‘Rugby World Cup semi-final week different from all others’ – Matt Dawson column


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The calendar year 2003. The England team I was part of had just squeaked past Wales, given that the maximum enormous jolt in the quarter-finals by these attempts from Colin Charvis and Stephen Jones and most of the rest that came with it.
So us players attempted to correct problems and the small defects that might stop us going any further, also sat after the journey down from Brisbane to Sydney.
We began in the forefront of our thoughts: how have we got through that? And that thought took us to the next: what did we do , and what did we do wrong?
Clive Woodward took a step back and appeared around. “Boys, we can not afford to have that happen again. You players possess an honesty session, us coaches will hear .”
Our captain, martin Johnson, headed it. All of us had the opportunity to speak, 1 player after the other, and all of us said the exact identical thing:”We’re training too tough, we’re knackered.” We went out of this World Cup when it mattered because we had nothing left.
Johnno took that to Clive and his coaches. “CliveI don’t know what you are likely to believe, however, we can’t train this intensity and then play at the semi-final the way you want us to play.”
Coaches prefer to feel as they’re doing something. Coaching sessions make them feel great. There’s tangible evidence of the way they’re making things better. All our various specialist coaches could have their 10 minutes reserved together with the team.
Clive listened. By the beginning of semi-final week, coaching dropped off significantly. We did comeback – ice baths, gym work that is light merely to stay loose, so to stay oiled, to not lob metal.
We focused on plan. How can we overcome this team? How can we ensure we put so much pressure, and make the correct decisions under all that stress they suddenly begin making the wrong decisions?
That is what the four semi-finalists now around should do. You may push yourself beyond breaking-point, although you are not going to lose fitness in six days.
Rugby now is more extreme than it had been. As far emotionally as physically, for Wales the quarter-finals were also so exhausting.
So rein it back in rather than blow it soon. Trust in all this work you have completed in the weeks before. Make sure that you are fresh enough to use it.
The teams that come through this test will not necessarily be the favourites. To succeed you will need to get each part spot on.
Selection has to be appropriate, even if this means upsetting servants and patterns.
Coming into our game from France it became apparent that Clive was going to start Mike Catt before Mike Tindall, partially since Catty had done a lot in helping us regain control once the wheels were threatening to come off against Wales, partially because we desired to dictate in which the match was likely to be playedwith.
Will Greenwood was indispensable but he wasn’t a kicker. Catty gave us an essential second. He was brilliant at appearing after Jonny Wilkinson. Speaking to him, steering him, taking difficulties off his shoulders.
Where the win will come so it is possible to figure out you do the analysis, and then also roll out the plans that follow. You think in the plan and you actually believe you can defeat anybody.
Where do England think than they have been before in this World Cup, New Zealand could be exposed, or more vulnerable? Where do his backroom staff and Warren Gatland believe a Springboks staff once Wales struggled for so long to put a France team which have done little across the past four years, which past Japan can be hurt?
Our plan against France was predicated on our forwards. They had been pumped, not because we had been beaten by France through Serge Betsen beating Jonny up the year earlier at Paris.
Consequently I spent more time with the bunch than the springs, now being for particular line-out calls, and working on scrum put-ins. And since we thought that approach was correct, it gave us the confidence that was enormous.
You can still find time to yourself as a player in semi-final week. The town becomes active but it will get 25% as busy for the closing. It’s still possible to go out for coffee, or play ping-pong from the group space, or play loads of Tiger Woods Golf on the PlayStation as we did back then.
You hang with all the team-mates you get on with, sort out tickets for friends and family. I practised kicking exercises with Jonny, or to the point where I could do no more but that he wanted to perform absolutely loads. I tried to prevent Joe Worsley as there are so many times you’re able to listen to a terrible version of Coldplay’s Clocks, playing violin in the hotel lobby.
I would be the All Blacks or even England.
They have an extra day of recovery prior to the final and play on Saturday; and they’ve got the energy and majority.
I would like to play with behind pack, making decisions on the front foot instead of digging the ball out and living off bits. The winner of this World Cup, for me, comes from this semi.
I want to become Wales. After how deep they needed to go against France, if the Springboks could conquer Japan at 70%, Perhaps they got enough left in the tank?
And however. They’ve been throughout their almost instant. Not the best team on the playground in their quarter-final but nevertheless through.
There is.
Until the closing was won, in 2003 we did not perform one lap of honor. This came from Johnno. After we cantered during that semi automatic, the message has been exactly the same: nothing is meant by that. We’ve won nothing. Yet.
I visit a lap of honor after the quarter-finals and I get really nervous. Right now apart from winning the closing, nothing else is success. World Cup semi-final week is different, for a participant.
Matt Dawson was talking to BBC Sport’s Tom Fordyce.
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