GOSPORT’s Oliver Smith admits he will never forget his moment in the spotlight after getting the chance to run out as one of Land Rover’s Rugby World Cup 2015 official mascots.
Rugby fan Smith was handed the responsibility of walking out alongside Australia for their 29-15 semi-final victory over Argentina at Twickenham last Sunday.
It came after the Gosport & Fareham RFC player was informed that, following an audition at a Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup game last season, he had been chosen as one of 96 official Rugby World Cup mascots.
And while emotions were high ahead of running out in front of thousands of spectators at the home of English rugby, Smith carried out his job superbly, walking out with the teams and then lining up in front of the Australian players for the national anthems.
His memorable day out continued when he then took a seat in the crowd to cheer on the action, with Smith – a pupil at Alverstoke Junior School – admitting he couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
‘It was really exciting for me to be a mascot,’ said Smith.
‘When we lined up with the players I shook the Australian captain’s hand and said good luck and he nodded at me.
‘As soon as we walked out on to the pitch, everyone started cheering, it was just amazing.
‘I had learnt the national anthem to sing along with the players.
‘I watched the match afterwards and thought it was really good.
‘I was supporting Australia and it was good to see them win.
‘Hopefully, they can go on and win the World Cup now.’
Land Rover’s selection of mascots from around the country forms part of their We Deal In Real campaign which aims to put grassroots rugby on the global stage.
Lawrence Dallaglio is one man who knows about the pressure of performing in front of a large audience, having helped England lift the trophy in 2003.
The Land Rover ambassador admitted he had been impressed with how Smith rose to the occasion.
‘It is a big responsibility to be picked as a mascot for a home Rugby World Cup but Oliver did a fantastic job,’ said Dallaglio.
‘So many people will have been watching in the stadium and all around the world and Oliver can always say that he played a part in the country hosting the competition in 2015.
‘I’ve no doubt the experience will live with the mascots for a very long time and, hopefully, it can inspire them going forward, whether that’s maybe one day playing for their country or just continuing to enjoy the sport of rugby which is what it’s all about really.
‘It’s great to have young players from all around the country involved in Rugby World Cup 2015 by inviting them to be mascots.
‘All those international players competing on the pitch would have come through from grassroots level, so the mascots will have got a real sense of what can be achieved.’
n Land Rover is a Worldwide Partner of Rugby World Cup 2015 and is recruiting all 96 official mascots for the Tournament as part of its ‘We Deal In Real’ campaign. Follow @LandRoverRugby #WeDealInReal