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Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Saturday, 31 May 2008 21:10 UK

Dream ending for Dallaglio

By James Standley
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Lawrence Dallaglio
Dallaglio salutes the Twickenham crowd for the very last time

When the moment came all 81,600 present stood as one to applaud him from the field.

Lawrence Dallaglio's playing career came to an end with just over 10 minutes remaining of the Premiership final victory over Leicester.

At the time the Tigers, who had been down and out at half-time, had fought back well enough to give themselves a glimmer of hope of ruining Dallaglio's farewell.

But even without their veteran leader Wasps had enough in the tank to hold off their huge rivals and secure the fifth league title since Dallaglio became the club's captain way back in 1995.

The noise as he walked slowly from the arena for the last time was extraordinary, with even the Leicester fans rising to their feet to applaud one of English rugby's greatest servants.

Dallaglio made an emotional farewell

For a minute the applause rolled around Twickenham's towering stands, rising to a second crescendo as Dallaglio was shown in close-up on the big screen, and even a man as happy to be centre stage as Dallaglio looked slightly taken aback by the acclaim.

Asked after the game what he was thinking as he took his place on the bench, the 35-year-old said: "I was more concerned with the last 10 minutes of the game if I'm honest - it was important we did the job."

And his team did just that to make sure their captain finished in what he described as: "The only way to finish. End of story."

Lifting the trophy was clearly a hugely emotional moment for a man who later spoke freely about just what Wasps means to him.

When he joined the club as a teenager he said he picked them for two reasons.

Lawrence Dallaglio
Dallaglio waves an emotional farewell to Wasps supporters

"I chose Wasps because they were top of the table, but also when I arrived at Wasps I wasn't in the greatest place in the world to be honest after the loss of my sister the year before," he said.

"I just felt very at home. I was definitely among the right people. It felt like a very special place and it continues to be that and has been for the last couple of decades."

In the 68 minutes he was on the pitch he produced a performance that echoed hundreds of committed displays for club and country over the years.

There were thunderous changes off the back of the scrum, ball and all tackles and even a bit of a scuffle with Leicester winger Alesana Tuilagi, the star of the show in the 2007 final but this time kept quiet by Wasps, bar one thunderous charge that left scrum-half Eoin Reddan as flat as a piece of roadkill.

Once the trophy had been lifted there was a leisurely stroll around the pitch to show off the silverware to the many thousands of adoring fans - the sheer number of whom astonished Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan.

"I never thought I would see a game when I thought Wasps outnumbered Leicester (the club with English rugby union's largest fanbase) in the crowd (a world record for a club game), and I think that's the testament to Lawrence," said McGeechan.

"I think a lot of people made a special effort to come to this game because of the man, and you can't have a bigger statement than that."

We've got huge qualities as a rugby club - we've got great spirit, great soul

Lawrence Dallaglio

So one of the great playing careers comes to an end, but Dallaglio is a long way from ending his association with Wasps.

He is becoming an associate director and will turn his attention from winning silverware to turning the club into a commercial powerhouse to match their playing success.

"On the pitch we're in great health - 11 trophies in 11 years," Dallaglio said.

"We've got a fantastic set of coaches and we've got a great squad and we're going to look to try and develop that, but clearly there are some big challenges off the pitch and I think we all accept that.

"We need to be able to boast the best facilities in the country, we need to be able to boast one of the best stadiums in the country, we need to continue to enhance the special things we have on the field.

"One of the challenges I face is making sure that happens, to try and bring our business off the field in line with the excellence we've demonstrated on the field.

"That is a huge challenge, I'm aware of that, but we've got a fantastic board of directors, we've got a new CEO, a lot of new staff and my job is to help to pull those guys together and get us working in the right direction.

"We've got huge qualities as a rugby club. We've got great spirit, great soul, but we do appreciate we're competing in an ever-changing world."

Dallaglio the rugby player is no more; welcome to Dallaglio the businessman. Board meetings will never be the same again.

see also
Wasps 26-16 Leicester
31 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Dallaglio ends career in triumph
31 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Corry bemoans first-half failings
31 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Dallaglio's last stand
30 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Lawrence Dallaglio in pictures
22 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Loffreda upbeat on Tigers future
28 May 08 |  Leicester
Prop White free to play in final
28 May 08 |  Leicester
Waters to leave Wasps for Treviso
27 May 08 |  London Wasps
Voyce to undergo shoulder surgery
21 May 08 |  London Wasps

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