Six World Cups and only one victor from the northern hemisphere – England’s nail-biting defeat of Australia in 2003 bringing ‘Bill’ to Europe for the first, and to date only, time since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
Most pundits have predicted that the 2011 title will be going to one of either New Zealand, Australia or South Africa, with few people giving a Six Nations side much of a chance of repeating England’s success in Sydney eight years ago. England, as they did in the 1991, 1995 and 2003 World Cups, arrive at the tournament as reigning Six Nations champions, but with a young side still on a steep learning curve. As for Scotland and Wales, neither country enjoyed a particularly successful Six Nations and both will want to improve on their displays at the 2007 World Cup in France.
Rugby World sat down with three of the stars from England, Wales and Scotland – Lewis Moody, Lee Byrne and Sean Lamont – shortly before they flew out to New Zealand to discuss all things World Cup, from pressure to performance to porridge! Here’s what the home nations trio had to say…
RUGBY WORLD: What is your earliest World Cup memory?
Lewis Moody: England in the final of the 1991 World Cup. I would have been 13 and I didn’t watch much rugby as a kid – I preferred playing – but in 1991 the World Cup was in England and they got to the final against Australia. It was a big thing and I remember watching us lose.
Sean Lamont: The 1995 World Cup in South Africa with Jonah Lomu and his try for the All Blacks against Scotland in the quarter-final.
RW: You’ve all played in New Zealand before – what’s it like?
Lee Byrne: It’s a lot like playing in Wales as far as the weather goes! I played there last year and it was similar to Wales in many respects. New Zealanders are rugby mad and there’s a great atmosphere at matches. I think it helps if you’ve been to New Zealand as a player before because it gives you an idea of what to expect.
Sean Lamont: My first cap was in New Zealand, but it was actually against Samoa. We played them in a one-off Test at Wellington in 2004. I couldn’t tell you if a lot of Kiwis turned up to watch – I had other things on my mind as it was my first cap. We won so at least I can say I won a Test in New Zealand!
Lewis Moody: I’ve been to New Zealand twice to play rugby, and neither brought happy memories. The first time was with England in 1998 (the so-called ‘Tour of Hell’) but I didn’t play in either Test. Then I went there with the Lions in 2005. It wasn’t a great experience because we lost the series 3-0, but it was certainly eye-opening to see just how obsessed the country is with rugby and how they appreciate the game. From the moment you enter the arrivals hall at the airport it’s rugby, rugby, rugby. Walk down the street and the shops are decked out in flags and it’s hard to escape. It’s like England’s attitude to football.
RW: Which player from a previous World Cup would you like to play alongside in New Zealand?
Sean Lamont: Jonah Lomu.
Lee Byrne: Scott Gibbs.
Lewis Moody: I was thinking of Jonah. I’ll say Peter Winterbottom.
This article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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