Prince Harry doesn’t play his beloved sport of rugby any longer due to a series of injuries — but he says that doesn’t stop him from feeling like an eager puppy when he’s around the sport.
“I’m like a Labrador with a tennis ball,” Harry told players on Friday. “As soon as I see a rugby ball…”
The royal, 33, attended a training session on Friday to watch the England rugby team prepare for their Six Nations match against Scotland, set for Feb. 24. There, he said the values of teamwork and discipline learnt in rugby are applicable to anyone’s life, no matter who they are.
“Everybody of any size, any background, can get together, beat each other up on the pitch — within the rules of the game of course — and get together afterwards,” he said.
Harry is patron of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), joined 10,000 supporters from clubs and schools in the stands to attend the training session at London’s Twickenham Stadium.
Many of the young supporters are beneficiaries of Try for Change, an England Rugby program which uses the power of rugby as a force for good to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in England and across the world.
While on a tour of the away team’s locker rooms, he met representatives from three charities: Sporting Memories Foundation, which puts players together with isolated older people for physical activity and conversation, Plymouth Sports Charity, which helps young people who have disengaged from school and Manchester Spartans, an LGBT-friendly team encouraging first-time players to join in.
“It’s very easy to be shy and quite reserved as a kid growing up, but who would’ve thought getting smashed on a pitch, [and] maybe not at your age, but going down the pub afterwards would give you friends for life,” he said, speaking to teenage players who credited a positive change in behavior to rugby. “It’s guys like you who are ambassadors for the sport. You are living proof that it works.”
“The discipline is crucial, the teamwork, the respect for others. It doesn’t matter where you are, it’s all the same values,” Harry added. “It brings the most amazing people together and opens your eyes to things you wouldn’t really think about otherwise. They are values that, if you learn them through sport, are enjoyable. There doesn’t need to be a goal, just have fun with it.”
He was also asked about his own experience playing rugby. Harry said he’d “played for years,” first as a scrum half, and then as fly half when he got too tall. Eventually, he had to stop playing because of “numerous injuries.”
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Harry teased a reprise of his rugby days when he stepped out onto the turf. Greeted by cheers as when he joined former player Jonny Wilkinson and England team manager Richard Hill for a discussion about the team’s prospects, he jokingly appeared to do a few stretches, but didn’t join in for the actual training.
Player James Haskell, who has known Prince Harry since they played cricket against one another at school, told reporters: “It’s great to see a smiling face. He’s always got something positive to say and always ready to give a bit of stick when needed. You’ve got to love that. He’ll say the right thing at the right time.”
Asked whether he thought Harry could be persuaded to join in, he said, “I’m sure he would do. I don’t know whether he’d want to go full contact, but he loves it. He’s got a massive passion for sport, given half a chance I’m sure we could get him out for a bit of touch [rugby].”
His visit to the training session was his fourth outing this week. He headed to Edinburgh with fiancée Meghan Markle on Tuesday, joined his father Prince Charles at an environmental conference on Wednesday and helped at a kids’ sports and lunch club on Thursday.