Sir Clive Woodward and wife Jayne reflect on England's World Cup win

‘I’m not sure how I would have turned out if Jonny Wilkinson hadn’t kicked that drop goal…it’s kind of scary’: Sir Clive Woodward and his wife Jayne reflect on England’s World Cup win, 20 years on from that glorious Sydney night

  • Clive Woodward and his wife Jayne recall England’s Rugby World Cup success 
  • 20 years on, Woodward reflects on his ‘massive relief’ at winning the trophy 
  • Couple share details on understanding the Australian psyche and Blair’s roses 

Sausage rolls, sandwiches and mince pies are plated up on the dining table at the Woodward household. Sir Clive is sipping on a cup of tea as he listens to his wife, Lady Jayne, recalling a story about three England players who sat in the same seats during his time as head coach.

‘Clive used to invite three or four players round for dinner at a time to get to know them,’ recalls Jayne. You’d learn about their families and find out what makes them tick. We would make sure to include the players’ wives and girlfriends at every opportunity as well. They were an important part of the team and we arranged travel and accommodation for away games as a group. We’d all go to a West End show and have dinner together every Christmas.

‘There was one occasion where I’d made a cod mornay. I served it up and said, “I hope everyone is OK with fish?” One of the players, who we won’t name, says, “No, sorry, I don’t eat fish”. So, I go back in the kitchen and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what am I going to give this massive guy!” There wasn’t a lot in the fridge so I made cannelloni using some pasta sheets and those square pieces of processed cheese and ham from Freddie, our youngest’s, lunchbox!’

Picking up on the story, Clive adds: ‘Everyone was laughing about it at training the next day. I remember one of the players saying to him, “That’s you done! You don’t turn down Jayne’s food!” It was important to invite them here. It was because I wanted the players to know, “Guys, I’m going nowhere, you know where I live, I’m not going to hide”. I was an English coach who lived in England. The team had our total commitment to the cause, and the players all knew Jayne was at the heart of everything, too.’

The player in question did, in fact, start in England’s victorious World Cup final against Australia on November 22, 2003. This Wednesday will mark its 20-year anniversary.

Clive Woodward and his with Jayne have reflected on England’s 2003 World Cup success

Woodward celebrates with his family after England’s famous win against Australia in 2003

Woodward says it’s scary to think what would’ve happened without Jonny Wilkinson’s drop kick

‘You’ve heard Clive’s sanitised version,’ says Jayne. ‘You’ve not heard from behind-the-scenes from the Manly Pacific Hotel in Sydney! We were trying to make everything look cool, calm and collected when behind closed doors we were saying, “Can you believe this is happening?” We loved every minute of it.

‘My job on the Monday of the final was to get Jess and Joe, our oldest children, on a flight to Sydney. Freddie was too young to fly alone. The planes were rammed. By the Wednesday, we had got them out on BA overflow seats. BA were brilliant. There we were, at the sharp end of the World Cup, with our game faces on, and suddenly we’ve got our 16-year-old daughter trying to negotiate whether she can disappear into the night in Sydney with players’ wives and girlfriends!’

Coincidentally, the Woodwards were staying at the same hotel as when they moved out to Sydney in 1985, when Clive took on a job with Rank Xerox. ‘We were just two rooms down from where we stayed when we first moved out all those years earlier,’ adds Jayne. 

‘We had lived in Sydney for five years so we understood the Australian psyche. Without knowing it, we had five years of training for the World Cup. There were crowds singing Waltzing Matilda outside our room at 4am, fire engine sirens and all sorts of banter from the Australian media. We already knew that was their humour so we just took it in our stride. Manly felt like home.’

Listening in, Clive occasionally slips a treat under the table to their Norfolk Terrier, Ronnie Barker. The dog was a thank-you present from their daughter, who was born in Manly, and their son-in-law. A gift for sorting out their wedding. Life has moved on since 2003. There are two granddaughters on the scene now. But the memories remain as clear as ever.

‘I remember the day I took on the job,’ says Clive. ‘Don Rutherford, the director of rugby, came to this house and told me the committee had appointed me as head coach. I ran a successful business at the time so I asked what the pay was and they said, “We haven’t thought about that yet”. It was all so beautifully amateur.

‘It was put up or shut up. I’d moaned enough about England for not taking the world on so I just thought, “Let’s throw the kitchen sink at it”. I had a lot of regrets about my playing career. I played for England 21 times. We won one Grand Slam but as a player I felt totally unfulfilled. I barely got to touch the ball and I wanted to make sure my team didn’t have the same regrets. It was all based on pace and speed. I wanted to take the world on as coach and when I said that, a lot of people just laughed. Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Martin Johnson, the players and coaches… they loved it.’

Jayne recalls getting back to the hotel at 4am and drinking hot chocolate with Wilkinson

Woodward says that there was a feeling of relief after World Cup glory was secured

By the time they reached the World Cup final, England felt invincible. They had speed, strength, experience… and Jonny Wilkinson. ‘Waking up on the morning of the final, Tony Blair, the prime minister, had sent an enormous bouquet of roses,’ says Jayne. 

‘There were masses of people waiting to see the team off. It had been seven years of work. It wasn’t a 9-to-5 job. It had become a mission. That morning I remember waking up and having a cup of tea and Clive said, “Well, this is either going to be a good day or a bad day!” I remember it distinctly, that calm before the storm, a day and opportunity very few have the fortune to experience.’

The day of the final was long, and Clive stayed around the hotel, checking in with players and coaching team. Clive recalls: ‘When you stepped outside, you’re almost an actor, on message.’ 

