Woodward: England got complacent before RWC final

Former World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward has suggested England allowed themselves to become distracted prior to the 2019 final against the Springboks.

Heading into the World Cup final after an emphatic win over the All Blacks, England were tipped as favourites to overcome the Boks, who had battled past Wales in their semi-final.

Woodward, who was at the helm of England during their successful 2003 World Cup, cited some of what he saw in the lead-up to the 2019 final as ’embarrassing’ in an interview with RugbyPass.

In one example, Woodward suggested a pre-match interview involving England front-rowers Dan Cole and Joe Marler as unprofessional.

‘Honestly, I sat there and it was like Laurel and Hardy. I’m just going, I know they are on the bench but this is 48 hours from the World Cup final. It was to me poor and that is me being polite. It was really poor. 

‘As history turned out, these two players would have a huge, huge role in the game with [Kyle] Sinckler going off so early. So Cole is on really, really early. Marler comes on as they take off Mako Vunipola. 

‘South African journalists who I knew well came up to me after the press conference after these two had finished larking around after 20 minutes – it wasn’t larking around it was embarrassing – and they said, “Well if that is the mood in the England camp we have got half a chance”. That just said everything to me.’

‘I just think they got complacent. Looking at stuff at social media, a lot of guests arriving in the camp from celebrities… to Australian people. They got it wrong. I have exchanged curt texts with Eddie since because he has heard what I have been saying. They got it wrong.’

Woodward added that England’s late arrival to the stadium before the title decider also spoke volumes.

‘I just think [this] England got distracted, right down to the blinkin’ team didn’t arrive on time. I’m on the pitchside. We normally position our cameras so we are behind the England warm-up and we are well into the programme and I have got the ITV producer in my headphones going, “Where are the England team?”

‘Don’t ask me, I’m on the touchline. I haven’t got a clue where they are because they weren’t there and they arrived late, literally half an hour late for the World Cup final. It’s a meticulous, military operation that preparation, so to arrive 30 minutes later for the World Cup final, again it said the heads just weren’t quite there.’

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Craig Lewis