A rugby mad volunteer had the experience of a lifetime and rubbed shoulders with royalty at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Not only did Mark ‘Scotty’ Walker meet dozens of world class international players, he was present at the All Blacks’ team talk at half-time in the final, and brought home a number of unique keepsakes.
The 54-year-old from Worksop even encountered a trio of royals, thanks to his ‘job’ with the International Rugby Board.
And yet none of it would have happened, had a gall stone not shifted.
He explained: “I applied to the IRB World Cup committee and had two interviews, then got picked for a volunteer role.
“There were 20,000 people going for 6,000 posts, and I was picked for the logistics team in Manchester.
“But I told them I was available for more dates and they offered me 32 days at Twickenham, so I actually spent 39 dates out of the 44 World Cup dates volunteering, and it was a surreal experience.
“But a couple of days before the first game, I was rushed to hospital with gall stone problems and spent three nights in Charing Cross Hospital.
“They were going to operate, but the gall stone moved and I got out of hospital on the Friday night, and was at Twickenham on the Satruday morning.”
The first game of the World Cup, England’s clash with Fiji, decided the course of Walker’s tournament and gave him a chance to catch up with a fellow former Worksop Rugby Club player, England physio Phil Pask.
“I saw Pasky and we went and had a photo on the pitch, and the woman in charge of the whole tournament asked if I could be there for every game.
“I got to help prepare the changing rooms, work with the kit men and met loads of players.
“Then I’d be in the changing room after the game helping to sort things out.”
Getting up close and personal with the best rugby players in the world is one thing, but on the day of the final Walker was afforded the icing on the cake.
He said: “In the final, I got to go into the New Zealand dressing room at half-time.
“I’m a 54-year-old man, and I was terrified, thinking what am I doing in here?
“It was an unbelievable experience.
“I’m a massive rugby fan, I bleed black and white for Worksop Rugby Club. I actually managed to bring back the ice bath from the New Zealand changing room, the one they used, and it’s down at Worksop now.
“World champions have been in that ice bath.”
Another out of this world moment came following the England versus Wales game, when Walker formed part of a security detail for some very special guests.
“These four guys came past and were talking about how they would go down this way, to the changing room.
“Being ex-military I knew what was going to happen.
“One of them asked me to stand at a door, and not let anyone past, no matter what pass they had – and then Harry, Kate and William came right past me.
“I got a nod from Harry, although he didn’t look very happy after the result.”
The ice bath wasn’t the only memento Walker brought back from Twickenham.
A corner flag, his accreditation for the final signed by the coaches of Australia and New Zealand and a letter of thanks from Prime Minister David Cameron, will remind him forever of his time at the tournament.
And he took pictures with the likes of Sam Burgess, All Black Jerome Kaino and various England stars.
While many would call it a once in a lifetime experience, Walker is already plotting to do it all over again.
He said: “I’m hoping to persuade my partner to go to Japan in 2019 for the World Cup, as a volunteer.
“I’ve got this on my CV now, so that will stand me in good stead.
“I’m a lorry driver, and out of the 27 of us on the logistics team at the World Cup I probably had the most boring job – but I got the dream role in the changing room.
“It wasn’t paid, and it cost me a lot of my own money, but if I’d known the half of what I’d get to do, I would have paid so much more.
“It turned out to be unbelievable.”