Today (10 November) USA’s Phaidra Knight was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame at a special ceremony in Rugby, England. The ceremony was attended by a host of other rugby luminaries at the Hall of Fame’s state-of-the-art physical home in the town that gave the game its name.
Also being honoured were Felipe Contepomi (133, Argentina), Al Charron (134, Canada), Rob Andrew (135, England) and Fabien Pelous (136, France).
Confirmation of the class of 2017, as chosen by the World Rugby Hall of Fame panel of experts, takes the grand total of inductees to 137 with each celebrated and profiled within a physical experience in the birthplace of the game that is fully interactive, immersive and delivered in multiple languages.
This year’s induction ceremony coincided with the start of the Rugby World Cup 2019 trophy tour, which kicked off in Rugby town. The tour will take the famous Webb Ellis Cup to no fewer than 18 countries between now and the start of RWC 2019.
Supported by Rugby World Cup’s worldwide partners, the tour will visit a mixture of established and developing rugby nations in the build-up to Japan 2019 in line with World Rugby’s strategic mission to grow and inspire the global rugby family. Each visit will typically last between three and five days and, in Asia, the tour will support the dedicated Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programme, a roadmap to attract and retain one million new participants within the world’s most populous region, which is home to 60 per cent of the world’s youth.
World Rugby Chairman and Hall of Famer Bill Beaumont, who was in attendance at the induction ceremony, said: “This is another special day for the World Rugby Hall of Fame as we induct five more greats of the game, bringing the total number of inductees to 137. The latest set of inductions includes some real legends, players who have helped to shape the image of rugby and inspire generations of fans. Each of them has contributed immensely to the enjoyment we have all felt watching top-level rugby over the decades.
“Each one of these players is a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame. In their own way, they have all been instrumental in carrying the game forward in their own country and on the international stage. Between them they amassed 392 international caps, scored nearly 1,200 points (although Felipe and Rob kicked the majority of those!) and they have 18 Rugby World Cup appearances under their belts.
“While the Hall of Fame has been in existence for many years, it was just 12 months ago that we opened a permanent home for it in the town that gave our game its name, Rugby. The physical Hall of Fame is proving to be a wonderful focal point for the game and is attracting fans from all over the world to relive the great exploits of rugby’s most prominent and talented individuals.”
Beaumont also presided over the start of the RWC 2019 trophy tour. He said: “It’s great to see the famous cup on display again in Rugby. It is named after William Webb Ellis – Hall of Fame inductee number one – who is of course the man credited with inventing the game not far from this very spot in 1823. Starting off right here at the birthplace of the game, it will travel more than 150,000 miles, calling in on such diverse places as India, Germany, Fiji, China, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Canada, USA, Malaysia and Uruguay and many others, promoting Rugby World Cup 2019 and making sure the eyes of the world will be on Japan in September and October 2019.”
Cllr Michael Stokes, Leader of Rugby Borough Council, said: “On behalf of everyone here at the birthplace of the game, I would like to offer my congratulations to these five legends on their induction.
“The World Rugby Hall of Fame tells the story of the greatest moments in the history of the sport in a state-of-the-art display located just a few yards from where it all began here in Rugby. I look forward to seeing some iconic moments from the careers of these five new Hall of Famers added to the displays.”
Phaidra Knight said: “I am so humbled by my induction into the Hall of Fame. I never imagined when I first picked up a rugby ball at the age of 22 that I would realise this calibre of achievement. Rugby has been a key catalyst for finding, defining and recreating purpose in my life.
“This honour is shared with every USA rugby player. I have not made it to this place on my own as many have lifted me up. I am so grateful for that. I am one of two individual Americans in the Hall of Fame… for now. But I believe this is just the beginning of many more to come.
“For women all over the world who dare to defy the odds and live authentically through our great sport, this is acknowledgement that we are respected, appreciated, and valued. Let’s continue to forge onward. Thank you, World Rugby. Your recognition of me is recognition of many.”
Felipe Contepomi said: “I´m humbly honoured to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame and to have my name added to this list of people who contributed so much for the game. Rugby has been and continues to be a big part in my life. It has given me lots of friends in every team I’ve played in.
“My home club, Newman, is my second home. For me, rugby is more than a sport – it is a way of living. What I’ve learned through the sport helps me in my day-to-day life.”
Al Charron said: “Being inducted has left me lost for the proper words to describe it justly and accurately. I know that I am here only because of the great people in my life who have supported me along the way, especially my family, and also my coaches and team-mates at all the teams I played for: Hillcrest (school), Ottawa Irish, Moseley, Bristol, Pau, Dax, Ontario province and, of course, Canada.
“I will enter the Hall of Fame somewhat skittishly especially as an individual athlete in a team sport. And rugby is the true classic team sport so although it is my name that is officially inducted, I go in very much with my team-mates and my country in union and in mind. It is humbling when I consider the legends who are already in there and, indeed, the many talented players who are not in there but very much deserve to be. It is unnerving but, at the same time, it fills me with pride, honour and much gratitude.
“Rugby has been such a big part of my life since I turned 17. I truly owe so much to this great sport that has considerably enrichened my life in so many ways and continues to give. I count myself fortunate to have found rugby and the great people associated with it. I often wonder how my life might have played out had I not got involved in rugby. All I know is that I am forever thankful that I did.”
Rob Andrew said: “I played my first game in Barnard Castle School under-12s in September 1974. Funnily enough the left winger was Rory Underwood. If someone had told me what the future would hold for us in our great game, there is no way either of us would have believed them.
“It truly has been an amazing journey in an amazing sport. It has allowed me to meet so many incredible people and visit places I couldn’t dream of visiting when I set off.
