World Rugby

10/23/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/23/2019 01:43

The day 'Raging Bull' Vickery knew England could win World Cup

TOKYO, 23 Oct - As England prepare to take on the All Blacks with a first world title for 16 years in their sights, victory will depend on every player in a white shirt believing this is his moment of destiny. They must convince themselves that on Saturday, in Yokohama, England will finally end their six-match losing run against the All Blacks and reach their first final since 2007.

Conviction is everything and Phil Vickery, a World Cup winner in 2003, says the moment he realised England could win the trophy came a full five months before their famous victory in Sydney, when they played New Zealand in Wellington.

Two England players had been shown yellow cards, leaving six versus eight in the scrum. Yet, somehow, England held off the All Blacks.

While Jonny Wilkinson delivered the 15-13 victory with four penalty goals, main picture, and one drop goal it was the forwards who kept the mighty All Blacks at bay, including replacement Vickery, who had just recovered from back surgery.

One week later Clive Woodward's team followed up by beating Australia, coached by one Eddie Jones, and Vickery did not need any more convincing about England's credentials.

First, though, that match in Wellington. The memories have stayed fresh in the mind of Vickery, who went on to lead England to the final in 2007, when they lost 15-6 to South Africa.

Vickery, now 43, was thrown into the maelstrom, above, after Jason Leonard was concussed and both Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back had been shown yellow cards. England needed him in the critical tight-head position.

The prop known as Raging Bull recalled: 'I have three distinct memories of the match; firstly those six-man scrums on the England line and thinking, just before packing down, 'Queen and country' and if you are going to do it then it had better be now.

'The second is about Justin Marshall, the All Black scrum-half and one of my heroes, making a break and then coming to an abrupt halt as he tore his hamstring with the line beckoning. I thought then, 'this is just meant to be'.

'And after the match Jonno (captain Martin Johnson) telling the referee (the Australian Stuart Dickinson) that not many would have had the courage to sin-bin two players. He genuinely meant it.

'I have never watched the film of those scrums. I have to be careful because it brings back all of those emotions and I try to keep them locked away.

'I was coming back from one of my back operations and had played in the warm-up game with the New Zealand Maori before that test, and that was a hell of a win (23-9). We had beaten the All Blacks at Twickenham (31-28) in 2002 and when we arrived in Wellington we were the No.1 team in the world.

'Jason starting the game was the right thing because I had been out injured. Then, coming on, I kicked the ball and I remember Jonno saying 'don't kick it', but it went out for a lineout and his second breath was 'well done'!'

Seven days later, Vickery and co ran out against Jones's Australia team in Melbourne. The current England head coach had claimed that Woodward's team did not score tries and were old.

Vickery, who started the 24-15 victory, said: 'Heading into that game with Australia was the memory of having lost the second British and Irish Lions test against the Wallabies at that stadium in 2001. So I am thinking, 'right you lot, I am really going to have a go at this', and I still remember getting a defensive read wrong and Wendell Sailor scoring the try.

'I was so gutted and thinking, 'you stupid idiot'. It really bothered me because I had a job to do and it was my fault because of a tiny lapse of concentration.

'In one lineout in the match we drove for something like 60m and I really savoured the moment. What those wins gave us was the confidence that we could win anywhere against anybody.

'That Melbourne performance was probably our best in 2003. When we arrived for the Rugby World Cup later that year we didn't play particularly well. However, we knew that we had beaten everyone and then it was a case of delivering, and we did just enough to win the World Cup with a left-footed goal kicker putting over a right-footed drop goal in extra time.'

These days Vickery runs his Raging Bull clothing company and is an ambassador for The Prince of Wales Trust. He is also patron of The Country Food Trust Charity, which produces food and donates it to people in need, with aim of feeding more than one million people in the next five years in the UK.

Food plays a prominent part in his life and his twitter page declares he is 'World Cup winner, MasterChef champion'.

Vickery won Celebrity MasterChef in 2011, and although he said he was 'absolutely gobsmacked' by his victory, the judges were suitably impressed by his starter of scallops, followed by lamb fillet with fondant potatoes, and a dessert of orange and chocolate bread and butter pudding and clotted cream.

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