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'Brutal process': Dallaglio's invaluable advice for Jack Willis

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Rehabilitating England back-rower Jack Willis has sought the advice of Wasps legend Lawrence Dallaglio while on the comeback trail following his latest ACL injury. Willis was left stricken when crocodile rolled during last February’s Guinness Six Nations match versus Italy at Twickenham and six months into his rehab, he has picked the brain of ex-England skipper Dallaglio who would have suffered the same type of injury during the prime of his career.


The meeting, which took place in a changing room at the now named Coventry Building Society Arena, featured in the latest episode of Willis’ social media mini-documentary series on his road back to full health after he was stretchered off in London earlier this year with an injury likely to keep him sidelined until mid-winter at the earliest.

The 24-year-old Willis was making just his third appearance for England when he was injured and he was all ears at the Wasps ground in Coventry when legendary club skipper Dallaglio, the 49-year-old veteran of 85 England caps and three more Tests with the 1997 Lions, paid him a visit to talk about their respective fights back from ACL injuries.

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“Unfortunately I did have a potentially career-threatening injury in 2001, 20 years ago. Same injury as you had. ACL snapped,” said Wasps legend Dallaglio to Willis in episode five of The Rebuild 2.0. “I never grew up thinking I am going to be a professional rugby player. I grew up thinking I am going to work and play rugby and I did work and then professional rugby came along so I gave rugby a go. I thought it would be quite good fun to see where it ends up and I didn’t go back to work for another 20 years.”

Dallaglio explained how his ACL injury created invaluable time to reflect on his life and he returned to rugby re-energised and appreciating his job even more. “Not that you ever want one but sometimes you need an injury just to hit the pause button and go where is my career going, where is my life going, what am I doing on the pitch?

“I would always say to people if your life is rugby then when you haven’t got rugby you are going to have some serious issues going on in your life… your friends never get to be your friends when you are a rugby player because the only time they see you is when they come and watch you and even then they can’t chat to you because everyone else wants to chat to you. So see your friends, see your family, get stuck into two or three projects outside rugby that enrich your life and give you a distraction away from the game.

“As you say, when you are in the rehab you’re in rehab. All I know is it’s a brutal process. I found it really tough. Some of the stuff, learning to run again, walking again, learning to do all the things again that you just take for granted. It makes you a much stronger player and you really appreciate the game more when you come back from that.”


Willis, who recently had the sauna room at the new Wasps training group named after him, added: “It was important to have a chat with guys like yourself about the experience you have been through with a fantastic career but also suffering a few injuries during that time. I wanted to get your thoughts as an injured athlete and how you dealt with that time. It was great to pick your brains. I really appreciate it.

“It’s interesting hearing someone else’s experience and going through it in a different sort of era of rugby as well and realising you actually go through exactly the same thing. For me, it has been invaluable to pick up a few bits of advice that he said. It was great to catch up.”


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A post shared by Jack Willis (@jackswillis)


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