A RUGBY super fan enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders with the entire World Cup-bound England squad.

Gary Hutchinson, 53, was selected as one of more than 30 fans who battled it out to be crowned ‘The Unstoppable Fan’ at The O2 as part of its Wear the Rose Live event.

The England squad heading to France were in attendance as fans were first tested on their knowledge of the game before competing in a passing challenge with the players.

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Fans were selected due to their dedication to the England team, with each writing in with their reasons as to why they should make the final squad.

Fleet resident Gary Hutchinson, who is a plumber and has previously represented the Army team, revelled in being able to meet his heroes.

Gary said: “It’s a bit weird, I was at work last week and got the email and sort of thought, what competition? It was a couple of months ago now so all a bit surreal.

Basingstoke Gazette: The England Squad, Inlcuding Captain Owen Farrell were in attendanceThe England Squad, Inlcuding Captain Owen Farrell were in attendance (Image: O2)

“I’m a massive fan and have followed Quins for donkeys years too. I’ve brought my daughter and a friend. I was just told who was going with me, I didn’t get an option.

“I’ve met the older England crew from back in my day in 2003, the likes of Jason Leonard and Martin Johnson. It’s a different genre of players nowadays, my daughter knows the whole lot of them and she’s more excited than anyone else.

“I wanted to take a back seat for the physical challenges, I probably could have done with a sub!”

Fans were able to pose for pictures and get shirts signed by the England players, and Ben Youngs revealed the players thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of their most hardcore supporters.

The scrum-half said: “It’s a brilliant initiative from O2 and we’ve all loved taking part. It’s been inspiring to see such amazing support behind the team just before we leave for France.

“Congratulations to all who were involved, your support means the world to me and all the team.”

Maro Itoje added: “Seeing so many passionate England Rugby supporters competing alongside us players to become the ‘Unstoppable Fan’ just shows the support and dedication for the squad and how much the sport, and what we do out on the pitch, means to people.”

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Director of partnerships and sponsorships at Virgin Media O2, Gareth Griffiths, said: “Not only does this experience allow us to demonstrate our unwavering support to the team, but also shows the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities available to Virgin Media and O2 customers via Priority.

“Congratulations to everyone who took part today and to our Unstoppable Fan who will get to enjoy attending every England game at Twickenham until 2025 courtesy of O2. 

“We can’t wait to Wear the Rose and get behind the team as they take on the World’s best in France next month.”

O2 gave customers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be crowned ‘The Unstoppable Fan’ ahead of the England Rugby team travelling to France next month. Fans competed for the coveted title at an exclusive and intimate live event at The O2 with the entire England Rugby Squad in attendance. Follow #WearLaRose to find out more and get involved.