LONDON : Former Rugby player's foundation currently helping over 650 students / children aged 14-17.

Lawrence Dallaglio's towering rugby career originated through a sense of wanting to belong after after a family tragedy and he is now using that experience to help give hope children excluded from mainstream education.

Dallaglio - a pivotal figure when England won the 2003 Rugby World Cup - said his family was ''blown apart '' when his only sibling, a 19-year-old Francesca, was one of the 52 people who drowned after the pleasure boat Marchioness sank in the Thames in August 1989.

The 85-times capped former backrow forward was just 16 at the time and admits he had a couple of years where, deeply affected by his sister's loss and the impact it had on his parents, he was ''definitely errant''.

''You know if you lose a member of your family it blows your family apart,'' Dallaglio told AFP. ''I had a couple of years where I was really struggling. It was not just me and my mom and my dad., the families of every other victim of the Marchioness were as well, I would imagine.

I then saw my parents [Vincenzo and Eileen] and they were really struggling, as you'd imagine, when you bury one of your own children.''
He was put back on the right path when he joined the ten London-based Rugby club Wasps.

''It was not because i wanted to play Rugby, I know it sounds odd,'' he said. ''I joined the Rugby club because I needed a sense of belonging, camaraderie, I needed someone, a family.

The lovely thing about rugby, bizarrely, is it welcomes everyone. They [his parents] came to watch me and they felt something very strong and it brought a smile back to their face. That was the reason why in so many ways I owe Rugby an enormous amount because it brought it brought my family back together ''

Dallaglio, who drily remarks that rugby owes a few teeth in a career that also saw him undergo 14 operations, drew on that experience and set up Dallaglio RugbyWorks.

He set up Dallaglio RugbyWorks six years ago. He is justifiably proud it is now part of the curriculum at 83 schools nationwide - schools that act as safety net for pupils excluded from mainstream education.

His foundation is currently helping over 650 children aged 14-17 and the cost is considerable - a three-year programme costs Dallagalio RugyWorls up to Pound 20,000 per school per year.

''The fun part for them is playing rugby,'' he says, but then they get them into the classroom and work on ''things like CV writing, interview workshops, just general confidence ''

The aim, or as Dallaglio puts it : the ''flog in the sand,'' is helping them into full time employment. He claims children/students who have passed through the scheme have an 88 percent success rate in finding a job compared with 50 percent nationally.

According to RugbyWorks figures, each year on average 2,720 young people between the ages of 14-16 are excluded from mainstream education in Britain. [AFP]


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