his mercy earlier in the game and the Scots were generally well below par, despite having enjoyed a three-match winning streak in October. Dance of delight: Bath’s players congratulate Rokoduguni on his late try. (Photo: Getty Images) Finishing touch: Tim Visser celebrates scoring the final try. (Photo: Getty Images)Tim VisserWorcester conceded two interception tries in their 36-14 Aviva Premiership defeat at Harlequins but the first of the pair was more down to great work from Visser than to a wayward pass from the Warriors.In the third minute the huge Quins wing reached up to tip and then gather a pass from Dean Hammond on his own 22 and then handed off Chris Pennell on his way up the pitch. When the Worcester defence caught him, Visser offloaded superbly to Danny Care who scored the try which gave Quins a 7-0 lead.In the final minute of the game Visser got his own name on the scoresheet with the fifth of Quins’ tries, to complete a happy afternoon for him and his team. Key kick: Rory Scannell sends his winning drop-goal on its way to the posts. (Photo: Inpho)Rory ScannellThe Munster centre kept his cool and kicked a late drop-goal which earned a 15-14 win for his team at Ulster in the Pro12.Munster had been 14-0 down but fought back – helped by a try at the end of the first half by Scannell. Inside the last ten minutes Munster were pressing inside the Ulster 22 and set up the chance for Scannell to claim the three points. He had to stoop to his right to take the pass but still found the target with his kick.Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson had a chance to steal the victory with a drop-goal of his own at the death, but missed. TAGS: MunsterOspreys Several of this weekend’s Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro12 matches turned on late scores – but who were the match-winning heroes and who were the villains who made the crucial mistakes? Ryan LambThe first interception try Worcester conceded against Harlequins can’t be blamed on a risky pass, but the second can. Harlequins were 24-14 up when the Warriors were attacking on the 22 and Lamb, standing very flat, passed the ball just in front of the defensive line. Joe Marchant read his pass, snaffled it up and sprinted 80 metres to score the try which gave Harlequins their bonus point.Lamb is a terrific, creative player and sometimes the risks he takes pay off, but this time his ultra-attacking play cost his team.
Saracens back-row Ben Earl has already been called up into the England senior squad – find out more about him here LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS RW VERDICT: Earl scored a try on his first Premiership start – against Exeter – and has captained England U20. His maturity is evident and he was called into the England squad for the tour of South Africa.This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Rugby World magazine. Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. TAGS: Saracens Break man: Ben Earl in action for Saracens against Bath (Getty Images) Who’s been the biggest influence on your career? Rory Teague got me into a professional mindset. He was my academy coach at Saracens and got me to knuckle down and be disciplined. When I was 17, I was overweight and I didn’t understand the value of being fit. Ian Peel is another big influence and Dean Ryan gives advice.What’s your preferred position? Seven. There are certain responsibilities at eight you don’t have at seven. You have more freedom defensively and in attack, making it more suited to the player I am.What do you do away from rugby? I’m studying comparative literature at Queen Mary University. You compare texts from the same culture or period or genre. Recently I did an essay comparing the book The Reader to the film Fahrenheit 451.Your faith is also important to you… I went to Tonbridge School and was confused as to why we spent so much time in chapel, so I thought I should find out more. It’s not always about rugby but life in general; it probably offers a bit of perspective if things are going well or not so well. Hotshot: Saracens and England U20 back-row Ben EarlDate of birth 7 January 1998 Born Redhill, Surrey Club Saracens Country England Position Back-rowWhat sports did you play growing up? I did much more cricket than rugby. I was an all-rounder and played for Kent until I was 15. I also did swimming until I was 13. I was third in the country at freestyle but I stopped because it wasn’t taken seriously at my new school.So when did you get into rugby? I was 11 or 12 when I first touched a rugby ball and I was much bigger than everyone else, so I found it reasonably easy. It’s got progressively harder as I’m still the same size! I started at Tonbridge School and then joined my local club, Sevenoaks.I didn’t think much about anything professional until I was 16. Once I got picked for England U16 I thought I’d give it a bash.What positions have you played? I started at centre/wing, then progressively moved forward. I moved to the back row at 15 – I wasn’t sure about mauling; I’ve only recently found its value being at Saracens.Who was your childhood hero? My family are really into golf so Tiger Woods. I admired his passion – it’s all about winning. My handicap is 11 or 12 on a good day, but the next day I’ll have a shocker.
