The people, not the prizes, were what made legend of the game Hugh Vyvyan’s career so memorable for the former Newcastle Falcons and Saracens man.
Vyvyan was inducted into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame during a gala evening at London’s Honourable Artillery Company, alongside Richard Hill, Mike Tindall, Mark Cueto and Neil Back.
The versatile forward racked up more than 100 appearances for both Falcons and Saracens, during his 16-year career, and can rightly be described as a legend of the English game.
But the auburn-haired, 6ft 6in back row, made just one appearance for England, in 2004, scoring a try against Canada, as his career unfortunately ran parallel to England’s all-star line up of Lawrence Dallaglio, Back and Hill.
Vyvyan is fifth in the all time Premiership rugby appearance list, with 245, and said the people he met in his years as a player, rather than the trophies he won, made the biggest impact on him.
“It’s very humbling, honestly I just really enjoyed playing rugby and I was fortunate to go up to Newcastle as a youngster and play a lot of games up there, at a very successful time for the club,” he said.
“Some of those senior players like Gary Armstrong, Rob Andrew, Inga Tuigamala and Pat Lam, it was an absolutely amazing team and I learned a huge amount from those superstars of the game.
“That Newcastle team was the first real big team in the Premiership and I learned a huge amount from those guys.
“Then I moved down to Saracens and I suppose the latter amount of my career at Saracens had a huge amount of success, getting to back-to-back Premiership finals.”
The five new inductees helped raise thousands of pounds at the fourth Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame Ball for Wooden Spoon, Movember Foundation, Sport Relief and Restart Rugby, the official charity of the Rugby Players Association. The event also celebrated two decades of Premiership Rugby as it continues its 20th season.
Vyvyan, now retired for four years, spoke at the Ball and reflected on his years in the game, highlighting the growth of the sport since he first joined Falcons back in 1997.
“For me, there are two things that stand out,” he added.
“The growth of the game has been extraordinary. Seeing how big the crowds are getting and the popularity of the club game.
“And secondly it is all about the people, the people I’ve played against and played with.
“It’s a big family out there. It’s pretty tough on the field, but after the game it’s a pretty friendly environment to be a part of.
“I’m so fortunate to play with so many amazing players from all around the world. These South-Sea Islanders are great people. To get to play with Inga and Pat Lam as a youngster, they are fantastic people.
“But then there were Argentinians, Americans, Kiwis, Aussies, there are very few jobs you can do where you get to travel with an amazing group and meet people from around the world.”
Vyvyan, after making nearly 200 appearances for Saracens, has stayed on at the club and worked in their commercial department for the last four years.
But he now has goals to set up his own company and transfer the knowledge gained from his time as a professional sportsman.
“I’m going to look at taking the values and culture of high performance in rugby and impart that into the corporate world,” he said.
“I just think that there is a huge amount of transferrable messages from elite rugby.
“I’ve been fortunate to play in some amazing teams, and fortunate enough, maybe in hindsight, to play in some not so amazing teams.
“I’m fascinated about what motivates individuals, what motivates teams, and I am going to go into the corporate world and try and do some coaching and development for the corporate in team development.”