Inspiring and supporting young people seriously injured through sport

"It Gave Me Purpose" Matt Hampson talks Foundation, Personal Goals and More

This week the Foundation was joined by Josh Cooke from Leeds Beckett University. Whilst on work experience as part of his 2nd year of a Sports Business Management degree he interviewed Matt Hampson and got the answers to his most burning questions.


Where did you start playing your rugby?

Oakham Rugby club age 5. Then I played at Syston when I was 12 and those were my two junior clubs.

How did you break into the Tigers squad?

I heard there was a trial session at oval park happening and all the local lads from Leicestershire were going. 200 lads there and a few weeks later I got a letter in the post saying I had been selected for the Tigers academy.

So for us backs out there what’s the difference between loosehead and tighthead because they both seem the same to me?

The tighthead is basically pushing two players whereas the loosehead is only pushing one player in the scrum. I played tighthead so I had the tougher job as I was pushing the loosehead prop and the hooker.

Who was the best player you had ever played with?

Tom Rees, one of the only players that could have matched Richard McCaw’s level. He’s a great player and it’s a shame he didn’t carry on because I think he would have been captain of England.

Did you ever have a role model when you started your playing career?

Darren Garforth was my hero. I loved Daz Garforth. He’s very hardworking, down to earth, humble. One of the first modern day prop forwards. He could carry the ball, had great hands, could scrummage well and he was hard as nails which obviously helps! Great guy to aspire to be like.

Knowing Richard Cockerill as well as you do, did you ever think he should and could take charge of the England job before Eddie Jones was appointed?

If you’d said this 5 years ago I would have laughed. But no I can see him doing a job there, he’s a evolved and learnt to be a good coach. I think he struggled when he first started coaching because I think Cockers only knew one way and that was his way. Which was very irate and he talked to all the players like he wanted be talked to. Some of the players could see him to be quite intimidating but I used to like that but some players didn’t but as a director of rugby and a head coach you have to adapt to treat everybody differently. Definitely could do a job at England and I feel that’s a credit to himself.

What's your view on Eddie Jones’ first controversial decision making Dylan Hartley captain and leaving out Tom Youngs?
For me not having Tom Youngs in the squad, let alone the starting fifteen is very bizarre. I think Tom Youngs would have made a terrific captain, which is strange because he’s not even involved in the England set up. He’s a great leader and can lead by example. Find it a strange decision to leave him out. Dylan Hartley obviously has a lot of passion for the game and I think he’s a good player but for me Tom Youngs is a better player, better leader but that might be my biased point of view.

What was it like representing your country in the sport you loved?

Great. For me I saw it as a real bonus. All I wanted to do was play for the Tigers and run out onto Welford Road from the Crumbie stand. Singing the national anthem was a really proud moment. Seeing my parents in the crowd was really special and I couldn’t even look at them.

Can you explain the situation that changed your life completely? What happened? What did it feel like? What were your thoughts?

Yes part of being a rugby player or playing sport is being injured. Basically it was a scrum that had collapsed and all the weight went onto my neck. I said “I can’t feel my arms and legs” and I was resuscitated. I didn’t realize the severity of the injury I thought I’d be back playing in a few weeks. Then it dawned on me as I was in hospital when I saw people in wheel chairs that this is a life changing injury and not just stop me playing rugby. It was tough to come to terms with. A few dark days although I had a lot of support.

Did you ever think “why me?” or hold a grudge against the sport?

Never held a grudge against the sport but I did think “why me” and that was quite tough but a lot of people do have injuries in direct scenarios. However some people aren’t as fortunate as me as they didn’t get as much support. They could go a few days without people coming to see them. I had a lot of support so I was very lucky in that respect.

When did you think “I’m going to start a charity”?

I was very fortunate to have a lot of support and I really wanted to do something with my life after my injury so I wanted to start raising money for other people. This was very good for me because it gave me a purpose, gave me a role and gave me something to get up for in the morning. It motivates me.

Could you talk me through your average day?

Days vary quite a bit. Lot’s going on with the Foundation. I’m here there and everywhere. In the office working for the Foundation, working at home, out seeing beneficiaries, in London at different charity events. It changes everyday but that is brilliant.

At what point did you think... "I'm going to write a book?"

I never thought I would write a book because being a prop forward we are known for being pretty thick. I never thought id write a book. Thought about it one day and never thought how hard it would be and what effect it would have on me and my family for the rest of my life. Did not know how difficult it would be to write a book and how emotionally draining it would be.

How long did it take for the book to be completed?

About 4 years in total because Paul Kimmage was doing it when he could fit it in.

Where do you see the Foundation being in 5 years time?

Hopefully have the new Get Busy Living Centre set up. That would be a massive focal point for our support system and for our beneficiaries to go a long to. I hope were into supporting thousands of people rather than hundreds of people. Hopefully the name and reputation of the Foundation will grow and spread worldwide and to other sports as well.

What's on your bucket list?

I would like to travel a lot more. Go to South Africa, go to Samoa to see one of our beneficiaries out there. Just to try and make the best out of the situation really and try and achieve as much as possible with putting the Foundation in the right direction.

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