“To have had the privilege of playing for some wonderful clubs like Middlesbrough, Cambridge University, Nottingham, Gordon (in Sydney), Wasps, Toulouse and Newcastle has been life-changing. To have played for my country and the British and Irish Lions has given me enormous pride and I can only hope the game continues to prosper and grow and others enjoy their time in rugby as I have.”
Fabien Pelous said: “I am very honoured to join the World Rugby Hall of Fame. It is a source of great pride to be present alongside these immense players who have been an important part of the history of our sport. I thank World Rugby for this tribute, which I wish to share with all the players, clubs and everyone else who helped me along the way as I played amateur and professional rugby.
“The Hall of Fame is a very important initiative because it creates and nurtures links between different generations of players in all corners of the rugby world. To build their own story and write the next chapter of rugby, the younger generations need to know the history of their sport. The Hall of Fame is a great way to highlight this precious legacy, through the men and women who have gone before.”
For more information about the World Rugby Hall of Fame click HERE.
Short biographies and inductee numbers:
133. FELIPE CONTEPOMI (ARGENTINA)
Born: 20 August, 1977 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
From Buenos Aires to Bristol, Leinster to Toulon and finally Stade Francais, Felipe Contepomi was a cult hero wherever he played. The qualified doctor could dissect even the most organised of defences with his dazzling distribution skills and footwork from fly-half, his will to win never clouding the bonhomie in which he approached the game. Forming a world-class half-back partnership with Agustín Pichot, Contepomi was the chief conductor of Argentina’s attack during his 15-year test career as well as being a top-level kicker. In June 2012, he overtook Hugo Porta’s all-time record for points scored and went on to notch 651 in 87 tests, including 16 tries. He appeared in four Rugby World Cups, most notably as an ever-present in the class of 2007 that beat the host nation France twice to claim an historic bronze medal.
134. AL CHARRON (CANADA)
Born: 27 July, 1966 in Ottawa, Canada
One of the most dominant loose forwards in the world during the 1990s, Al Charron actually played in all positions from four to eight for Canada, representing his country at four Rugby World Cups and being part of the management team for a fifth, in 2007. His Canadian record of 76 caps (remarkably, all of which as a starter) stood for 14 years until broken in June 2017. Standing 1.96m tall and weighing close to 123kgs in his playing days, the Ottawa native cut an imposing figure on the field and opponents feared and admired him in equal measure for his high work-rate and uncompromising play. A fine leader, Charron captained the Canadian national team 25 times – a record he still shares with Gareth Rees. He was also a member of Canada’s squad at the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1993 and was honoured to turn out for the world-famous Barbarians five times. Professionally he played club rugby for Moseley and Bristol in England and with Pau and Dax in France where he was highly regarded and a fan favourite. As a mark of respect for his contribution to rugby, not only in Canada but worldwide, Rugby Canada’s national training centre bears his name.
135. ROB ANDREW (ENGLAND)
Born: 18 February, 1963 in Richmond, North Yorkshire
Rob Andrew made a huge contribution to English rugby as a player, director of rugby and then RFU administrator before taking up a career in his second sporting passion, cricket. The Yorkshireman made his international debut for England as a fresh-faced fly-half in 1985 and went on to play an integral part in the side’s revival during the Geoff Cooke/Will Carling era. Andrew featured in three grand slam-winning sides in the 1990s and started the RWC 1991 final against Australia. He also played in the 1987 and 1995 editions, kicking a memorable drop goal to defeat the Wallabies in the quarter-finals. A superb kicker off both feet, the Cambridge Blue amassed 396 points for England and a further 11 in five test appearances for the Lions across the 1989 and 1993 tours. Andrew announced his international retirement in 1995, at which point he left Wasps to begin a decade of service to Newcastle, whom he led to the inaugural Premiership title in his dual role as player/director of rugby.
136. FABIEN PELOUS (FRANCE)
Born: 7 December, 1973 in Toulouse, France
Fabien Pelous is France’s most-capped player with 118 test appearances to his name in 12 years as an international. A totem of the French pack from 1995 through to 2007, Pelous was the first second-row and only the second Frenchman after Philippe Sella to win a century of caps. At the time, Pelous described himself as “average” but that says more about his modesty than his ability which is beyond dispute. Never giving less than 100 per cent, Pelous’ spirit and robustness in the heat of battle made him perfect captaincy material. In total, he led France 42 times including at two Rugby World Cups. Only Thierry Dusautoir has worn the French armband on more occasions. Twelve of his 18 seasons as a professional were with Toulouse, where he helped his hometown club to win two European Cups and three French Championships before announcing his retirement at the end of the 2008-09 season.
137. PHAIDRA KNIGHT (USA)
Born: 4 July, 1974 in Milledgeville, Georgia, USA
Phaidra Knight was born and raised in the small, rural town of Irwinton, Georgia. It was there where she learned the core values of dedication, commitment, hard work, and discipline – qualities that served her well in a highly decorated rugby career that began in 1997 at the end of her first year as a law student. Knight won 35 caps for the USA and appeared at three Women’s Rugby World Cups, in 2002, 2006 and 2010. In the first two tournaments, she was included in the All-Star team twice, and was named USA Rugby Player of the Decade in 2010. Never one to shy away from the physical side of the game, Knight started out as a prop and concluded her playing days at hooker, but most of her 18 years on the field were spent as a tearaway flanker. The University of Wisconsin graduate also played for USA Women’s Sevens from 2006 to 2009. Knight’s unswerving commitment to rugby continues to this day, as a coach, USA Rugby Board member, TV analyst, and judicial officer.
Report courtesy of World Rugby