Harry meets England rugby stars at charity fundraising evening

The Duke of Sussex has spoken of sport’s “amazing ability to change people’s lives” as he kicked off a rugby charity fundraising night attended by past and present England stars.

Harry met the current crop of national players and their head coach Eddie Jones at the event and England’s Rugby World Cup winning heroes – Jonny Wilkinson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Jason Leonard.

The night was in aid of Try for Change, an England rugby programme committed to supporting disadvantaged young people, and mental health charity the Jonny Wilkinson Foundation.

After watching a video showing young men who had developed personally after playing rugby Harry, who was taking part in a question and answer session with England co-captain Dylan Hartley, described the benefits of sport.

The duke, who is patron of the Rugby Football Union, said: “Sport has an amazing ability to bring people together, it doesn’t matter what size, shape, background or beliefs that you have.”

He went on to say: “​In the world today where there is so much missing from community up and down this country I think rugby – and I may get a boo for this – not just Rugby Union but Rugby League as well…rugby as a sport has an amazing ability to change people’s lives.”

Harry was in the royal box to watch England’s emphatic win against France in the Rugby Six Nations championship at the weekend.

The duke has been a lifelong rugby fan playing the sport at school until he was injured and among the cheering fans who watched England win the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

Most of the England squad declined the offer of champagne and wine when they first arrived despite this weekend being a rest period before their crunch game against Wales towards the end of February.

England player Brad Shields chatted with Harry before the evening began with his teammates, and later spoke about supporting the charity night being staged in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

He said: “I think it’s humbling and brings you down to earth a little bit to know you’re in a pretty good position and to use that for good.”

Speaking about training on Thursday, he added: “We’ll just go out there and hopefully get a good run leading into the Welsh game – would be nice.”

Harry departed before the dinner and silent auction began and left the players and supporters of the two charitable causes to enjoy the night.