On the eve of the Rugby World Cup starting in England, this #ThrowbackThursday post looks back at England’s thrilling victory over Australia to win the 2003 title.
Let’s set the stage. Telstra Stadium, Sydney. November 22, 2003. Australia, the defending champion, was looking to win the World Cup on home soil. England was looking to become the first squad from the northern hemisphere to capture the Webb Ellis Trophy.
The match was deadlocked at 17 in extra time. In the closing seconds (26 seconds remaining to be exact), Jonny Wilkinson, the youngest member of England’s World Cup squad, became a national hero.
The drop goal to win the World Cup is widely considered England’s greatest sporting moment ever. His journey and that moment became the subject of a recent documentary, called ‘Building Jerusalem’. 2003 remains the country’s only Rugby World Cup title. England finished as runner-up at the 2007 World Cup in France and then lost in the quarterfinals four years later in New Zealand.
As for Wilkinson, the 2003 hero would be impacted by injuries for the rest of his career, retiring from the sport 11 years later. He recently gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph:
The victory brought him… ‘Joy. I would look at that day as one I could happily sign off on and say, “That was me.” An example of a story with a very, very happy ending. The problem being – and this is a massive one – that when you have a happy ending to a film, you never think, “What do these characters do the next morning?” For me, winning the World Cup was a potential danger. And it turned out to be an actual danger.’ By which he means the unfulfillable pressure he felt to carry on being the best player in the world, however, damaged his body.
England is set to host the Rugby World Cup, which begins Friday with the host nation facing Fiji at Twickenham.