The IWRFC will continue celebrations of its 90th anniversary at the Lakeside Hotel, Wootton on Saturday night with a gala dinner. England and Lions legend Richard Hill is the club’s special guest at the dinner and will speak to the assembled 130 guests after the meal. In case you need reminding of this great player’s achievements, here you go:
Richard Anthony Hill MBE (born 23 May 1973) is a former rugby union footballer who played flanker for Saracens and England. He made his first Saracens appearance in 1993.
Hill made his England debut in the 1997 Five Nations Championship against Scotland, playing at openside flanker. He toured South Africa with the British & Irish Lions in the summer of 1997, gaining two caps. Under new coach Clive Woodward, Hill was initially selected at openside, but was moved to blindside flanker to accommodate Neil Back on the openside flank, Lawrence Dallaglio moving from blindside to number eight. It was in this position, with this Hill, Back, Dallaglio combination of players, that Hill gained most of his caps.
Hill also toured Australia with the 2001 British & Irish Lions, though his tour was cut short in the second test when sustaining a blow to the head from an Australian knee. His injury was generally considered a key factor in the Lions’ eventual series loss, having won the first test.
Although Hill had been named in England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup squad, his place appeared in jeopardy after he suffered a hamstring strain on the eve of the tournament. Hill missed the pool games, and days out from England’s quarterfinal clash with Wales, scans on the injured hamstring initially revealed grim prospects, but Hill was encouraged by the team physios that it was still possible to recover in time for the semi-final.
England saw off a brave challenge from Wales in the quarterfinal to advance to the semi-finals. Hill was named in the starting line up for the semi-final against France. England easily coped with the much-vaunted French back-row. Hill played a key role in helping England defeat Australia in the final.
Since Neil Back’s retirement in 2003, Hill switched back to the openside flanker role. He is the only player never to have been dropped during Sir Clive Woodward’s England tenure. He was named in a Lions touring squad for the third time in 2005. He was named in the starting fifteen for the first Test against the All Blacks, but suffered a knee injury during the first half, ending his tour.
In January 2008 Hill announced that he would retire at the end of the current Guinness Premiership season, due to the toll taken upon his knee since two injuries, which had left him with a permanent limp. However, in April 2008, his man-of-the-match performance in the Heineken Cup victory over Ospreys confirmed his continued ability to perform at the highest level, even when playing on almost one leg. On 11 May 2008, Hill played his final game for Saracens, who won 25–20 against Bristol. Since his retirement, he was named in the all-time British and Irish Lions XV at blindside, alongside fellow legends Fergus Slattery and Mervyn Davies.
Despite his stellar careers and the many challenges Richard Hill has faced, it remains to be seen whether he will take on the ultimate challenge - drinking with the best the IWRFC has to offer.