We were very pleased that Jason Leonard agreed to be the second recipient of the Obolenksy Award following on from the inaugural award to Andy Ripley.
Lawrence Dellaglio and Keith Wood’s answer, when asked at Rip’s memorial lunch, of who might best be the modern day Andy was that despite the fact that he’s not quite modern anymore and is a somewhat different shape, they both simultaneously said “Jason Leonard”.
The key reason for that is that Jason embodied as a player, the same freedom of spirit and genial contempt for a tour manager’s silly rules as did Andy, and, we suspect, the Prince.
His rugby glory is of course of a different scale to theirs. It is doubtful, in this day and age of frantic running about and consequent routine chronic injuries that any forward will ever overtake his 114 England and 5 lions caps, his 4 grand slams and 4 world cup campaigns, and certainly no-one will ever again win his country a World Cup by telling a panicking South African ref, “It’s going to be OK Andre, I’m here now, the scrums will be just fine.” The penalties ceased and England were allowed at the last to play their game and win.
Jason’s international try scoring exploits (the plural used wisely) are of course a key part of his fame. He scored his first to win the game on his debut as England Captain and his other one when playing his very last match for the Barbarians’ … against England. So that’s Played 114…scored 2…1 for…1 against…. truly the stuff of legend!
Like our other two heroes, The Fun Bus, as Martin Bayfield christened him, stood out from his peers as a man who refused to let professionalism and management take the freedom from his spirit, and who, even more perhaps than our other two, was good enough to get away with it.
Today he’s a bit more like the rest of us really, but he fronts up wonderfully generously for the fine causes of Wooden Spoon and Sparks and is a truly rounded man and living legend, and a very rare one of those.