Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Lawrence Dallaglio, former England rugby captain

'Rugby was second only to religion'
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The Independent Online

Lawrence Dallaglio, 37, won 85 caps for England. He was also Wasps' captain until he retired in 2008. His sister Francesca was drowned in the Marchioness pleasure-boat disaster on the Thames at the age of 19. It's in the Blood: My Life was published in paperback last year and Rugby Tales came out in November.

I liked all the playing we did at breaks but saw most of the classes as spoiling the fun. St Osmund's was a really good Catholic primary school in Barnes, west London, but my parents decided to take me out of the state system and send me to an all-boys prep school. Francesca, my sister, scholarshipped to a ballet school, so they were able to afford to send me to a private school.

I enjoyed my sports at King's House and was in the choir. Michael Stuckey was a wonderful music teacher who made music fun. We sang at Andrew Lloyd Webber's wedding and on Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero". We also sang "Ave Maria" in Evita in the West End, which prepared you rather well for running on to the pitch at Twickenham in front of 80,000 people; I don't remember worrying about the audience.

The teaching at St David's House was very sound. You were prepared for the Common Entrance and my mother chose Ampleforth [a Benedictine Order boarding school]. I remember the headmaster of St David's saying: "I don't think so; that's a little ambitious for your son." That made my mother more determined. When I went to Yorkshire for the interview, Father Dominic Milroy said: "You were born on 10th August; what's special about that?" It came to me that this is St Lawrence's Day. "What's so special about that?" he asked. I said: "He's the head of the Order." I could see Father Dominic's face. It was a done deal.

I had loved London and the smell of urban life; suddenly I was in the middle of nowhere. It was as if I'd had all my toys taken away. I settled in and probably had too good a time; I wasn't one for rules.

My mother used to live in fear of the phone ringing and the housemaster saying: "Mrs Dallaglio, we need to talk about Lawrence." The method of punishment was that they'd wake you up 6am in the pitch black and give you a postcard which you'd have to deliver through the snow to a master's house two miles across the valley.

I remember playing at Twickenham for the first time when I was 11 or 12. There was a bit of a wow factor – but I loved all sports. At Ampleforth, rugby was second only to religion. All the eye could see was rugby pitches. I never made the first 15; I played in the second team, which thought it was the first team!

I got three O-levels a year early, none at spectacular grades. The next year was the first of the GCSE exams; I got eight. I went on to do A-levels in economics and business studies but the first year coincided with the loss of my sister [in the sinking of the Marchioness]. I was in shock and trauma. I left the school and started at d'Overbroeck's, a tutorial college in Oxford but got a job without sitting my A-levels. I then turned up to classes for the unemployed and also did a crash course of private tuition with a lovely guy who got me a C in the two A-levels.

Apart from getting into the four-year course in urban estate management at Kingston Poly, which I chose because it was near to the Wasps ground, I never used my A-levels. When I joined Wasps, they didn't ask: "How many A-levels did you get?"