Family photo: South Africa wing Cheslin Kolbe with his daughter after winning the World Cup (Getty Images) The electric winger discusses soda, superpowers and sports cars LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Downtime with… Toulouse and South Africa wing Cheslin KolbeHow were the World Cup celebrations in South Africa? It was awesome. From the moment we landed in Johannesburg, the welcome we got from supporters was incredible. They were so happy about what we had done, winning it.My daughter loves the medal because she thinks it’s chocolate! She keeps fooling around and taking bites at it. It’s quite funny. My parents and wife love it.What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on a pitch? During the World Cup, Anton Lienert-Brown got his pants pulled down.Your funniest team-mates? With South Africa it’s Lood de Jager. He always has a few jokes and cheers the boys up. He loves to sing and maybe he’ll be a rapper after rugby, so he backs himself singing and rapping. He’s an entertainer.Any pranks you can share with us? At Toulouse, Maxime Médard will go into lockers and take shoes or car keys or something like that and then when you try to go home you can’t because you don’t have anything. He is always busy messing around and hiding stuff.Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with? Trevor Noah. He’s funny and you can have good chats. He’ll entertain you for however long you’re stuck in there.Do you have any phobias? Snakes. If I ever see one I’ll be gone, no doubt about that!What’s your silliest purchase? I’m quite good with my money, I spend it wisely. At Toulouse, Rynhardt Elstadt is always buying things that don’t pitch up or are not allowed to be shipped to France – he won’t end up getting what he ordered.If your house was on fire and everyone was safe, what would you save? I’d probably run up and grab all my watches. I collect them, I love my watches. I have about 12 of them.What’s your guilty pleasure? Chocolate is something I can never, ever say no to. Once I open a packet I’ll finish it right away. I’m a lover of fizzy drinks like Coke too. I’m quite a sweet-toothed person. I’m lucky I don’t really put on weight easily. I’ll put on 1 kg a year if I’m lucky!What winds you up? This article originally appeared in the January 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m not a person that really gets angry, but when you try to get a point across and you know that you’re more than 90% correct and people don’t listen to you, that pushes the wrong buttons.Who would be your three dream dinner party guests? I would go with Christian Cullen because I’ve always looked up to him for the kind of rugby he played. Then it would be Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, because of wrestling and his special moves! And then I’d go into soccer and invite Thierry Henry. I’ve never been that much of a soccer fan, but when I was younger I would watch Arsenal. He was awesome.If you could have one superpower what would it be? To be invincible. So that I don’t always have to dance around everyone but also as I don’t want to get smashed by the big okes!How do you relax? I’ll lay on the couch with my feet in the air or I’ll get in a nice sports car and drive around. I love my cars. I don’t get much chance to do it in France, so whenever I come back to South Africa I try to get nice wheels, throw myself into it and drive around. My dream car would be a Nissan Skyline or the Nissan GT-R R35.Any hidden talents?I’m trying to learn a bit of golf. I’ve not played that much so I’m a bit all over the show on the course.What do you miss about South Africa when you’re in France? I do miss the home-cooked meals and a braai. And spending time with family and friends.If you could be any team-mate, who would you be? Damien De Allende. He’s one of the most down-to-earth people you will meet. He’s one of a kind. He knows when to have fun and when to be serious – he’s an all-round person.How would you like to be remembered? As someone who is respectful to others and a person who never gives up.What would you like to achieve after rugby? To be well looked after, to look after the family and be comfortable with that life. I would like to look at business opportunities and work with youth, to inspire other people who were in the same position as I was in growing up.Where I grew up there probably weren’t the best schools and there was a community with a lot of crime and drugs. I’ve grown up with a lot of support from my parents who laid the foundation. We had a great example – great role models who kept us going with other things going on around us.
