Five Premiership Rugby legends can now officially call themselves ‘Hall-of-Famers’ after they were inducted into the exclusive club on Thursday evening.
The glittering ceremony at the Honourable Artillery Company in London saw Ben Kay, Nick Easter, Kyran Bracken, Steve Borthwick, and Jason Robinson formally welcomed into the Premiership Rugby Hall of Fame.
All five former players saw their careers celebrated, as former Bath Rugby forward David Flatman hosted the event, with money also being raised for two of Premiership Rugby’s official charities – Sport Relief and Restart Rugby.
Restart Rugby is the official charity of the Rugby Players’ Association, and RPA member Ed Jackson was also in attendance to deliver a moving talk about the importance of the organisation’s work.
Kay, Bracken and Robinson joined several of their fellow 2003 World Cup winners in the Hall of Fame, with Richard Hill and Neil Back inducted just last year – and Jonny Wilkinson, Josh Lewsey, Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw and Phil Vickery all also welcomed in recent times.
And Kay, a one-club man with Leicester Tigers where he made 177 Premiership Rugby appearances and won an astonishing six league titles (as well back-to-back European crowns in 2001 and 2002), admitted he was honoured to join such an exclusive club.
“It’s a huge honour for me,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re playing you don’t get a chance to reflect on the really happy moments when you achieve something.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) October 12, 2017
“So it’s great to get to reflect on your own career, and a huge honour to be alongside all these guys that I was lucky enough to play against and are heroes of mine.
“I’m actually delighted to get inducted at the same time as Steve Borthwick. We played against each other an awful lot and he was one of the major reasons why I got better!”
Bracken remains one of the most revered Saracens players of all time despite the side’s recent successes, after turning out for almost a decade in North London after a move from Bristol Rugby.
He came so close to a maiden Premiership Rugby title in the 1997/98 season, but won the Tetley’s Bitter Cup that same year before going on to captain Saracens for two campaigns.
He said: “It was a bit of a surprise for me, I’m probably enjoying life too much and I’d almost forgotten I used to be a rugby player.
“My life completely changed when I became a professional. It was a great era to be involved in, and I remember having the time of my life doing what I loved – being inducted into the Hall of Fame reminded me of that.”
And Robinson, the third World Cup winner in the Hall of Fame class of 2017, also led with distinction during his playing days as he skippered Sale Sharks to their first-ever Premiership title in 2006.
— The RPA (@theRPA) October 13, 2017
Despite standing at just 5ft 8in tall, Robinson is still a reminder to youngsters today that size isn’t everything after scoring 33 tries in 111 Premiership Rugby games.
“It’s a huge honour to be inducted, as a player you don’t look for things like this, you just love the game,” he said.
“The Premiership is a great league to be in and I have some fantastic memories, and I suppose this is a culmination of all those memories and the things I’ve been able to do.”
Both Easter and Borthwick have shown they can be just as effective in retirement as they were on the field, having successfully made the transition from players to world-class coaches.
Former England captain Borthwick, still the most capped Premiership Rugby player of all time with 265 league appearances for Bath Rugby and Saracens, took to coaching like a duck to water and has enjoyed impressive spells already with Japan, England and the British & Irish Lions.
— Restart Rugby (@RestartRugby) October 12, 2017
Meanwhile Harlequins legend Easter remains in south-west London as defence coach, having turned out in the famous quartered jersey 184 times in the Premiership and helped the side to their only league triumph to date in the 2011-12 campaign.
He said: “I’m pretty overwhelmed to be fair and deeply honoured, looking at the other players getting inducted what they have achieved to be in the same company is pretty special.
“You don’t do it for recognition, you play because you love the game, you want to get better, play against the best players and achieve as much as you can.”