England star is family's pride and joy

NOT many of us would dare tell the world's most experienced prop forward he ate all the pies – but his dad did.Back in 1987, when tomorrow's England Rugby World Cup opener against Georgia was just a sausage roll in Jason Leonard's eye, the then young man was in full front row training mode.

NOT many of us would dare tell the world's most experienced prop forward he ate all the pies – but his dad did.

Back in 1987, when tomorrow's England Rugby World Cup opener against Georgia was just a sausage roll in Jason Leonard's eye, the then young man was in full front row training mode.

According to his dad, Frank Leonard from Clacton, the 19-year-old would constantly creep down to the kitchen claiming to his mum Maria that his mates were hungry upstairs.

"They needed more sausages apparently," his father Frank said yesterday.


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"But those sausages never made it to the top of the house - he was picking them off one by one as he walked up.

"I don't think it's done him any harm though," he added.

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Sixteen years and 106 England caps later, the expectant father – Jason's girlfriend Sandra is due to give birth on October 25 - will step out in Perth as part of the squad's assault on the Webb Ellis Trophy.

The eldest of three rugby mad brothers, it will be the 35-year-old's fourth world cup, but Mr Leonard senior, a carpenter, said his son's ageing joints would last a little while yet.

He said: "He's as fit as he's ever been – rugby's his life and he's 100% dedicated to his country. We're so proud of him, I just hope he gets to play in the final – if that happens, we'll be off out there like a shot."

His Clacton house has a bar full of memorabilia to all three sons' achievements, but he said he had no idea where they their rugby blood came from – he was just a darts player.

Jason's brothers Scott, 31, and Russell, 29, also play to a high standard with Hadleigh and Brightlingsea.

But their builds – hence their positions - are slightly different to that of the England hero. Scott is a flanker and Russell a more "athletic" back three-quarter.

"We have a theory for it though," Scott Leonard said.

"As Jason was the eldest he managed to get to all the food first and ended up the heaviest. Poor old Russell got nothing to eat so he had to settle for playing with the fairies."

He said his brother was now the daddy of the England side and insisted they would all cope with the pressure of being tournament favourites.

He said: "He's seen it all before. He's determined to help win it because he reckons this will be his last world cup.

"He'll be nearly 40 by the time the next one comes around and that might be a bit much, even for him. Having said that, he's as fit as he ever been and wants to carry on playing for as long as he can."

England versus Georgia match kicks off at 1pm tomorrow in Perth.

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