Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Rugby fan, 12, is mascot for world cup final

A RUGBY-MAD schoolboy took to the field with his heroes as a mascot at the world

A RUGBY-MAD schoolboy took to the field with his heroes as a mascot at the world cup final at Twickenham.

Freddie Collins, 12, walked out with Australian captain Stephen Moore ahead of Saturday’s showpiece match with New Zealand, which the All Blacks won 34-17.

He stood arm-in-arm with the Wallabies team for the national anthems before watching the match with 85,000 other spectators at the packed stadium.

Freddie is a pupil at the Piggott School in Wargrave and lives in Milestone Avenue, Charvil, with his father Pete, a plumber, and Jackie, who runs the St Audrey’s gift shop in Henley, and brother Archie, 15.

He has played rugby since he was four and is a hooker at Reading Abbey Rugby Club in Emmer Green. This season he also joined the London Irish academy.

Freddie has played at Twickenham in a junior tournament but said walking out for the world cup final felt “amazing”.

“It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve been to Twickenham a few times, including winning a tournament there with my club, but it’s different when there are 85,000 fans there.

“I didn’t get to meet the players until I saw them all in the tunnel. I went over to Stephen Moore and he asked me if I was excited and wished me good luck. I told him good luck as well.

“When we walked out the crowd were all shouting and fireworks were going off. The atmosphere was amazing.

“We stayed with the teams for the anthems and then went to the sidelines where we watched the New Zealand team do the haka, which was quite scary to see that close up.”

Freddie, whose favourite players are New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and England’s Dylan Hartley, was chosen as a mascot by world cup sponsors Land Rover following a London Wasps tournament with his club last year.

Youngsters were asked to record a video message for England captain Chris Robshaw ahead of the tournament.

Freddie said: “I told him to not give up, encourage his team-mates and play well. He obviously didn’t listen to me!

“After that I didn’t hear anything until Monday last week when Land Rover asked if I would like to come down and mascot for the day. I said yes straight away.”

Freddie attended a press event in Luton with world cup ambassadors including England’s world cup winning coach Clive Woodward and captain Lawrence Dallaglio and former Australia captain George Gregan.

He said: “I got in a Land Rover and did some off-road driving with Gregan â?? he was a good driver. I’ve met Lawrence Dallaglio before but not the others. They were all really nice and we sat down together to eat lunch. They did most of the talking and I just listened!”

Freddie was then told he would be walking out with the Australian team for the match.

He said: “I was really happy when I found out, although I’d rather have gone out with Richie McCaw! I wasn’t nervous, just excited, and I kept thinking ‘hurry up Saturday’.”

On the day of the match his family were picked up in a Land Rover and taken to Twickenham. After having his picture taken with former England internationals Jason Robinson and Lewis Moody, Freddie was given his official kit but was allowed to wear his black, white and green Reading Abbey socks.

Freddie said: “It was a really good match. I didn’t mind who won, although because I walked out with them I sort of had to support Australia. New Zealand dominated Australia and didn’t really give them a chance to get back into it.”

His father added: “It was really good but quite surreal. It certainly livened half-term up a bit!”

Freddie says he has been the talk of his school since the final and the experience has whetted his appetite for the game.

He said: “I didn’t tell anyone until my PE teacher found out. Now everyone is impressed and they are all asking me what it was like, especially my teachers.

“I want to keep playing rugby and hopefully one day I’ll walk out at Twickenham again, this time for England.”

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