In partnership with O2
‘To Wear the Rose is a huge honour’
To celebrate the England fans that play such a huge part in the game, O2 have created a piece of art to symbolise everything that England Rugby and its fans stand for.
Wear la Rose celebrates English rugby fandom and how crucial they are for the performance of the national team.
And where better place to show off the art than in the capital city of one of England’s great rivals at the world’s most famous museum – the Louvre.
We’ve spoken to three figures from different walks of life about what English rugby, the England team, and Wearing the Rose means to them.
First up, former England captain Dylan Hartley, who made 97 appearances for England over a ten-year international career.
Speaking about what it means to represent England and “Wear the Rose”, Hartley said it was a “huge honour.”
“There’s that responsibility of representing a nation,” he explained. “It’s a lovely moment when you know you’re going out there to represent England, not just as a team, but a whole nation of people.”
He said the Wear la Rose portrait was a “fantastic nod to our fans”, and that the piece was a “great example” of celebrating the fans.
Hartley added that without fans “I don’t think we have a game.”
He continued: “When you’ve got people [attending] the ground, you get atmosphere, you get emotion, because this is what sport does, right? It gets people emotional and they put that [emotion] out into the field with the cheering, or the chanting, or the singing, and then the players react off that.
“It adds to the overall performance of the team.”
And Hartley said playing for England had taught him “how passionate and proud English people are” to support their team.
“The huge amount of pride I had when getting to represent all those people made me feel pretty good.”
For Lizzie, a rugby player and content creator, it was family that got her into the sport. She started playing for the girls team at her brother’s club and “never looked back” from there.
She said the Wear la Rose painting made her feel “pride”, describing it as a “striking” piece of work that highlights “the people of all backgrounds coming together to support the rose.”
Lizzie was also keen to highlight how she uses England Rugby’s core values of “teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship” in her general life.
“These are all things that are so important, like life skills and life values that you take with you everywhere.”
And, for Lizzie, there’s only one thing that sums up everything it means to play for England – the hymn, Jerusalem.
She said: “It gives you tingles, little shivers down your spine, goosebumps. It’s something that has got a really rich history.
“That song really sums up the energy that surrounds England Rugby.”
And finally, there’s the fans, like Saeed. Just like Lizzie, the 25-year-old loves the inclusivity of rugby and how “no matter who you are or where you come from, there’s a space for everyone” in the sport.
Saeed got into the sport through a friend who took him down to his local club in Dulwich one day.
“I realised instantly that it was for me,” he said. “The next day, I told my mum I needed rugby boots and I’ve been playing ever since.”
As a fan, Saeed’s imagination was captured by England and Northampton Saints stalwart Courtney Lawes, and All Blacks legend Sonny Bill Williams.
Rugby arrived at a difficult moment in Saeed’s life, as he had just found out his mum had been diagnosed with cancer. The sport gave him an escape from everyday life, in particular on Sunday mornings when “all that mattered for those two, three hours were that you and your mates could run around, have fun and have a laugh with the coaches.”
He explained: “I think it was a really nice way of forgetting, even just briefly, about whatever the bad stuff going on in your life was. I think whenever I’ve had major things happen to me in my life rugby has remained that one thing I could always rely on.”
When it comes to Wearing the Rose, Saeed said it had particular significance for him because of his heritage.
He said: “I grew up being half-Egyptian, half-English. I think, often people focus too much on the Egyptian side and forget about the English side.
“When you put that shirt on, very few people care about where you’re from – they just care that you like England Rugby.”