More than 300 people were in attendance at the Oswestry Rugby Club sportsman’s dinner event for 2020 on Saturday.

The annual event, held at the Oswestry Showground Pavillion, welcomes players and staff past and present, as well as club sponsors and volunteers, and businesses from the town.

Special guest for this year’s event was former England and British and Irish Lions player James Haskell, who entertained guests with stories from his illustrious career.

There was also an auction which helped to raise money for the club and its chosen charity, The Movement Centre.

Haskell finished his rugby career just under a year ago, but had plenty of stories to tell about what he has been doing since then.

The 34-year-old featured on ITV’s reality television show I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, and has also been training for his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut fight.

But he insists coming back to local clubs like Oswestry is still something he really enjoys.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here," he said.

"I wasn’t entirely sure where it was I was coming exactly; with it being on the Wales and England border, half of the people like me and half hate me.

“Club rugby, for me, is really important. It’s a hugely important aspect to our game – it builds characters and it’s a place of heritage for our sport.

“It also teaches kids a lot of valuable lessons about teamwork, ethics and being part of something.

“I spent my time between the ages of five and 18 at Maidenhead Rugby Club, so I know how important it is and how much the game is loved.”

He was able to find time in his busy training schedule to visit Oswestry, despite his first bout being scheduled for May this year.

He said: “Getting an opportunity to come to these events and speak at places like this can be hard to fit in with my fighting commitments now.

“I’m currently training five or six days a week and it’s very hard to do.

“I haven’t had a drink for months because of the training.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – physically it’s very tough and mentally as well.

“As a sport it’s extremely skilfully-demanding, and a lot of people like to talk about the sport and think they know a lot about it, but until you actually get in the ring or a cage, you don’t realise how tough it is.”

He believes that having a busy schedule and plenty of hobbies since finishing rugby has made it easier to leave the game.

Haskell explained: “I’ve been out of the game for about 10 months now. After 19 seasons and getting to play around the world, I wanted to go into a career of MMA.

“I love speaking at events and dj’ing, so I’ve moved on pretty quickly and it’s like I’ve never played rugby.

“I have my House of Rugby podcast which I run, but that’s more about the real connection between the game and the community.”

The former Wasps player also gave advice to the next generation of rugby players coming through the youth system at clubs like Oswestry.

“When you’re starting out in this sport, the most important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying your rugby,” he said.

“I think if you can find some players you aspire to be like and try to emulate what they do in training and have fun, that helps.

“If you want to take it a bit more seriously, then it’s about putting that bit of extra effort in and working hard after training as well as during it.

“That’s the best advice I can give to chase the dream you have, but other than that, it’s to have fun.”

Club chairman, Warren Howell, was delighted with the turnout at the event.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “The numbers are amazing, to have so many people coming down to support us is unbelievable.

“I said in my speech that we’re looking for more volunteers and sponsorship, but to be achieving things like this each year is brilliant.

“This is our main money-maker of the year as a club.

“The organisers have put in a mammoth effort to make this happen once again. When you look around the room at all the past and present players, volunteers and businesses from the town, it’s really good.

“We really are a community club and for years we’ve put a lot of effort into the juniors and girls side of the game, and now we want to focus on making sure we can be even more involved with that.

“Having a big name like James here again is great for us too.”