Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
| Help
Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Woodward, the 'crazy professor'
By Tom Fordyce

Clive Woodward is not your average sporting coach.

Clive Woodward
Born: 6 Jan 1956 (Ely, Cambridgeshire)
Educated: HMS Conway/ Loughborough College
England caps: 21
Playing career: Harlequins/ Leicester/Manly
Coaching career: Manly/ Henley/London Irish/Bath
Honours: Grand Slam and World Cup 2003; knighted 2004.

The 48-year-old has always been something of a maverick, which is why this week's sudden split with the Rugby Football Union comes as less of a surprise to those who know him well.

As a player, Woodward was a free-running centre, and as a coach he has continued in the same mould.

Having made a million in business with a computer-leasing company, he became England's first full-time coach when appointed in 1997.

The contrast between his modern-day approach and that of the RFU was evident from his very first day, when he was forced to set up his laptop in the RFU's reception because no-one had thought to give him an office.

Woodward has never been afraid to be different, even when it has left him open to ridicule.

Says former England captain Martin Johnson: "Clive used to call himself the 'Crazy Professor' and he wasn't far off."

Woodward went as far as asking BBC TV's Changing Rooms team to revamp the home dressing rooms at Twickenham.

He set high standard of discipline for his players. They were banned from swearing in public and had to adhere to "Lombardi time" - named after the legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi - meaning they had to be 10 minutes early for all pre-arranged meetings.

Anyone who made public what went on inside the camp was out - as hooker Richard Cockerill found to his cost when he spilt the beans to the media and was never selected by Woodward again.

Woodward was fiercely loyal to those players who believed in him.

On tour in South Africa, he moved them out of their hotel - booked by the RFU - when he deemed it sub-standard, and took them instead to a five-star establishment.

"Who is paying for this?" asked the concerned hotel manageress.

"I am," replied Woodward, handing her his credit card.

Question everything

Woodward's chances of succeeding in football should he switch codes are open to debate.

Sir Clive Woodward's record as England coach

He is not a hands-on manager of the old school, but a facilitator, a man who looks at the overall system around a team and then works out which people and resources are needed to improve it.

He has said that his success in winning the rugby World Cup was in part down to his willingness to "question everything, change anything and leave no stone unturned".

A favourite maxim of his is that, rather by improving teams by 100%, he improves "100 things by 1%".

He was the man who fast-tracked Jonny Wilkinson into the England side at an age when most coaches would have deemed him too inexperienced, and also put together a huge and meticulously-selected backroom staff, from scrummaging and kicking coaches to a visual awareness expert and kit technician.

Woodward is also not short of confidence.

Some critics have interpreted his desire to move into football as evidence of an ego out of control. But Woodward has the track record to justify his confidence.

"Judge me on the World Cup," he said, years before England's triumph in 2003, and if you do, there is not a lot to argue with.

He is happy to speak his mind, even when some of the phrases that come out reflect his business rather than rugby background.

An example? His players do not play well, they "over-deliver".

Woodward's relationship with the RFU, which seemed so perfect just eight months ago, turned sour over the release of England players from their clubs to prepare for internationals, and the limit on matches to be played each season.

As he is not a man to compromise, this week's messy divorce from the RFU became almost inevitable.

"I always say that if you let me do it my way, it will work," he has said. "I can't do it anyone else's way. Trust me."

E-mail services | Sport on mobiles/PDAs


Back to top

Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability sport | Olympics 2012 | Sport Relief | Other sport...

BBC Sport Academy >> | BBC News >> | BBC Weather >>
About the BBC | News sources | Privacy & Cookies Policy | Contact us
banner watch listen bbc sport