Throwing down a World Cup challenge
England's Richard Hill, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio celebrate with the 2003 Six Nations Championship trophy
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England won the Grand Slam decider with Ireland in Dublin. After a fairly even first half, Clive Woodward's side played exquisitely in the second half to run up a convincing 42-6 victory with Will Greenwood scoring two of the tries. 'That was the No.1 team in the world playing on top of their game," Irish coach Eddie O'Sullivan reflected, adding presciently. "They must be favourites for the World Cup." The day started in controversy when England lined up on their side of the pitch and captain Martin Johnson was involved in an altercation with an official after twice refusing to move his team. "We were not going to move," England prop Graham Rowntree explained. "Martin said we were not going to be messed about so we stood our ground."
Michael Kiernan's last-minute dropped goal against England in Dublin brought Ireland their sixth Triple Crown overall and their second in four years. Their 13-10 victory at Lansdowne Road also saw them claim the Five Nations Championship title for the third time in four years having captured the crown in 1982 and shared it with France the following year.
West Hartlepool's second-row forward John Howe died after suffering a heart attack during a Division Two match. The club retired the No. 5 shirt as a mark of respect for him.
Ieuan Evans announced his retirement two months early after failing to overcome a stress fracture of the foot. "'It's ironic that having spent a lot of my career fighting adversity, I should end up being finished by injury," he said. "It's been dragging on so long that a decision had to be made." He played 79 Tests for Wales and the Lions, scoring 34 tries.
Highlanders lock James Ryan shocked the Super 14 franchise by announcing that he was to take an "indefinite break" from rugby with immediate effect. The nine-cap All Black, labelled as "potentially one of the great All Black locks" by former national coach Laurie Mains, cited a long-term knee injury, sustained in April 2007, as the reason for his decision.
New Zealand's Prime Minister warned the NZRFU that the scheduled tour of South Africa could not go ahead. "The government are totally opposed to sporting contact with South Africans outside NZ," he said. The board stalled as a result and eventually two lawyers successfully sued the NZRFU, claiming such a tour would breach the its constitution. The High Court subsequently stopped the tour.
A record four-year sponsorship of £7 million was announced between brewers Courage and the RFU.
A rare fullback try, scored by Scotland's Robin Chisholm coming up into the threequarter line, completed a 9-3 win for the Barbarians in their holiday match against Penarth.
Tries by Brian Stoneman and Sandy Hinshelwood helped Middlesex to a 9-6 win and the County Championship title against Warwickshire at Twickenham.
Chris Wardlow, selected in the Lions party for Australia and New Zealand, suffered a fractured jaw playing for the Northern Counties against Coventry, jeopardising his tour prospects.
Bath beat arch-rivals Bristol 43-5 (seven tries to one) at Bristol on their way to the Courage league title.
Llanelli Grammar School included future Wales and Lions fullback Terry Price in the seven that beat Rydal, another Welsh school, in the final of the prestigious Rosslyn Park schools tournament.