Jayne, Jess and Joe watched the match in a box with Andy Robinson’s wife, Sam, Prince Harry and other friends. ‘Harry came to games with us privately, since the winter after he lost his mother. He loved sitting in the stands with everyone else but the Aussies wouldn’t let him because of security, so we went and sat with him. He was a great supporter of the team along with his brother.’


England stars Martin Johnson (L) and Jonny Wilkinson (R) with the trophy in 2003

Josh Lewsey

Swapped tracksuit for a suit and embarked on a career in the city. Now CEO of Asia-Pacific Teneo Financial Advisory in Hong Kong.

Jason Robinson

Set up a foundation to bring sport to kids from deprived backgrounds. One of his sons plays rugby league for Scotland and another is in the Manchester City academy.

Mike Tindall

After meeting the Queen’s granddaughter, Zara, at Manly Wharf Bar during the 2003 World Cup, Tindall married into the Royal Family in 2011. They now have three children together and Tindall featured on last year’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Mike Tindall with Zara Phillips after being evicted from I’m A Celebrity.. Get Me Out of Here! last year

Will Greenwood

Worked in commentary for Sky for 14 years and is now chief customer officer for Afiniti. Spends a lot of time in Norfolk, where he often stages sports camps for children.

Ben Cohen

Continues to run an anti-bullying group, the StandUp Foundation, since his father was fatally attacked in a nightclub. A strong advocate for the LGBTQ community and also featured on Strictly Come Dancing.

Jonny Wilkinson

works as a kicking mentor to the likes of Owen Farrell, George Ford and Marcus Smith during England camps. A regular matchday pundit for ITV.

Matt Dawson

Former A Question of Sport captain is busy in the BBC’s punditry world. He also has a wide business portfolio, including a property company with former Northampton team-mate Tim Rodber.

Matt Dawson is busy in the punditry world and was a captain on A Question of Sport

Trevor Woodman

Retired at the age of 29 because of injury. Now shares his scrummaging wisdom as Gloucester’s assistant forwards coach.

Steve Thompson

Diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2020 and is now leading the legal case against rugby for its lack of care around head injuries.

Phil Vickery

A winner of Celebrity MasterChef in 2011, Vickery owns No.3 Restaurant in Cheltenham. He also founded the successful Raging Bull clothing brand and is often spotted back at Kingsholm watching Gloucester.

Martin Johnson

Resigned as England head coach after the 2011 World Cup following a poor campaign and has been reluctant to step back into coaching. Spends a lot of time on charity bike rides and is also a member of the BBC punditry team.

Ben Kay

One of the most visible members of the squad as a full-time pundit for TNT Sports. Also a partner at Pablo advertising agency.

Richard Hill

Appointed England’s team manager by former Red Rose head coach Eddie Jones and remains in position under Steve Borthwick.

Neil Back

A business development director. His 21-year-old son, Fin, is currently on loan at Carlisle United from Nottingham Forest.

Lawrence Dallaglio

Raised millions of pounds for charity through RugbyWorks foundation and also embarked on a busy career in the rugby media. The former England captain is a director at various companies.

Lawrence Dallaglio has embarked upon a busy career in rugby media

They watched Wilkinson kick the drop goal that secured sporting immortality. Clive hugged the closest person to him — assistant referee Alain Rolland — before getting his hands on the trophy.

‘It was a just a massive relief,’ he says. ‘After the game the coaches just sat on the floor in the changing room, passing around a few beers in complete silence. There was no euphoria, just plain relief. Phil Larder, our defence coach, broke the silence saying, “So what the f*** are we going to do now?” He was absolutely right as we’d spent seven years trying to win that thing.’

First, they celebrated. Jayne recalls getting back to the hotel at 4am and drinking hot chocolate with Wilkinson. ‘After a few hours’ sleep we went surfing, chatting to a few blurry-eyed fans. We had breakfast near the surf club where Jess went swimming as a baby. Being back all those years later after the World Cup, it felt like book-ending. It was absolutely perfect.’

Back home in Berkshire, the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald is now framed in the loo. An editorial entitled, ‘PUBLIC NOTICE TO ENGLAND AND ITS SPORTS FANS… You were not too old, you were not too slow, you did it with one of your own as coach (even though he did spend some formative years playing at Manly).’

Many of the squad were sent back to club duty immediately. England’s access to players was cut back and behind the scenes Clive was going ‘absolutely nuts’. He left his post the following year. 

Defence coach Phil Larder questioned what England would do next after their success

Jayne says that she is immensely proud of Clive and what he has achieved 

‘We had an awesome relationship with the RFU, then we won the bloody World Cup and it all changed. The victory parade, going to see the Queen… it elevated things to a different level. That was our moment to seize but I get back to Twickenham and find out they’ve reduced the number of training days with the players, without being involved in the decision. I’ve always thought the international game is everything to rugby union, today more than ever.’

In Paris last month, Clive and Jayne watched a World Cup final together for the first time since 2011. It stirred up old emotions from 2003 and ended with a moment of reflection. Jayne says how Clive was quiet at the final whistle, having watched New Zealand captain Sam Cane sent off as South Africa secured their fourth crown.

‘I said, “Jayne, that could have happened to us, that could have been one of our players getting that red card”. Would New Zealand have won with 15? We’ll never know. Those little things just make you think, “Woah, if only . . . imagine if Jonny hadn’t kicked that drop goal”. It was kind of scary.’

After an hour or so of reminiscing, Clive excuses himself to take a call. Jayne has one final message. ‘The best thing to come out of 2003 were the special relationships. It’s lovely and I’m immensely proud of Clive and what he’s achieved.

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