sports gazette

Sir Clive Woodward on how England Rugby won the World Cup in 2003

Published: 20 Oct 2016

Sir Clive Woodward revealed what it takes to be a champion in a speech on Wednesday evening at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham.

The rugby world cup winning coach explained the immense detail that the 2003 England rugby side went into to secure the title.

The sold out event inspired hundreds, as they listened to Sir Clive’s experiences with England rugby, Team GB and Southampton football club.

Here was the moment England Rugby became champions in 2003:

Throughout his speech, Sir Clive shared his anecdotal experiences to show the techniques used with the 2003 rugby team. First, he explained the importance of a ‘sponge or rock’ mentality.

“Sponge is your ability to learn, in my coaching terms, you’re totally coachable. Now often players, athletes, anybody, drifts into being a rock. Normally when you join new sports teams, new companies you’re a sponge, you’ve got a thirst for knowledge," he said.

"Often what happens is the longer you are in sports teams you drift into a rock. My language of a rock is someone that is uncoachable, unteachable, a bit of a know it all.”

He added: “The secret is to try and keep every individual in your team as a sponge.”

All the players Sir Clive chose in his world cup winning squad had to be a sponge and adopt this style of playing and learning. A member of the audience asked Sir Clive who the biggest sponge was in his side:

Sir Clive used his thirst for knowledge and 16 years in business to introduce technology into the team. Laptops and IT lessons were added to the schedule so that players could analyse and evaluate their own performances. Despite being ridiculed by the media, he got to understand who were the sponges and rocks in his team.

Using technology also helped Sir Clive discover the software Prozone, which made a huge impact on the team. Prozone is a software that uses cameras to pick up features and animate players to help them see the game in a different way. It collected a huge amount of data, providing the coaches with fitness statistics for individual players, lines of running and how the team were using the space on the pitch which had been a reoccurring issue.

Over time, the players grew to like Prozone and were able to evaluate their own performances effectively. Sometimes they would even making short presentations back to the coaching staff. For the first time, the players really understood the game as a whole and the reasons for their decision making on the field.

“That was the thing about the 2003 team, they were amazingly talented but they were the brightest, most challenging team, anyone could have the pleasure of coaching,"

Thriving under pressure was another area Sir Clive wanted to coach. With his term, T-Cup – thinking correctly under pressure – he believes that if you plan for pressure, you are more likely to think more clearly when the time comes.

For instance, in meetings with the players, he would ask them what they would do in a certain match scenario. He would expect an immediate response because they wouldn't have time in a match. So when it came to the rugby world cup final, there was nothing they hadn’t prepared for.

Finally, Sir Clive revealed the final factor that was crucial to them lifting the trophy, attitude.

When the speech came to a close, it was clear for all to see, the detailed planning it takes to become a champion. The importance of being a sponge, the power of technology, preparing for pressurised situations and attitude were all factors that make a world cup winning team.

These are the challenges that teams and coaches have to face and overcome to ultimately, be the best. When we look back and admire the 2003 England rugby team’s achievements, we realise how much work goes into moulding a champion.

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