By Kath 24/3/04
April 13 2004
England's Mascot Mr. England (Pete Cross) took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Unofficial England Rugby about his debut game, the French Mascot and much more.
Unofficial England & Sportnetwork - Exclusive Interview with England's Mascot
Mr. England (Pete Cross)
Kath for Sportnetwork: Pete tell us about your debut as England Mascot and have you missed any matches?
Pete: I first started dressing Patriotically at Twickenham in the Autumn of 1996. My first official game was England v Australia Autumn 2000. The only matches I have missed since 1996 were England v Wales at Wembley, I could not get a ticket for the Wales at Wembley. I missed the South Africa two Test Tour, the Tour of Hell to the Southern Hemisphere and last summer to New Zealand and Australia. I would have been on all of these tours if I could have afforded it. I would just have love to be down under when we beat New Zealand Maori, New Zealand and Australia. They were defining games prior to the Rugby World Cup.
Kath: Most people can be superstitious, do you have a set routine on a match day?
Pete: I always feel nervous the morning of a game. I stay in Whitten ten minutes from the ground, always with four or five of my neighbours. I relax and read the sport pages. My first priority is to meet the team coach (this is extremely important for me). I like to be around to meet people and talk England rugby etc., I tour the stadium prior to the kick off and at half time. I really feel the players and coach enjoy me greeting them and also the fans.
Kath: Pete your Bulldog Mascot does he have a name and why does he sit next to the flag on match days?
Pete: His name is 'Billy'. I first sat him by the half way flag at my first official game. I sat him facing the Wallabies Kangaroo for a bit of Patriotic fun. He is mostly on his own as he faces the opposition goal posts, as that is hopefully were most of the play will be!
Kath: Do you get on well with the other countries mascots, I was thinking in particular the Frenchman?
Pete: The Frenchman Jean Claude Massard is the only other mascot in World Rugby. He has been the French mascot for well over twenty years and started the same way as me being an ex player who wanted to support his country. We are very good friends he speaks no English and I no French but we get on extremely well. My mates and I go out to dinner with him and his mates. Last summer with my wife and other friends we stayed in his village in Provence for four days prior to the Marseille game. They had a Mayor's reception in my honour. We were treated like Kings and had a great time.
Kath: Pete you went over to Australia for the Rugby World Cup, did you manage to follow the team around?
Pete: I missed the Georgia game but then did five and half weeks following England. My dad died suddenly the day after the South Africa game (he had seen me on the telly). I flew back for the funeral in Bournemouth and then flew straight into Brisbane, having missed the Western Samoa game.
Kath: We are very sorry to hear about your dad Pete but glad to hear he saw you on the television. Pete you have lots of badge pins on your coat where do you get these from?
Pete: Lots I have collected myself at events. I have been to the Olympic Games in Australia the Commonwealth Games in Kula Lumpur Malaysia and Manchester ( I am a bit of a Sports Nut). They are mostly rugby badges given to me by International players, officials and fans. I take a big pride in them.
Kath: Pete you must have some wonderful memories of the Rugby World Cup, could you tell us about one or two?
Pete: Yes unbelievable - All of it! Firstly the South African game in Perth. The atmosphere prior to the match was incredible. Lots of fun loving fans looking for ward t5o the occasion. So many English, young fans, all dressed up in flamboyant St. George's Cross attire - that put me to shame. Lots of them were fans I guess who never managed to get a ticket for Twickers! All the games in Brisbane were the same, I was proud to be English. The moment we won the final was unreal, I just felt total fulfillment for the team, the fans and my Country. When the team were going around with the trophy, I was standing about 20 rows back and Phil Vickery saw me he started waving and then pointed my out to Jonny Wilkinson. I appreciated that! Sydney on the day was bursting with people drinking and having a great time. Not one arrest all day and night! That to me speaks out about rugby supporters.
Kath: Pete What is your most outstanding memory of a Twickenham match?
Pete: Dan Luger scoring in the last seconds of my first official match England v Australia and then afterwards Clive Woodward talking me into the changing rooms to meet the players (Prince Harry was also in there). Also the World Cup tour around the pitch with the players after the Baa Baas game in December 2003.
Kath: Pete I bet many youngsters ask for your autograph?
Pete: Yes lots, all of the time, plenty of the older supporters also. Also lots of requests for photos. Many younger supporters 18-30 years approx., have pictures taken with me and often tell me, I am a legend. I must say this took be aback but I have heard it so often!
Kath: Over the years you must have met a great many players of all nations, who sticks out in your mind as a true hero and gentleman?
Pete: Rugby is full of people like this from Junior rugby to International rugby. Lawrence Dallaglio is the man! He is a true superstar, he is patriotic and he always seems to have time and a word for everyone.
Kath: Pete thank you for taking time out to talk to us at Unofficial England Rugby, would you like to say anything else?
Pete: Yes, I feel honoured and privileged to do what I do. When I walk around the pitch it is great fun. When I go around at home and in Paris with Jean Claude it seems the whole crowd are standing up and applauding us and our camaraderie. It makes the hairs stand up on my neck. I get the same feeling when I stand facing the team singing the National Anthem.
Kath: Thank you so much Mr. England (Pete)
Mr. England & Kath