Rugby greats turn out in force for Southern Hemisphere Charity Day at London Welsh. Old Deer Park was a who’s who of rugby greats on Sunday afternoon as London Welsh hosted a Southern Hemisphere Charity Day.
Jerry Collins, George Smith, Doug Howlett, Scott Johnson and Michael Lynagh were among the stars on show to help raise funds for the Queensland flood appeal and the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.
The charity day was organised in two weeks and was the brainchild of London Welsh and Tonga back row forward Epi Taione, with more than 2,500 turning up at Old Deer Park to show their support.
The crowd were treated to an Aussie Rules match, an Aussie beer tent, including live music, an international touch rugby match, a tag rugby match between Queenslandand New South Wales, a touch rugby tournament for kids and a Pacific village, including traditional music and food and drink. There was also a £100,000 Cross Bar Challenge.
The highlight of the day was a game between the Pacific Barbarians, captained by Jerry Collins, and an Australian XV led by George Smith.
The best traditions of the Barbarians were observed and an open game saw the Pacific Island Barbarians come out on top 59-23.
Commenting after the game Epi Taione said: “Rugby was secondary, it was all about the Southern Hemisphere Charity Day and it turned out really well. I couldn’t have asked for more.
“I really surprised by the quality of some of the rugby given that some of the players played yesterday.
“I’ve a few more grey hairs! Two weeks organisation and a few thousand turn up is not a bad effort.
“Thanks to London Welsh RFC, John Taylor, the coaching staff and Andrew Knight for allowing this to happen here. They have been fantastic.”
Former Australia back row forward George Smith, who flew over to London especially to take part in the game, said: “There have been a lot of disasters up the east coast of Australia with the floods and the fires in W.A., and then recently with the earthquake in Christchurch, and it was fantastic to see the support of Londoners and the rugby community.
“It’s a great cause; I know a lot of people at home who have been affected and it’s only a little bit of our time for an exhibition game.
“[On some of the physical tackles] Normally these games have a gentleman’s agreement but this certainly didn’t end up that way! It was great to see the enthusiasm that was out there.”
Former All Black Jerry Collins, who was a try scorer the previous day in the Ospreys’ 37-6 win over Glasgow, said: “It was good; it’s great of London Welsh to put the game on.
“These things aren’t as straight forward as they seem, so full credit to them and the general public of London for coming out and supporting the cause.
“When you can you try and give back to the game that a lot of us have taken so much from.
“Obviously money can’t replace what people have lost but today’s been about coming together and showing some love and doing what little we can.”
Ospreys and former Wales coach Scott Johnson said: “It’s a good day out, a lot of laughs and that’s what it’s about. It’s a good cause and I’m just glad to be here.
“The latest events in Christchurch were just horrific. It’s a terrible time and the beauty of our two countries is that we get close in tragedy – it’s big brother and little brother.”
Former All Black wing Doug Howlett flew in to London just for the day having scored two tries in Munster’s 38-17 win over the Dragons the previous day.
He said: “I’ve just come off my own game last night, so my bodies still in recovery, but it looks like they were having fun. I spoke to Jerry [Collins] and he said he got a good old sweat up and enjoyed it.
“It’s a wonderful occasion; we’re all pretty helpless up here as Kiwi’s, so any way that we can help is great.”