The stunt-based show from MTV was a big hit in the 2000s. Here's what happened when they tried their hands at elite rugby...

It can be strange to look back at what we were obsessed with at the turn of the millennium: pop-punk, MSN Messenger, frosted hair. And then there was Jackass, on MTV.

What started out as a clip show of pranks and stunts, dares and mangled bodies, mushroomed into a universe of movies and spinoffs and unlikely celebrities, all led by the impish Johnny Knoxville. And yet a generation may not be aware of the show’s impact. Do they even know that in their second year, Jackass joined London Irish training for a bruising session?

We asked two former players – current Irish assistant Declan Danaher and Scarlets defence coach Glenn Delaney – about what it was like to welcome Knoxville and pal Chris Pontius onto the paddock during that 2000-2001 Premiership season…

Jackass joined London Irish

Running hard: Danaher against Saracens (Getty Images)

Danaher: “It was an incredibly bizarre training session, with what they asked us to do. Obviously knowing what we know now, it makes perfect sense but at the time we had just finished training and these two little American guys turned up and they wanted to do rugby with us. And that was it.

“I don’t even think it was  mentioned (beforehand). I think the session finished and our media guy asked: ‘Can guys stick around for a little bit after, we’ve got a couple of guys who want to do something and they want to film it.’ And he was basically explained to us that they might want to do some pad work, they might want to do some one-on-one tackling. And it went from there.”


Delaney: “Dick Best was our coach and somehow he got a hold of it and the next thing these two guys turned up and we didn’t know too much about them. They’d been on the sauce the night before, they’d had a big night out and were pretty hungover. They’re scrawny fellas and they’re American and they’re talking stuff up. Besty said: ‘Alright, we’ll do this thing for these guys,’ and then in true Dick form he went: ‘And we’ll sort them out.’

Jackass joined London Irish

Portrait: Delaney (Getty)

“He took great pleasure in putting them through the mill. The only thing they said was that they wanted to do it and they wanted to do it properly and we knew that they’d done American Football quite recently before us. So it was almost like: ‘We’ll show you a real game.’ It was remarkable because they had no kit, so Steve Williams, who was one of the locks with us, gave them some of his gear.

“You tell your story when you’ve gone somewhere new and you’re trying to break some ice. So there’s a couple of clips I use, and that’s one of the ones – I say it’s basically my best moment in rugby!

“I ended up in the middle of field with two of them around my ankles, trying to tackle me and put me on the floor and I managed to stay standing. They were up for anything, and pushed right through it. And if you look back at the video, the boys that I played with, Dec’s in it, Colin Allen and Jimmy Cockle and Steve Williams and Chris Sheasby, Rob Hardwick, Richard Bates… We didn’t quite know what we were doing, we were just having a bit of craic against two guys who thought they’d come and play a bit of footy.

“They got dusted up a bit, to be fair. They got spat out the other end of it and they kept going. How about that!”

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Danaher: You can see by the fact there are so many players who stayed out to do it (that it was intriguing).

“At the end of the session they asked who wanted to do it and it was ‘Cool.’ Partly because we hadn’t done stuff like that before and it was novelty and you wanted to see what it was like. There wasn’t being asked to do strange things or whacky things then – I’m not saying it’s normal now, but it’s not unusual for players to do strange things for TikToks or for the club website. Back then it was unheard of.

“Back then we wouldn’t get Sky coming down twice a week. It wasn’t the animal it has become now. If you’re on TV now you might get two visits from the cameras a week, from the production staff to interview the players or coaches and then the guys commentating, coming down for a chat, around the weekend or anything they can pick up. That’s a normal occurrence now.”

Energetic: Johnny Knoxville (Getty Images)

Delaney: “I think you’d have too many health and safety issues (to do this now). There wasn’t much health and safety in their show!

“Bear in mind this is in 2000, the game were professional in ’95 but in the UK there was a moratorium for a year so it’d really only been pro for four years.

“What does that really mean? I remember with that group we used to play on a Saturday, we’d go to the Three Kings in Twickenham on a Saturday night and run into the guys from Quins and Wasps and we have a bit of a party – Sunday Night if we’d played on Sunday. Then on Monday morning, we’d go to Bushy Park and run around the lap. Then we’d go to Tesco and have a Magnificent Seven for breakfast, which was a Full English.

“So I think if you’re talking professionalism, we were being paid to play the game but compared to what we classify as professionalism now, it’s very different. We were still very much coming from the amateur way of thinking. But it was a brilliant fun. It was great.”

Danaher: “You saw some of the bag work and that was something we’d done that day so the the boys just do that with them. There was some of the one-on-one tackling, ball-carrying, high ball work…

“They were very, very nice blokes. Just chatting to them before and after, there was not a whinge, not a moan. They just came in and they seemed to enjoy it. Even the fact that they were hungover and they just cracked on was pretty amazing.

Jackass joined London Irish

Belting: James Cockle facing Leeds (Getty Images)

“And you know what, it was both of them and a camera guy. That was it. And they pretty much just let us have free rein and I think the fact that we were so into it, then they obviously got a lot of footage and were able to clip it and make it into the feature that it was.”

Delaney: “It was just bizarre. Besty was sort of choreographing all the things, so with the high balls he brought Jimmy Cockle out to belt them because Jimmy could tackle pretty hard. Then we put them through the gauntlet of pads where they’d run through the boys, getting belted… And the camera’s right in the middle of it!

“The boys were not holding back. And the whole thing was sort of choreographed on the hoof really. So I ended up with with a ball and they both wanted to tackle me, and it was ‘okay’, and it ended up with the pair of them around my boot laces not really knowing what to do!”

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