The word Legend gets used all too often, but Jason Leonard is a Legend of Rugby. 119 International caps for England as well as the British & Irish Lions, Rugby World Cup Winner, 3 British & Irish Lions Tours as well as countless accolades. In more recent times, the “Fun Bus” has concentrated on his Charity work, The Atlas Foundation was launched in 2014 and now alongside this, he is the Founding Member of the Front Row Club.
I am honoured to have the chance to ask my Rugby hero a few questions ,on the Fill Your Boots website…
Fill Your Boots – You have done everything in our sport, but what do you think your legacy will be?
Jason Leonard – In rugby terms I think I’ve shown that you can come from any background, and be any shape or size, and still succeed. That’s not just me, that’s the legacy of rugby around the world. For myself I hope that the work I do with The Atlas Foundation lives on after me. The Atlas Foundation works through a network of Rugby Champions like myself, all over the world, giving the poorest kids on earth a better life through rugby. We want to reach a million kids in ten years.
Fill Your Boots – What was the best piece of advice anyone gave you in your early career?
Jason Leonard – To play all sports and I enjoyed rugby the most. I played my early rugby in the amateur era. I had to work to live, and I needed the back up of loads of people at my clubs to help me play and make a living. It taught me the value of teamwork on and off the pitch. No-one likes a prima donna, at home, at work or on the pitch. You’ve got to work together and that’s the biggest lesson rugby taught me.
Fill Your Boots – How far can England go in Japan this year?
Jason Leonard – All the way of course. They could smash it out of the park in the Six Nations and set themselves up for a blinding year, but they’re going into the Six Nations away from home against the Irish and that’s going to be a tough game. One thing to remember is that in Rugby World Cup finals, more often than not, there’s one of the favourites versus a surprise team, and anyone can win on the day.
Fill Your Boots – What can people expect from the Front Row Club?
Jason Leonard – What do you ever expect from a load of Front Row Forwards? A lot of banter and verbal. Plus anything we can blag for nothing! Its important to understand that the Front Row Club is directly linked to the Atlas Foundation. It is a membership programme where all the fees are donated to Atlas. There are some amazing prizes on there for members to win, we can offer them for free because these prizes have all been donated. Lots of charities have membership schemes, but they’re pretty much the same as the charity. The Atlas Foundation is a serious charity, it has to be. We work with kids in the worst circumstances around the world. But we don’t want to be that serious all the time so the Front Row Club is the place where we can misbehave and take the mickey out of each other, as well as accessing some amazing stash and prizes. Our first big prize is a trip to the Rugby World Cup final in Japan. Flights, hotel, tickets to the final, and dinner with me while you’re out there. But you have to be a member of the Front Row Club to enter the free prize draw. So it’ll cost you a tenner to join, but once you’re in, there are loads of prizes plus a load of banter between famous rugby legends. It’s not just rugby journalism, it’s mostly nonsense, but that’s about normal for us Forwards. Join here: http://www.frontrowclub.com
Fill Your Boots – Do you ever watch a rugby match now and want to lace those boots up again?
Jason Leonard – Actually it’s really hard watching a game now, it’s not that I want to be on the pitch again, but it’s just not the same watching it as playing. I do run on occasionally in charity matches for the Legends, but I have to put in some mileage at the gym first, and I know I’m going to suffer afterwards. I get much more pleasure out of tossing a ball around with kids from the slums, that’s the new phase of my life. The charity work keeps me in touch with rugby, and I feel that I’m giving back, its my debt to the game that has given me so much. Knowing that you’re changing their lives is a powerful feeling, it’s actually quite emotional. The thing about the Front Row Club is you’re dealing with big guys, but they have huge hearts, and they want to help. Its not just about the Front Row either, we have all the Forwards there from 1 – 8, and we even allow Backs to join. We know they all want to be forwards really!