Rugby star Jason Robinson is spearheading The O2’s Touch Tour and kicked off the campaign with training sessions at Millwall Rugby Club.
The former England star chatted to us about the employability initiative, which targeted a bunch of east Londoners aged 16-24.
■ What’s the tour about?
I think it’s a fantastic thing. We’re working with unemployed young people and using rugby as a tool to help them towards different things, like confidence and working together as a team.
I’ve done so much within the game, but not everyone knows my background and where I started from.
It’s so important for me to come back to this level and make sure young people are provided with these opportunities.
■ You were brought up on a council estate and left school with few qualifications – how did rugby transform your life?
It was my teacher really. I didn’t know anything about rugby but he had enthusiasm for the game, so I wanted to do it.
I had a lot of frustrations as a young man and rugby gave me the opportunity to release some of them but in a disciplined and controlled way.
Through my own journey it helped so much with confidence too – I couldn’t look anyone in the eye.
And it made me a more rounded person, exposed me to different things – cultures and countries.
■ So how has the touch rugby session helped unemployed youngsters on the Isle of Dogs?
When they’re looking for a job they’ll need to work hard and work together as a team.
In rugby, sometimes you don’t win and when that happens the attitude needs to be right.
We’ve done passing, catching, fitness and tackling – they’ve had a great time and I’ve seen some really good skills.
It’s not saying they will be World Cup-winning rugby players but it might be they go on to pick up other skills.
■ Did you feel they could connect with you?
I understand it’s not about where you start off in life that matters, it’s what you do after.
You can’t live on excuses, you need to push on from that and go that one stage further. Sometimes you need someone to believe in you and give you that opportunity. That’s what The O2 Touch Tour is about. It’s not just getting into schools where rugby’s already played, it’s getting into areas where people don’t always identify with it. If did it, then why can’t you?
■ From budding sports stars to seasoned pros, how will England fare in this September’s Rugby World Cup?
To have the competition on home soil is just amazing – I just wish I was 18 years younger for the opportunity to be selected.
There are two sides. England will play all but one of their pool games at Twickenham, so it will feel like a home game and they’ll be at the same training base. They’ll have huge support throughout the country but the flip side is there’s going to be a lot of pressure – everywhere they go it will be rugby, rugby, rugby and it’s all about performance.
I think England have got a good chance but we need to make sure we are consistent.
■ Who are the best three players you’ve played with?
I could name about 300, but Jonny Wilkinson for the winning drop kick in 2003, New Zealand’s Jonah Lomu – he was a monster at 6ft 5in and 18 stone and traumatised players and teams worldwide.
Then there’s the smaller guy – I’d pick Shane Williams of Wales.
For more information about Touch Tour go to gothinkbig.co.uk .