Strokes don’t just affect the elderly, as Steve Ojomoh knows only too well. The former England No 8’s toughest battle came off the pitch and here he relives the experience “I got seen in A&E in Bath and the next thing I’m in an ambulance going to Southmead Hospital (Bristol). My blood pressure was absolutely ridiculous. The ambulance was the most uncomfortable ride ever; for me the determination was to just hang in there. All those bumps, just hang in there.“The next thing I know is I wake up and they’re asking me all sorts of questions, I’m being pinched and stuff. What’s your name? What’s your age? I was a bit disorientated, I thought I was in a Jason Bourne movie. My wife tells a very good story about that, I said to her about half lies and half truths.“When I came round, they said, ‘Do you know why you’re here? Do you know what you’ve had?’ I said, ‘No, not at all.’ They said, ‘You’ve had a stroke.’ My first thought was that’s what old people get. It didn’t make sense to me. I was surprised.“I was in recovery and had to start doing all these cognitive tests to get everything going again. They said my stroke was caused by high blood pressure. That can be a hereditary thing. My mother suffered from hypertension, it never occurred to me. Black people, West African people, tend to have a propensity for high blood pressure.“You would have thought I would have done all these checks. There were days where I’d get a nosebleed and I’d just think it’s a cold day or something, but these are the triggers. I never thought anything about it. I’d been operating with this high blood pressure for a while and not knowing. This is something I could have had on and off for ten years.On the hoof: in action on his England debut, a 13-12 home defeat by Ireland in 1994 (Getty Images)“But it was a combination of things that caused the stroke. On the exercise front, that had stopped compared to what I used to do. But the habit of what I ate hadn’t changed as much, I was still eating a lot of carbs. So that’s one thing.“But you look at the run-up to October 2018; I had just buried my mother, in May. An African funeral is like no other; dealing with that, being her only son, the responsibility falls on to me. I came back from Nigeria and continued with life without having grieved. All that built up without me knowing it.“I now take blood pressure tablets every day, a lifetime thing. I go to the gym once in a while, I wear this watch and will do a minimum of 10,000 steps every day. And I try to step back and avoid stress now because stress does not help. I have a good manager. I have to let go a bit and give the manager more responsibility.New outlook: Ojomoh has made lifestyle changes. “But you’ve got to live a bit.” (Andrew Sydenham)“Was I working too hard? It was everything. It was helter-skelter. I internalise a lot of things and when you’ve got that pressure cooker, everything is cumulative over time. Over the years the business had a stress, the funeral, the lifestyle, coming to work, going home, drinking.“The alcohol side of things I stopped totally, I changed my diet. The shock of the stroke led me to totally change what I put in my body. I’m more aware of my body but the slack has loosened a bit. You’ve got to live and I now allow myself drinks now and again. But what I was doing previously, 2017, 2018…“On my left side I still have days where if somebody’s there I don’t see them. Or if I bend down to pick something up too quickly I get disorientated. The lucky thing is that I never lost movement, so I was fine that way.“I spent a lot of time recovering last year, from being here (at the nursery) five or six days to two half-days. I spent a lot of time by myself and with that you reflect a lot. The word ‘grateful’ comes to mind. I look at each day as a blessing. I’m just trying to avoid things that would bring me back to that day.“I package it up, put it in a box, whoosh. Just like I did with my mum’s funeral. Some day it catches up. I haven’t been able to go in and dissect it. “You sometimes hear people say, ‘So-and-so passed away’ and it takes me back. Oh my God, that could have been me. What would have happened to my daughter, to my son, all these things. I can’t help but feel very blessed.”Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Steve Ojomoh: The day I had a strokeOne in six people in England will have a stroke during their lifetime, writes Alan Pearey. And more than a third of first-time strokes occur in middle-aged adults (age 40 to 69), according to recent Public Health England statistics.From rugby, Michael Lynagh became a high-profile stroke victim in 2012. And in April, Bristol centre Will Hurrell retired from the sport following a suspected stroke in January. It followed an incident against Leicester that was assumed at the time to be a head injury.Steve Ojomoh, the former Bath and England No 8, also knows what it’s like to experience the life-threatening medical condition. Ojomoh was 48 when he suffered a stroke in October 2018.Rugby World went to meet him at one of the two children’s nurseries he owns, Little Willows in Bath, for a feature published in our April 2020 issue. Below is a more detailed first-person account of the events of that fateful day and how it has impacted on his life…Buoyant: celebrating Bath’s victory over Leicester in the 1996 Pilkington Cup final (Getty Images)“Looking back, when you piece it all together, you can see how the stroke manifested itself. I had a meeting booked with my nursery manager and in my head that was always going to be stressful because we were discussing pay increase for staff; she would naturally fight the staff corner, and I would naturally fight the company’s corner to get an even balance.