Win Steve Thompson’s powerful new book

From growing up in a broken home in Northampton, Steve Thompson became a World Cup champion with England. His book Unforgettable, published this year and written in collaboration with John Woodhouse, charts that remarkable rise.

Most of all, however, it tells of his decline and despair after contracting early onset dementia, a condition he likens to the children’s toy Etch A Sketch after you’ve shaken it – many of the pictures in his brain have disappeared but now and again an outline is left.

Unforgettable is published by Blink Publishing, RRP £20, and at the foot of this article we’re offering you the chance to win one of six copies in a competition.

First, here’s a short extract from the book, with contributions from men who were there, concerning Thompson’s famous lineout throw that set in motion the move that ended with Jonny Wilkinson winning the 2003 World Cup for England…

Steve Thompson book cover

Clive Woodward, head coach
Jonny’s drop-goal started with Steve throwing the ball in. He was under huge pressure. He doesn’t throw the ball in straight to Lewis (Moody) at the back of the lineout and we don’t win the World Cup.

Simon Hardy, lineout coach
The lineouts for both teams didn’t quite go to plan. Australia won a lot of ours; we won a lot of theirs. Partly that’s a freak of the game but also, towards the end of a tournament, there’s a lot of analysis going on. I spent hours going through all their lineouts and calls and I’m guessing they did the same. They would have picked up certain bits and pieces about us, just as we had about them. That puts you under pressure.

In that game we also had a relatively small back row by international standards – competent jumpers, but you wouldn’t call them towering. The French, for example, tended to have three six-foot-six boys.

Win Steve Thompson's powerful new book

Thompson practices his throwing technique with Simon Hardy in Perth during the 2003 World Cup (Getty)

Steve Thompson, hooker
From the outside I can see that lineout would look like a big pressure situation, but I don’t ever remember being nervous during any England game. I’d go into schools to talk to kids as part of Saints’ community programme. I found that much more nerve-racking than playing in front of 80,000 people. Kids don’t hold back. They’re too honest.

Steve Thompson and his son

Thompson and his son Saxon in Superman garb!

Simon Hardy
Everyone talks about the last throw of the final – “God, that must have been difficult” – when in actual fact that was Steve’s ‘World Cup throw’ – the best he had. The only rule when you throw more than 15 metres is don’t overthrow. Do that and you’re in a world of difficulty because you’ve got a ball bouncing about in midfield. He didn’t overthrow it, which allowed it to be caught. The view was that the Australians wouldn’t compete further than 15 metres, so all he had to do was clear them beyond that distance.

Lewis Moody, flanker
I knew where Steve was going to put that throw because I’d played with him for ages. There was no way the Aussie flanker George Smith was going to get it – he was too short – so it didn’t matter where it went so long as he got it to the back of the lineout.

Steve Thompson
By that time, I definitely knew what I was doing in the lineout. However many balls Jonny Wilkinson kicked, I reckon I threw ten times more. You’ve heard of cauliflower ears? I’ve got cauliflower elbows.

Andy Robinson, forwards coach
Anything to 17 metres he could hit really well. Even so, for him to hit that last throw was truly impressive. Also, nearly 20 years on, how often would a hooker still be on the field to make that throw? Steve lasted a hundred minutes no trouble at all.

Paul Grayson, fly-half
Who plays a full game and extra time as a hooker? Every second of it. Extraordinary!

Ben Cohen, wing
He was so strong – he would go and go and go.

Steve Thompson celebrates winning the World Cup in 2003

The England hooker celebrates winning the World Cup at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium (AFP/Getty Images)

Clive Woodward
Even now I’d say that team of 2003 was fitter than the current one. Their levels were just fantastic, and Steve was as fit as they came. He was a great specimen in the gym, a monster. And he just didn’t slow down. He stayed fast and quick. I was never going to take Steve off a rugby pitch unless he was having a complete nightmare. Which he never ever did.


Steve Thompson: Unforgettable is published by Blink, RRP £20.

We also have six copies to give away, courtesy of Blink Publishing. For a chance to win Steve Thompson’s powerful new book, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Thursday 15 September.

Win Steve Thompson's powerful new book

Thommo’s team: celebrations after a Premier League goal last season – but for which side? (Getty Images)