At Bournemouth Sevens Festival today I had the opportunity to interview Leicester Tiger’s Dan Hipkiss. After a season plagued by injury Hipkiss came on in the final of the Guinness Premiership against Saracens yesterday afternoon with seven minutes remaining and his side about to lose their title. Yet, with only two minutes remaining the powerful Hipkiss fought through two Saracen defenders to win the match and retain his side’s championship. Obviously elated, I had a few moments to speak to the man of the moment.
Congratulations on yesterdays victory Dan. I take it last night was a big one?
Yeah, there are times with the season where we can enjoy ourselves and we’ve got to celebrate these sorts of achievements. It’s a great thing to win back to back premierships, winning the title is one thing, but defending your title is probably harder than winning the first.
On a personal level, after a season plagued with injuries, could you have asked for a better way to finish the season, scoring the championship winning try?
No, I can’t. I’ve been through some tough times throughout this season. I’ve picked up injuries and illnesses regularly this year, but there is no doubt about it, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to finish the season. I’m now looking forward to pushing on and getting myself as fit as I possibly can.
You said before the game that you thought it would be a tense final, what was it like watching the game from the sidelines?
It was very difficult to be honest, it’s definitely the kind of match you want to be involved in from the start. It’s tough to watch, I’m probably the worst, some of the guys can sit there and watch and be perfectly at ease. I’m always bouncing up and down, looking at the coaches, trying to get myself on the pitch as soon as I could. But yeah, it’s a great feeling to have won.
So you have taken yourself out of Martin Johnson’s squad touring Australia and have opted instead for ankle surgery. Is that a decision made with the World Cup in mind?
No, I think it’s more with Leicester in mind, they have put a lot of faith in me and I need to pay them back for that. I have not had an injury free pre-season since 2006, so If I can ensure I have an injury free season under my belt, particularly with my playing style, I need to be as fit as I can be. Hopefully, I will get myself right for next season.
Before the game people where questioning Leicester’s bottle having won only 3 of their last 9 finals. Do you think yesterdays victory sent out a strong message to any potential critics?
Yeah I do. I mean it is tough going in to finals. They are always difficult finals to play. If you look at some of the semi-finals we have been in recently, over the previous years, we have done well to get through. But that is something people never remember. It took Munster a long time to win the Heineken Cup, and as a group of players it can take you a while to get used to winning finals.
Yesterday was Lewis Moody’s last game for Leicester Tigers, how big of a loss is he?
He’s a big loss. He’s always been a good player to have around the club. The way we have got to look at it, is that it is a great opportunity for the younger guys. We have got Matt Everard in our academy and people like him will now get games and opportunities they won’t have had in previous games where Lewis has played in the past. It’s a great opportunity for players like him.
Many people say your team mate Toby Flood is the natural successor to Johnny Wilkinson. Do you think he’s up to the task?
I think he’s got everything you need to be a world class fly-half, he distributes well, he tackles well and he kicks well. We saw yesterday that he can also kick under pressure too. So really, he has got all the attributes he needs. It will obviously depend on the future and England’s selection process. If they want him at the World Cup they will have to give him more games and more opportunities.
Which of your team mates would you least like to be up against in the tackle?
Any of the two Tuilagi brothers. Little Manu and Alesana are both tough men to tackle. I know I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.
There’s a lot of aspiring rugby players here today, what advice would you give them?
I think what I have found is you have to really enjoy what you are doing. If you are enjoying it you are going to want to try harder at it. The harder you work the better you play. I think as a rugby player it is important to find something you are good at. A lot of the time people dwell too much on what they can’t do, instead of focussing on what they can do and what they are good at. Find that thing you are good at and bring it to your game as often as you can.
Finally, I have had a few kids come up to me and say they don’t know how you managed to find the line to score your try yesterday, but as a kid who inspired you?
I used to watch Rory Underwood and Will Carling; they were the players I used to watch, in what was then the tri-nations, with my Dad.