“So I didn’t sleep too well the night before. We’d arranged to meet for lunch and it was during that lunch meeting, when we started talking about things like spreadsheets, that I took the bull by the horns and said, ‘Right, this is what I’m proposing’.“As we were talking there was a noise in my head, like the release of a gas. It’s like when you look into the sun. Then the headaches started within five minutes. Bad headaches. It must have been bad because I handed the keys of the car to her. We were meant to drive on to Trowbridge to view a property, a 20-minute drive away.“She gave me a couple of headache tablets, which didn’t really have an effect. I could still talk normally. It wasn’t debilitating but almost like a toothache. We drove to the property, I was able to walk in, did all the stuff, drove back to the nursery in Bath.Time to reflect: the former international at Little Willows Day Nursery in Bath (Andrew Sydenham)“At that stage it was about 3, 3.30pm. My daughter (Ava) goes to school just down the road and her pick-up time was four o’clock, so I drove to pick her up. 4, 4.30. I’ve got really good friends next door to the school so we went to their house, this was now maybe five o’clock. Whilst the children played I just lay on the sofa, it was boom, boom, I just couldn’t shake it.“But at no stage did I think, ‘This is bad’. It was just a really bad headache. I have a phobia about going to doctors’ surgeries. I’d rather be in pain than go there, I have this white coat syndrome. So the thought of going to A&E never came into my way of thinking.“That day Ava ended up having tea at my friends’ place, so it was now 6.45, 7 o’clock and time to go home. Driving home, I took the wrong turning two or three times. This is a journey I do every day. Ava was saying, ‘Go straight, Dad, you’ve gone one too early’.“I have a phobia about doctors’ surgeries. I’d rather be in pain,” admits Ojomoh (Andrew Sydenham)“We eventually got home. It was 8, 9 o’clock and I had a hot shower because at this stage I was trying to find anything to ease the pain. I tried putting ice cubes on my head.“I was up with it most of the night, and at about 3, 4 o’clock, that’s when I had given up, the pain was such that I thought I need to go in. But my next thought was I can’t disrupt the school pattern because my wife (Lisa) was away at the time. If I go to A&E now, how will Ava get to school?“So I waited until the morning. My son (Max) had only just started driving, so at 6 o’clock I crawled up the stairs and told him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to take me to hospital, I’ve been up all night with this’. And with that he got his sister into the car, me into the passenger seat and took me to A&E in Bath. Survivor: Steve Ojomoh, older and wiser after the stroke that threatened his life (Andrew Sydenham)
Why does Owen Farrell link his fingers?7. Farrell links his fingers in a J-J formation every time he kicks a goal. The fly-half’s kick celebration is in aid of Duchenne muscular dystrophy charity Joining Jack, for which Farrell is an ambassador. The charity was set up by schoolboy Jack Johnson’s parents, who are friends of the Farrells. Who is Owen Farrell: Ten things you should know about the England starOwen Farrell has been a stalwart player for England since winning his first cap against Scotland in 2012 and he captained them to the World Cup final in 2019 as well as a Six Nations title in 2020.He plays fly-half or centre and also toured with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 and 2017. Below are a few more facts about him.Ten things you should know about Owen Farrell1. Owen Farrell was born on 24 September 1991 in Billinge, Merseyside, and he is the eldest of four children. He has two younger sisters, Elleshia and Grace, and a younger brother, Gabriel.2. Farrell went to St George’s School in Harpenden, which was also attended by his England team-mates George Ford and Maro Itoje.3. While his professional career has been in rugby union, he started his life in rugby league and played for Wigan St Patricks.Who is Owen Farrell’s dad?4. Farrell’s father, Andy, is a rugby league legend who played for Wigan Warriors and Great Britain. In 2005, he switched to union and played for Saracens until 2009 while he also won eight England caps. He then moved into coaching with first Saracens and then England and the British & Irish Lions. He is now Ireland head coach.5. Farrell’s father isn’t the only family member to have a sporting history as his uncle, Sean O’Loughlin, is another rugby league icon. He was capped for England and Great Britain and played his entire 19-year Super League career for Wigan Warriors.6. Owen Farrell signed for Saracens in 2008 and won five Premiership and three European Cup titles between 2011 and 2019. He also opted to stay at the club when they were relegated at the end of the 2019-20 season for breaching the salary cap.Related: Owen Farrell’s tips on kicking out of hand From his sporting relatives to the reason behind his kick celebration, here’s the lowdown on Owen Farrell Owen Farrell competing in the 2021 Six Nations for England (Getty Images) 8. He married his childhood sweetheart Georgie in 2018 and they have since welcomed their son, Tommy.9. Farrell had a goalkeeping trial with Manchester United when he was 13. There were talks of him being signed but his father started playing for Saracens and the family moved to London.10. He studied Business at Hertfordshire University. LATEST RUGBY WORLD MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION DEALS Can’t get to the shops? You can download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.Follow Rugby World on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.