Beaumont shocks rugby world by announcing comeback
January 2, 2009
That was then - this is now. Former England and Lions international Bill Beaumont is now a respected International Rugby Board official © Getty Images
More than a quarter of a century after his last match for his country, former England and Lions skipper Bill Beaumont has shocked the rugby world by making himself available for the 2009 Six Nations campaign.
With English rugby currently in crisis, and new manager Martin Johnson under immense pressure to deliver some results, Beaumont has stepped forward to, "help serve his country in one of its darkest hours".
Beaumont won 34 caps for England, a large number for the era, and led the side on 21 occasions. As well as making two Lions' tours, including being captain for the 1980 tour to South Africa, he also led the North of England to a famous win over New Zealand in 1979. He is most well known, however, for taking England to the 1980 grand slam; their first since 1957.
Beaumont's dramatic return to the fore was inspired by a recent late night viewing of Sylvester Stallone's 'Rocky Balboa' movie. The sixth film in the immensely popular Rocky series sees the fictional boxer return to the ring in his late sixties to take on the current heavyweight champion of the world. Rocky's combination of guile, power and passion is almost enough to see him upset the odds and win the fight.
"I was sat at home a few weeks back just flicking through the movie channel when on came this wonderfully inspiring film about a man taking one more shot at something he passionately believes in," said the fifty-six-year-old Lancashire man. "Rugby is something that I passionately believe in and, as a proud Englishman, I want to help my country out during its time of need. I couldn't sleep after watching it. I thought, well, I know it sounds silly, but maybe I could do what Rocky did. Maybe I could take that million to one shot and change things."
Since watching the movie three weeks ago, Beaumont has hired a personal trainer, purchased several sets of grey tracksuits, cleaned his old boots, drunk six raw eggs each morning and gone on a run "almost" every other day. He has also ordered several live chickens from the local farm to get in some agility and speed practice.
"I feel like a new man," said Beaumont. "You can't run from who you are. As Rocky's friend says, 'Fighters fight'. It made me think: Second rowers…well…they 'second row'. If you know what I mean? I may lack the speed of some of the younger players, but I more than make up for that with my reading of the game and my experience. I hope Martin will consider me for selection. He's going through a tough time at the moment with a run of bad results and, if I could offer him some advice, it would be that nothing, not even the English media or the board of directors, is ever gonna hit as hard as life. It ain't about how hard you can hit - it's about how hard you can get hit and keep…moving…forward."
England manager Martin Johnson, who is also a former England skipper and second row, may well welcome the chance to bring such an experienced head into the England team and shake things up. It could also serve as great moral boost to the disillusioned rugby paying public. English sporting fans love nothing more than a romantic underdog story.
Furthermore, Johnson's taskmaster, Director of Elite Rugby Rob Andrew, will certainly be tempted by the news that Beaumont has said he will play for free.
In the current economic environment the player's offer to play as an amateur would be a welcome relief to financial strains at HQ as well as putting bums on seats and potentially shifting some Team England merchandise.
The East Terrace and scrum.com caught up with Beaumont's personal trainer to find out the kind of training that will be needed to whip Bill back into shape.
"I don't need to stand here and tell Bill all about rugby, he knows everything there is to know about rugby," he said. "To play and compete in modern international rugby you need speed. Bill doesn't have any. He's got calcium deposits on his joints, so too much scrimmaging practice is out. And hard running is also out, 'cos his knees can't take the pounding. So what we are gonna need is good ole' fashioned blunt force trauma. Make Bill tackle so hard the ancestors of his opponents will rattle in their graves! When he hits his opposite number in the ruck it's gotta feel like his opponent is kissing the express train. Yeah!"
However, many within the game will surely have grave doubts about Beaumont's decision to return to rugby more than a quarter of a century after leaving it. What is of most concern is that Beaumont originally retired at 29 years of age due to a series of concussions he had suffered from the sport. Beaumont is quick to play down those fears.
"If you go through the Rocky films properly, as I have done recently, you'll see Rocky doesn't actually box in Rocky V as he is believed to have suffered too much damage to his brain. However, twenty odd years after that he returns in Rocky Balboa to fight again. Would Hollywood portray something like that if it wasn't possible to do? Hardly. I'll be fine. Now let's go build some hurtin' bombs."
James Stafford is editor of The East Terrace (theeastterrace.com) - an offside view of life in the rugby world
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene