On the burst: Trevor Woodman charges forward for England during the Rugby World Cup final in 2003

On the burst: Trevor Woodman charges forward for England during the Rugby World Cup final in 2003

By Trevor Woodman

I AM looking forward to this month’s World Cup reunions because I don’t see much of the squad now we’re old and grey. When I look back at the 2003 final I remember the pressure. I got penalised quite early for apparently throwing a punch, but I don’t think I did, and from that Australia had some territory and scored the first try.

The big talking point was the scrums. We hadn’t had many scrum penalties against us in the tournament so to be penalised in this game was confusing. We had wanted dominance in that area but we decided not to push so we didn’t give away penalties. Then I got penalised for not engaging when we were 14-11 up with ten minutes to go. They equalised and I was thinking, “That might have cost us the World Cup.” It’s the biggest game of your life and it’s all going wrong.

Johnno (Martin Johnson) was great as we prepared for extra-time. He said we were fitter, faster and better and we could get through another 20 minutes. I had the belief we could score. It’s all about listening and communicating, knowing what the call is and where you are supposed to be. Everyone had done their job to perfection and for Jonny (Wilkinson) to kick the drop-goal off his wrong foot –that’s a remarkable player.

We knew there were 30 seconds left and I thought they’d take a quick restart so I stood out of position because I thought it’d stop them kicking it there. In fact, I think the vision of a prop forward enticed them to do it! Clive (Woodward) wasn’t very happy with me afterwards.

I saw Phil Waugh chasing the kick and I thought, “I can out-jump him.” Dave Alred used to do catching practice with the forwards and you’d think “Why?”, but it was training for that moment. I remember looking at Catty (Mike Catt) belting it into touch and feeling massive relief and huge elation at the same time.

We really took our time with the lap of honour because once you walk off into the changing room that part of your life is gone. We had a reception at the Rocks, then most of the players went to the Cargo Bar. I was with some mates from home and we didn’t know how to get there so we flagged down a police van and asked these two lovely policewomen for a lift. They said no until I undid my shirt and showed them my medal!

The party continued through the next day. On the Monday we had photos taken on the beach in our club shirts and no one has a clear eye in them. Gomars (Andy Gomarsall) was throwing up.

Ideally you should be in and around a squad for a couple of years before a World Cup. I’d been there since 1999 but only made my first start in November 2002. Two days after that I had bust a disc in my neck and needed surgery. I thought my career was over, but fought my way back. I really wanted to be at the World Cup and all the hard work paid off.

May covers
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