RWC moments: Sonny Bill Williams gives medal to stunned fan
Star’s act of generosity got worldwide attention after Rugby World Cup final win
Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand gives his winning medal to young fan Charlie Lines following the 2015 Rugby World Cup final. Photograph: Paul Gilham/Getty
Selflessness is not a virtue generally associated with professional sportspeople, whose career often demands being singular or selfish in their focus. But New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams offered a touching example in the aftermath of the All Blacks 34-17 victory over Australia in the 2015 World Cup final at Twickenham.
Williams’ act of generosity was sparked by an incident in which he witnessed 14-year-old Charlie Line being heavily tackled by stadium security as the youngster tried to get on the pitch to celebrate with the New Zealand team during their post-match lap of honour. The New Zealand centre intervened, rescuing the teenager and bringing him back to his mother. And then, much to Line’s bewilderment, Williams handed him his winners’ medal to keep.
Williams, who had made a huge impact when introduced as a second-half replacement in the final, explained: “I was walking around doing a lap of honour with the boys and a young fella came running out and he got smoked by the security guard, like full-on tackled him. I felt sorry for the little fella.
“If that was a younger brother or cousin I would have given the security guard a hiding. But I just picked the kid up and took him back to his old lady and tried to make the night more memorable for him: better [for the medal] to be hanging around his neck, than mine.”
Those moments were captured in a thousand photographs turning the teenager into an instant celebrity to a point where his family had to issue a statement on the Monday after the final. It read: “Charlie is now back at school and focussing on his studies. He won’t be taking part in any media interviews.”
The school in question was Millfield in Somerset, which once had former England captain Chris Robshaw as a pupil. Line’s 15-minutes of fame were not quite over and Williams tweeted the following day: “For a kid 2 have that will and take that risk, you deserve a medal. Enjoy bro.”
The story did not quite end there as Williams was furnished with a replacement winners’ medal by the tournament organisers to compensate for the one that he had given Line. So what initially seemed like the end of the line for young Charlie when he was tackled to the ground ended up being a story with a happy conclusion.