Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > Rugby School News > Rugby greats become inaugural patrons for School's 2023 celebrations

Rugby greats become inaugural patrons for School's 2023 celebrations

Seven rugby greats from the past and present have signed up to become the first patrons to back Rugby School's 2023 celebrations.
The Close, Rugby School
The Close, Rugby School

Nigel Owens MBE, Jonny Wilkinson CBE, Jason Leonard OBE, Martin Johnson CBE, Emily Scarratt MBE, Maggie Alphonsi MBE and Sarah Hunter MBE have all agreed to back the School’s exciting calendar of rugby-focussed events.

As birthplace of the game, the School is planning an exciting year of events to celebrate the 200th anniversary since student William Webb Ellis took the ball in his arms and ran with it on the now world-famous Close back in 1823.

The rugby stars all have a superb pedigree with Nigel as the most capped referee in the sport and Jonny widely acknowledged as one of the best rugby union players of all time.. Rugby World Cup winner Jason is chairman of the British & Irish Lions and Martin is World Cup winning and former British & Irish Lions captain.

Former England international and sports commentator Maggie joins current rugby professionals Sarah, the England women’s captain, and Emily who first played for England in 2008, scoring 12 tries in 12 games; in 2020 she became the highest ever England rugby points scorer and Player of the Championship during the Six Nations.

All have all pledged their support for Rugby School’s 2023 extravaganza which will see a host of national and international matches, Sevens tournaments and festivals alongside exhibitions, celebrity dinners, re-enactments and more.

Webb Ellis’s actions 200 years ago are of particular significance to Nigel, who said: “I refereed my first match aged 16, and if it hadn’t been for Webb Ellis, I would have been refereeing a very different game. I am delighted to be a patron of Rugby School’s 2023 celebrations.”

Jonny is a familiar face at Rugby School where he played a cameo role with HRH Prince Harry in the 2015 Rugby World Cup launch.

Jason and Martin are also regular visitors and agree the role of Rugby School in this 200th anniversary couldn’t be more significant. “The eyes of the world may be on France as the host of the World Cup, but this is the very place where the glorious game began,” said Jason. “I delighted and proud to be a patron for the bicentenary,” added Martin.

An inspirational leader in women’s sport, Maggie has become a media professional commentating on live matches for ITV, the BBC, SKY Sports and BT Sport since her retirement in 2014.

“It will be a great pleasure to support Rugby School during its 200th anniversary and I am looking forward to a year of celebrating rugby and all the opportunities this will provide to promote the game,” she said.

2016 World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year, Sarah, is keen to not only encourage girls into rugby but to promote the benefit of all sports for young people.

“I hope Rugby School’s calendar of events will inspire young players and to play on The Close where the game began is an incredible opportunity,” she added.

Webb Ellis and Rugby School were the inaugural inductees into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin said that rugby was a global family and at the very beginning of the family tree is Rugby School, the birthplace of the game. “As we look ahead to 2023 and a celebration of 200 years of the sport, we are excited by the plans the School has to mark its central role in the development of a sport that is played by more than seven million people and enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” he added.

Rugby School’s Executive Head Master, Peter Green, said it was an honour and a privilege to welcome such an incredible selection of sportspeople as inaugural patrons of the 2023 celebrations.

“I am absolutely delighted these rugby greats are on board. We have some ambitious and exciting plans for the year which will involve all ages and abilities from U9’s club tournaments to international matches,” he added.

Similar stories

Most read

Have your say



Rugbeian Community Office

✉ Email us

+44 (0) 1788 556 139

© Rugby School 2022

Charity Registration Number 528752

This website is powered by