A Rushden youngster says he will never forget his moment in the spotlight after getting the chance to run out as one of Land Rover’s Rugby World Cup 2015 official mascots.
11-year-old Rhys Hamber was handed the responsibility of walking out alongside Fiji for their 47-15 Pool A win over Uruguay at Milton Keynes’ Stadium: MK on Tuesday.
It came after the Rushden and Higham RFC player was informed he had been chosen as one of 96 official Rugby World Cup mascots following an audition.
His memorable day out continued when he then took a seat in the crowd to cheer on the action, with Rhys, a pupil at Manor Sports College, Raunds, admitting he couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
He said: “It was such a good day and one I will remember for a long time.
“The Fiji players were all getting psyched up for the game in the tunnel but I had learned to say hi in Fijian so I said that to the captain before we went out.
“When we walked out the noise was really loud but I managed to spot my dad on the other side.
“All my friends said they saw me on TV too and that I had a really cheesy smile.
“The Fiji captain had his arm on my shoulder when they were playing the national anthem and then I went and watched the game afterwards.
“I thought it was a good game, I was supporting Fiji because I was their mascot.
“Everyone wanted to hear about it at school the next day.”
Lawrence Dallaglio is one man who knows about the pressure of performing in front of a large audience, having helped England lift the trophy in 2003, and he admitted he had been impressed with how Rhys rose to the occasion.
He said: “It is a big responsibility to be picked as a mascot for a home Rugby World Cup but Rhys did a fantastic job.
“So many people will have been watching in the stadium and all around the world and Rhys can always say that he played a part in the country hosting the competition in 2015.
“I’ve no doubt the experience will live with the mascots for a very long time and hopefully it can inspire them going forward, whether that’s maybe one day playing for their country or just continuing to enjoy the sport of rugby which is what it’s all about really.
“It’s great to have young players from all around the country involved in Rugby World Cup 2015 by inviting them to be mascots.
“All those international players competing on the pitch would have come through from grassroots level, so the mascots will have got a real sense of what can be achieved.”
Land Rover is a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2015 and is recruiting all 96 official mascots for the Tournament as part of its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal