Rugby World Cup FINAL: Martin Johnson and Sir Clive Woodward on how to beat the Springboks

Daily Mail Online Sports 1 month ago

Martin Johnson is peering out of a 37th floor window across the Tokyo skyline, overwhelmed by the juxtapositions. Huge skyscrapers next to tiny, six seat bars. He was in one the other night, with a handful of people, minding his business. It was quite late and he was spotted by a couple of fans. 

'They weren't any problem but, you know, it was 2am and we probably weren't their first bar,' he says. 'They wanted to come in. There were these two little old ladies serving and I don't think they had seen much like it. I had to have a word.' Meaning?

'Well after the third time they hadn't taken no for an answer I had to step in and explain. It's not very impressive, is it? Frightening little old ladies? They were fine. They got the message. It's very different here. They were not bad guys actually. Rugby fans from Portugal, supporting Argentina. As you do.'

Sir Clive Woodward (left) and Martin Johnson (right) have recounted the 2003 World Cup final for the first time
Sir Clive Woodward (left) and Martin Johnson (right) have recounted the 2003 World Cup final for the first time
Johnson and Woodward settled down to discuss that final and how to beat the Springboks
Johnson and Woodward settled down to discuss that final and how to beat the Springboks
The pair are, for now, England's only Rugby World Cup winning-captain and coach
The pair are, for now, England's only Rugby World Cup winning-captain and coach
The England team celebrate following their 20-17 victory in the 2003 World Cup final - with captain Martin Johnson at the back (back row, centre - behind the Webb Ellis Cup)
The England team celebrate following their 20-17 victory in the 2003 World Cup final - with captain Martin Johnson at the back (back row, centre - behind the Webb Ellis Cup)

Sir Clive Woodward is across the room making notes for an upcoming television interview with Eddie Jones. 

England's only Rugby World Cup winning-coach, and its only Rugby World Cup-winning captain - although not for much longer, fingers crossed - together in the same room.

People imagine them as a double act, on an endless run of promotions and appearances. The reality is, their paths rarely cross. 

Both insist this is the first time they have done this, sat down to reminisce, to talk about the past, the present; it's time to turn the tape on.

Sir Clive Woodward guided England to Rugby World Cup glory against Australia in 2003
Sir Clive Woodward guided England to Rugby World Cup glory against Australia in 2003
Captain Johnson lifts up the Webb Ellis Cup as Woodward celebrates in the background
Captain Johnson lifts up the Webb Ellis Cup as Woodward celebrates in the background
Jonny Wilkinson's late drop goal kicks England to victory in Sydney back in November 2003
Jonny Wilkinson's late drop goal kicks England to victory in Sydney back in November 2003

Martin Samuel: I was reading Clive's piece about what happened on the day of the World Cup final in 2003 and I was struck by...

Martin Johnson: How boring it was.

MS: Well, yes, but not the piece. Just the day, the hanging about.

MJ: We kicked off at 8pm. So it was boring. When you get up you can't be thinking 'World Cup final, World Cup final' because you'll be exhausted by the end. Mentally, you've got to be on a simmer or there'll be nothing left of you. I remember we probably trained less that week than at any time in my career.

Sir Clive Woodward: That was a conscious decision.

MJ: We didn't need to. We were ready. Matt Dawson said recently how difficult it must have been for me as captain, but honestly, it wasn't. I just trusted them. All of them. So it was really easy in that sense. Everyone had an eye on each other.

CW: Johnno's line was: if everyone does their job properly, we win this game. And it was no different that Saturday. I always felt it was a very powerful statement. I felt it applied to me as well, as coach, because I could always have screwed it up with tactics or substitutions or whatever. Don't get carried away with the occasion.

Johnson insists his role as captain in the week before the 2003 final was 'really easy'
Johnson insists his role as captain in the week before the 2003 final was 'really easy'
Both Johnson and Woodward insist the pressure for this team is different to their 2003 team
Both Johnson and Woodward insist the pressure for this team is different to their 2003 team

MJ: It's a balancing act. Of course it's a World Cup final. You're in Sydney, you're in Tokyo, there are things going on, you can't escape from that. But also, it's a game of rugby on a rectangle of grass. And that's what you do. I found the best bit, the easiest bit, was rugby. As much as the World Cup final, though, when we got on the field against the Boks in the pool game it felt hugely pressurised. We had so much expectation, not just externally, but internally, because anything less than winning that tournament would have been a disaster. 

We weren't there to be plucky semi-finalists, or plucky losers in the final. And that pressure came from a long way out. It was almost crushing. And they had a good team by then, but young. I still say that was our toughest match. 

They'd only lost one World Cup game in their history and it was in extra time to a drop goal in the 1999 semi-final. They're a proud nation, and a proud rugby nation. I remember the year before, we put 50 on them at Twickenham. Corne Krige, their captain, coming up at the end. (Produces very passable South African accent, mimes a jabbing finger.) 'We'll see you in Perth, mate. We'll see you in Perth.' 

CW: That was the most violent international Test match I've seen at Twickenham. The lock, Jannes Labuschagne, was sent off for taking out Jonny Wilkinson after 20 minutes. The next day the referee, Paddy O'Brien, phoned me and said: 'I'm so sorry. I've watched the video - I should have sent off four or five.' 

MJ: Paddy knew it was coming, too. I thought it had just been niggly with a bit going on. I didn't know the extent of it until we watched the video. He called the captains together and said: 'The next one goes off.' I said to him, 'Paddy, we haven't done anything.' 

I thought it was going to be that classic thing where they commit 37 offences, we do our first as a reaction, and our guy goes. Fortunately, good old Jannes came along and took Wilko out.

Johnson listens to instructions from his coach at Pennyhill Park in November 2002
Johnson listens to instructions from his coach at Pennyhill Park in November 2002

CW: It wasn't that bad, actually.

MJ: No, it wasn't in itself a sending off. But when the ref's said five minutes ago 'don't do anything stupid' and you go in individually, one-on-one, late tackle on the other team's superstar, O'Brien must have thought: 'I don't want to send you off, you p****, but you've got to go.' It was more for stupidity, than violence.

CW: It's one of the few pictures I've got in my house, that scoreboard. England 50 South Africa 3. No-one had ever done that to them before. I thought I'd never see a scoreline like it in my lifetime.

MJ: We pushed them over for the last try, too, scrummaged them over which for South Africa is a triple kick in the balls. There were about two minutes to go. I said to Paddy: 'Nothing good can come of this last two minutes.' And he blew. It wasn't separately timed back then. It was on the referee. We had played Australia the week before and the ref's watch stopped. We were a point up and hanging on, and it went for an extra seven or eight minutes because he was quite enjoying himself. But Paddy knew. 

Then a few months later I was in London, just walking along. A cab pulls up and this massive Afrikaner bloke gets out. Same thing. 'We'll see you in Perth, mate.' Just some random guy. And now we're sat here before another World Cup final and I'm meeting people and they're saying, 'Oh, if we just play like last week, South Africa are rubbish' and I'm lecturing them for five minutes on the danger of that sort of talk, grabbing them by the collar as they try to edge away from me. It's so dangerous.

Johnson says England had no interest in being 'plucky losers' back in 2003
Johnson says England had no interest in being 'plucky losers' back in 2003
Johnson was in animated form during the conversation
Johnson was in animated form while discussing England's road to glory Down Under in 2003
The World Cup winner expressed his emotions throughout the interview
The England legend, known for his stoic demeanor, enjoyed the chat with his former coach
Johnson looks animated in conversation with Woodward leaning back as he listens in
Johnson looks animated in conversation with Woodward leaning back as he listens in

MS: Are they a unique physical challenge, though? Is there another country like them?

MJ: You get stereotyped. But there's a reason they're stereotyped. Personally, I think it's beautiful.

CW: I remember going on the Lions tour to South Africa in 1980, and they're just these big, powerful people and they haven't changed from that to 2002, to Perth, to this World Cup. You know what's coming. When the pressure is on they revert to what's in their DNA, and their fans love it, the whole place loves it. We talk about boring rugby but the South Africans love that.

MJ: Within it, though, they will produce exceptional rugby players. They had Joost van der Westhuizen at scrum-half back then and he could score tries out of nothing. My soul focus as a defender close to the ruck maul was not letting him pull my pants down.

CW: South Africa was the game we had to get through in 2003. We all knew, deep down, that if we won that we were going to the final. The pressure was horrible.

MJ: They don't change. I watched their quarter-final with Wales in 2015 and it was just the bluntest attack. Throwing bodies at this brick wall. But then the first bit of subtlety in their play, they scored. Because they do have good players. If you have big boys and you want to play direct, crack on, because you're going to win a lot of Test matches. But within that they can produce great rugby, too. They're like the French. You can never afford to underestimate them.

Johnson ties his laces as Woodward oversees a training session at Bagshot in October 2000
Johnson ties his laces as Woodward oversees a training session at Bagshot in October 2000

CW: If this goes down to the wire, start panicking. If we can't get ahead of them, it's going to be a tough, tough game.

MJ: In 1986, there was a rebel New Zealand tour of South Africa, and they broke the captain's jaw, Andy Dalton, second Test in. Colin Meads got his arm broken there. You watch the documentaries about the 1974 Lions tour. JPR Williams, running the length of the field to belt someone. The good old days they call them.

CW: I'm not sure they were that good. Try playing in the backs.

MJ: But you can get too much into the brutality of it. You can be physical without being dirty and that, overridingly, is what they're like. Players like Andre Venter, Ruben Kruger, fantastic players, so committed. Big, strong men, but when you meet them after, lovely blokes. I can remember Venter coming into the departure lounge, same as us, after one tour because they were going out to the Tri-Nations, handing out his card. 

'I've got this game farm, you must come down next time.' Fritz van Heerden came to Leicester. I remember playing against him in 1997 for the Lions and he clocked Tim Rodber, but he was the loveliest man you could ever meet. It was just an incredible contrast when you played against them because it was utterly brutal, physically.

CW: So what we're saying is it's going to be tough.

MJ: South Africa is rugby. That's their history and they're hugely proud of it. And it's 0-0, this game. If you get into a tight one in a World Cup final, the tension makes it very difficult. And Handre Pollard is a great kicker.

CW: Dare we mention drop goals? We did one early on in the first game, and not since. I think that's coming.

MJ: George Ford tried one, didn't he, against the All Blacks? I was in the ground, English to one side, Kiwis to the other. Ford goes into the pocket. This Kiwi guy starts panicking, 'Ah, the p****'s dropped back! Watch the p****! The p****! The p****'s dropped back!' He couldn't understand why I was rolling about laughing. These tight games, drop goals are like knives. 

If France drop that goal against Wales in the quarter-final, they win. Don't worry about the wide. Just drop a goal. If they had got back to nine points, Wales weren't coming back.

CW: Build a score. If you've got six, get to nine. If you've got 13, get 16. And not just because we had Jonny Wilkinson. Anyone. If they're within one score, two scores, take it away.

MJ: And it's demoralising. The cheer of the crowd and you've got to go back and kick off. And in a tight game three points feels like double. Sunny afternoon in the Premiership, three points is nothing, 10 points sometimes, if it's going to end up 40-30. Everything tightens up in these games. The clock's a big factor, too. If you're trailing, every passing second is a little slap in the face.

CW: In 2003 against France in the semi-final, people forget Wilkinson dropped three goals. We just kept building, tick-tick, and they eventually just collapsed.

MJ: I think it added to their frustration that we didn't actually score a try, and won so comfortably. We got them under pressure and squeezed.

CW: We had the world's best kicker, so we used him. I remember he drop kicked one from the touchline against New Zealand in Wellington in 2003. It was like a penalty. One of the best kicks I've ever seen. Amazing.

MS: I asked Martin one of the stupidest questions of all time that night.

MJ: Which was?

MS: You went down to 13, because we had two in the sin bin. I was the one who asked you what you said to the players going into the scrum to inspire them.

MJ: And what did I say?

MS: That you didn't have time for Churchillian speeches. Just get your f****** head down...

MJ & MS together: - and push!

England's captain and coach take in their surroundings after a dramatic extra-time victory
England's captain and coach take in their surroundings after a dramatic extra-time victory
Woodward and Johnson with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William at Buckingham Palace
Woodward and Johnson with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William at Buckingham Palace

MJ: The good thing with that team is the boys knew what to do. Any communication was unnecessary in the crunch times really.

CW: We won that period 3-0 if I remember.

MJ: There was this myth going around that we were an old team and could be run about. That wasn't true. We were fitter than the Australians. The game that overran in 2002, we didn't use one substitute. We played extra time against them in 2003 and only used four.

CW: I still think the guy you're bringing on has to be as good as the one you're taking off. Who's the hooker South Africa always bring on? Big unit. [He means Malcolm Marx] 

MJ: Big unit? Plays for South Africa? I've really no idea.

CW: Well, he's the best player. He should start. But he's definitely on later so they have the strongest team at the end. Remember when we had that conversation? It didn't last very long. I'd got statistics that said when the top six played against each other, with 30 minutes to go there was something like a 95 per cent chance the game would be within five points. 

So logically, you want your best team on the bench. I said to Johnno, 'What if I put you, Lawrence Dallaglio, and Wilko on the bench?' He looked at me and said: 'You wouldn't dare.' That was the end of that.

MJ: If you look at England's 2015 World Cup game with Wales, you wouldn't be able to name the team that finished. I just think if the next player is not as good, you've got to play 80. The French have been moaning in this tournament about taking their captain Guilhem Guirado off early when there are decisions to be made. 

Although France being disorganised? Unheard of. My worry is the England players being surrounded by people telling them, 'It's going to be 40 points'. Whatever England did before the All Blacks on Saturday, was right. As you always said: get them up on their feet early doors.

CW: I really did believe in this. It never happened to me as a player, but can we get 85,000 on their feet going nuts because of the way we're playing? Against New Zealand every player had his best game for England. The scary thing is trying to replicate that.

MJ: And accept that the underdog might have its 10, 30 minutes. That's what happened against South Africa in 2003. Once we scored our try, they knew they weren't coming back. You've got to make them think about going home. That's why, for me, the performance last Saturday was the best in English rugby history. It's the All Blacks, it's a World Cup semi-final. I had someone trying to tell me about winning in Wellington in 2003. 

He'd gone all that way, he was in tears. But come on - this is the World Cup. And we didn't just throw the kitchen sink at them. It wasn't just emotion. Sometimes you have a plan and it goes out the window after two minutes. Wasn't it Mike Tyson - everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the face? But this was a cold, hard plan, that worked. And suddenly New Zealand are thinking about going home. I don't want to shout it too loud but that might have been the best performance by any team at the World Cup. Not just England. That's up there. 

Woodward and Johnson embrace on the pitch at the conclusion of the final 16 years ago
Woodward and Johnson embrace on the pitch at the conclusion of the final 16 years ago

But then the huge trap is thinking we just roll up. People say 'same again' but that's terrible. You've got to aim higher. That was probably the problem at half-time in the 2003 final. We thought: same again. Not: more.

CW: I remember the night before we played France in the semi in 2003, I went to watch Australia play New Zealand. Australia won and they were celebrating, running around the pitch like it was their World Cup final. Then when we beat France, Johnno just shook hands and walked off. Didn't even wave to our fans. That was the biggest statement: this is only a staging point. I hope they've got the same mentality this week. I think Owen Farrell is the face of Johnno in that respect really.

MJ: He's tough [with his family's background in] rugby league.

CW: Didn't you think there was a bit of truth in what Warren Gatland said, though, about sometimes teams play their final in the semi-final?

MJ: Well, there's always got to be a bit of truth in what you say - unless you're Australian. I just didn't think it was any of his business. It was a bit naughty. Worry about your own game.

MS: What are the differences between your achievement, and what may happen now?

CW: We were the first England team to do it. We played about 50 games and won 46. It was our moment in time and we delivered. This group has taken that performance to a new level. What happened against New Zealand we haven't seen before. But I wouldn't change anything because we got the job done. 

I often think in my quieter moments, 'What would have happened if we had lost that game?' I think we'd all have turned out pretty nasty people. I wouldn't have wanted to be responsible for how I turned out. It was the chance of a lifetime. It would have been horrible.

MJ: We had a burden of expectation this team didn't have. That's one difference.

CW: When we won, the first emotion from all of us was relief. Assuming that they win - MJ: Oh, don't assume. Don't assume. It's the Boks, man.

CW: I'm not, I'm just saying... 

MJ: I'm lecturing people about this in the street.

CW: I'm just answering the question, if they win, it's every bit as big as 2003. It's just a different era. And we wish them well, because we don't want to be talking about 2003 forever. We want to move on.

MJ: It's their time. Just don't let this chance go. Look, you can lose a game. And sometimes there is no difference winning and losing, you've given it everything, you've done all the right preparation. But don't have regrets that you didn't quite get it right. The scars of 1999, 2011, 2015 - they're horrible. 

A friend of mine saw a Q&A session with Steve Hansen before the tournament and someone asked him if he had any worries about his team. He said a lot of them haven't got any scars. The 2011 winning team had been there in 2007. They'd got 'losers' written on their bag by the handlers at Auckland airport when they went home. That stuff stays with you. 

I remember before we played the final in 2003, I didn't say much. 'Boys - we win games. That's what we do. So let's do what we do.' Tape off. No, tape back on again.' 

The pair pose for a picture, though Johnson wouldn't smile for Sportsmail's ANDY HOOPER
The pair pose for a picture, though Johnson wouldn't smile for Sportsmail's ANDY HOOPER

Just a little vignette to do with the photographs. Some bonds transcend friendship.

(Andy Hooper, Sportsmail photographer: I just want a nice, happy smiling face) - MJ: Why would I do that, after all these years? I can't do it. I've never done that.

AH: You smiled back then, over there.

MJ: That's natural. I can't smile to order. It's genetic. I've got documentation.

AH: What about taking your hands out of your pockets?

MJ: I can't. They're stuck.

AH: Let's just get you two a little bit closer.

MJ: We've never been close in our lives. I'm not tactile. I cuddle one man and that's my boy.

AH: What about shaking hands?

MJ: We're just here. That's enough. (To Clive). I got asked to do a good luck message to the team. I said no. They don't need that. The people asking think they need that. But it's their time. Crack on. They know everyone's behind them.

CW: Now, do you see what a hero I was having this as my captain all those years, putting up with it?

MJ: You don't want to be too comfortable, too happy. You want to be p****d off. Miserable works.

It certainly did.


Source link
Read also:
Evening Standard › Sports › 1 month ago
Sir Clive Woodward believes South Africa deserved their emphatic Rugby World Cup Final victory and lamented England's struggles at the set-piece.
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
JAPAN hosts the Rugby World Cup for the first time. Eight nations remain in the hunt for the Webb Ellis Trophy – and ITV have secured exclusive rights to show the tournament on UK television. Who are the ITV Rugby World Cup pundits? TO celebrate...
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
JAPAN is hosting the Rugby World Cup for the first time. Four nations remain in the hunt for the Webb Ellis Trophy – and ITV have exclusive rights to show the tournament on UK television. Who are the ITV Rugby World Cup pundits? TO celebrate showing...
The Sun › 1 week ago
TELLY legend Clive James has died aged 80 – but how did he pass away, and what did his family say? Here’s our lowdown… What was Clive James’ cause of death? Australian author, poet and broadcaster Clive James passed away at home in Cambridge on...
BBC News › Sports › 2 months ago
Poor discipline could be the only "chink" in England's chances of winning the Rugby World Cup, says former head coach Sir Clive Woodward.
The Sun › Sports › 1 month ago
SOUTH AFRICA secured a dominant win over England in the Rugby World Cup final. Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scored brilliant tries on an emotional day for South African rugby as Siya Kolisi becomes the first black captain ever to lift the World...
The Inquisitr › Sports › 1 month ago
After England stunned defending Rugby World Cup champions New Zealand 19-7 in the first 2019 semifinal on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan, the South Africa Springboks followed up with a hard-fought, tactical 19-16 victory over the Brave Dragons of Wales...
The New York Times › Sports › 3 weeks ago
England should have moved "heaven and earth" to get Shaun Edwards onboard and France's capture of the former Wales defence coach has made them favourites to win the 2023 Rugby World Cup, Clive Woodward has said.
The New York Times › Sports › 1 month ago
Clive Woodward's position as England's only Rugby World Cup-winning coach could be about to disappear in a week but he could not be happier and said he was in awe of the team and their coaches after Saturday's 19-7 semi-final win over New Zealand.
The Sun › Sports › 2 weeks ago
MANCHESTER UNITED fans have slammed Ed Woodward online after he appeared to shout at United legend Sir Alex Ferguson during their team’s 3-3 draw with Sheffield United last night. Executive vice-chairman Woodward appeared to have a feisty exchange...
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google
OR