TO say Emma Pearson is a big fan of Sale Sharks star Henry Thomas could be considered something of an understatement.
So when the prop forward surprised Emma and dad Carl as they filmed a new series of TV adverts for Premiership Rugby sponsor Aviva, it was the perfect early Christmas present.
The pair blew away producers working for Aviva after they launched a nationwide search for the country’s most passionate rugby supporters.
Emma and Carl shone on camera after they were interviewed at the AJ Bell Stadium at the Sale versus Exeter Chiefs game last month, where their love for the club rung out – though the duo did not react to the news they would be making their TV debuts in the same way.
“It’s a total honour and I hope we have done the rest of the supporters proud,” said Carl, 60, a project manager from Clitheroe.
“It is a proud moment – it really is.
“When Emma told me what was going to happen I was absolutely horrified but, having said that, you’ve always got your few minutes of fame in life.”
TV cameras joined the Pearsons at the AJ Bell Stadium to capture them on film, with the interview one of 12 set to be featured during the ITV Aviva Premiership highlights show, from December 22.
Emma, 24, was delighted to be representing the club with her dad and the opportunity to bump into England prop Henry Thomas stood out as the day’s highlight.
“He is a little superstar – he makes me laugh,” she said.
“He is just so down to earth. Out of all the lads, you can talk to all of them but Henry just comes up and chats with you.
“In the last match of last season they were all just hanging around, getting pictures, and I just said ‘Henry, can I have your shirt?’
“He just said ‘yeah’ and threw it off his back, full of sweat, mud and blood. It smelt rather rank after three days. You couldn’t move it – it had just gone stiff.”
Carl has been watching Sale since 1972 and a trip to Twickenham four years ago sparked a shared interest between father and daughter – now they couldn’t imagine a better way to bond.
“You are part of the team, that’s it,” added Emma.
“It is just the camaraderie of it.
“You never know what happens in life. You have got to make the most of what you’ve got and I’m trying to.”
“What we're trying to do is really get to the heart of what matters to rugby fans from the 12 Aviva Premiership clubs,” said Louisa Cheetham, senior sponsorship manager at Aviva.
“I think what's been absolutely fantastic is we've seen the passion of all the fans, from an 82-year-old Leicester Tigers supporters to a pair of eight-year-olds who love Exeter Chiefs.
“And I think it's absolutely testament to how wonderfully supportive the fans are, and who are ultimately at the heart of everything we're doing with rugby and makes it the great game that it is.”
Aviva are proud sponsors of Premiership Rugby. For more information on Aviva’s home insurance deals, go to aviva.co.uk/insurance.