Righting the wrongs of the last decade
November 14, 2013
A moment of elation in 2003 and then resigned despair in 2007 - Lawrence Dallagio experienced the highs of 2003 and the non-existent legacy © Getty Images
Two World Cup-winning nations will face each other at Twickenham this weekend. One who is living off the spoils of 2003 and has failed to push on since; the other who is undefeated in 2013, reigning World Cup-holders and have been at the top of the world rankings for four years.
"There was no legacy from our win," current England attack coach Mike Catt said looking back at that triumph a decade ago. "We didn't pass anything on. A bunch of players retired and another bunch came in and failed to live up to their predecessors' achievements. That's not a great return in 10 years."
A poor return and one which has been frequently highlighted as we get ever closer to the 10-year anniversary of that famous night in Sydney on November 21, 2003. Lawrence Dallaglio played in both the 2003 side and the one that reached the final four years later.
But the two environments could not have been more different. In 2003, England scooped rugby's biggest prize but then reached the edge of the precipice. There was no succession plan in place, Clive Woodward fell out with the RFU, Jonny Wilkinson was constantly injured and an ill-judged tour to Australia and New Zealand the following year saw a tired England unceremoniously brought crashing back down to earth.
It just was not right, England struggled. Yes they reached the 2007 final, but that was due to player power, not planning. The Rugby Football Union and England's stakeholders had missed the chance to create a legacy - come 2015 when England welcome the rugby world, that is the buzzword for the global gathering.
"A lot was done to dismantle a successful set-up in 2003," Dallaglio told ESPN. "From a structural point of view, I'm not quite sure why that was done, I don't think anyone is. Everything Clive Woodward did was done for a reason and brought success. The next few coaches over the last 10 years should have built on that success and not dismantled it. It's not coaches that are to blame, but the system that sat behind Clive was only designed to take that team to the World Cup. It was never thought about what would happen afterwards.
England have won just one Six Nations title since 2003 © Getty Images
"Think about that generation of players from 2003 and the IP that belongs to that group. They are all doing various things all over the world and it hit home to me when we recently got together, just how much quality there was and still is in that squad. There are a few guys involved in rugby but there should be so many more."
Contrast England's case with New Zealand. This Saturday's Test will be the Kiwi's 27th since winning the 2011 World Cup. Since then they have won 24 of their 26 games giving them a 93% winning record. After 2003, England lost 15 of their first 26 Tests, a grim return.
"The All Blacks seem to have this desire to continually improve and it doesn't matter who is the coach, but the game is bigger than any one appointment," Dallaglio said. "Graham Henry did a fantastic job, albeit New Zealand stuck with him like England did with Clive in 1999, and he delivered the ultimate prize.
"Since then, there is a succession plan with Steve Hansen stepping up who worked with Henry for eight years. He's not dismantling everything he did - I'm sure Hansen does not agree with everything Henry put in place, but when they're together they're presenting a united front. Since then, he's added to that legacy."
When Stuart Lancaster took on England's reigns, though on an interim basis, the team's stock was at an all-time low. Their reputation was besmirched by their antics at the 2011 World Cup, their on-field performance was also poor.
Lancaster had to rebuild from the ground up. One advantage was he profited from being able to do things his way. For Woodward's successors Andy Robinson, Brian Ashton and Martin Johnson, they all inherited coaching teams, rather than picking their own. Lancaster has had relative carte blanche in this regard.
"He had to start by reminding the England team what it means to play for England," Dallaglio added. " You would hope 10 years after a World Cup, a new coach would not have to do that. But Stuart has done a good job, but he should not have been in that position. Moving a team on is important but do not undo someone else's work."
For Dallaglio, the Northampton Saints axis of Dylan Hartley, Tom Wood, Courtney Lawes and Alex Corbisiero is something that can be built on in the same manner Woodward's was focused on Wasps and Leicester - in his mind a team should be "coach led and player driven".
When England's 2003 World Cup-winning squad paraded the Webb Ellis Cup around Twickenham during half-time in the Test against the Wallabies, it was hard to see exactly who of the current crop would have broken into that team. Dallaglio is reluctant to draw any comparisons on a personnel tit-for-tat manner, but he feels England are on a "journey".
"That 2003 team started somewhere, the core of that group went through the disappointment of the 1999 World Cup. This group are on that journey now and hopefully in a couple of year's time, just short of a World Cup, we can hopefully be sitting in a position where we would have a few players who could break into a world XV.
"When we played the World Cup in 2003, we probably had seven or eight truly world class players who were the best players in their position at that time. The other guys in that squad were not far behind either.
"This group are at the start of their journey. I'm sure every day they measure themselves against the best and this weekend's opponents are the best. This time last year you could argue they certainly did their jobs. Let's see what comes of England on Saturday and we will have a clear indication of where these players are at the moment."
21 games lie between England and the first game of the 2015 World Cup. Much has been made of their shortcomings since 2003, New Zealand's model will inevitably draw envious glances from the posh seats at Twickenham on Saturday, but there is still time for Lancaster and his group to carve out their own niche in a turbulent English history.
Lawrence Dallaglio was speaking on behalf of O2 Recycle who are giving all proceeds from old phones and gadgets to the Dallaglio Foundation Rugby for Change in November. Bring your old devices into any O2 store or to the next England QBE International game to help young people get into rugby and away from gangs, visit www.o2recycle.co.uk for more information.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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