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Last Updated:  Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Woodward's crowning glory
By Jonathon Moore
Rugby union editor

Clive Woodward
Woodward has come good for England after years of disappointments
For England fans Sunday's superb 42-6 Grand Slam victory over Ireland brings to an end years of frustration and false promises.

When then captain Will Carling led his country to their 11th Grand Slam in 1995, few could have imagined that the 12th would arrive some eight years later.

The end of the 1970s heralded a new era for European rugby union as the battle began to replace Wales as the northern hemisphere's dominant force.

For England, the new decade brought just one championship victory - the 1980 Grand Slam.

Eleven barren years elapsed until England fans could truly lay claim to a world-class side.

Four championship victories and three Grand Slams followed during the next seven years.

Won 42; Drawn: 2; Lost 14
RWC quarter-finalists 1999
21 consecutive home victories
Won 31 of 35 games since RWC
It was within this framework of success that Clive Woodward assumed his role as England's first full-time professional coach.

Victory was not so much anticipated as expected, but things did not go well for the former Bath backs coach.

After his first two seasons in charge his team had won just six games out of a possible 16 and fell foul of France in the opening match in the 1998 Five Nation's championship.

"Judge me on the World Cup," became Woodward's mantra, as a powerful squad containing eight British Lions targeted home advantage as their path to the final.

Clive Woodward
England's ride under Woodward has been something of a rollercoaster
Things started well enough. A 67-7 win put Italy firmly in their place, but then came the true test of England's worth - a group game against New Zealand.

Jonah Lomu again reigned supreme and Woodward's side were dismissed 16-30.

Three weeks later no-one was surprised when South Africa won through in the quarter-final.

The 44-21 scoreline, however, almost brought an end to the former international centre's coaching career.

The newspaper headlines were less than complimentary, with numerous ex-internationals calling for his job if not his head.

Age: 47
Int' debut: 1980 v Ire
Int' caps: 21
Lions: 1980 (SA) & 1983 (NZ)
1985: Joined Manly, Sydney
1991: Coach Henley RFC
1994: Coach L.Irish/Eng U21
1996: Bath Ass Coach/
1997: England coach
But the Rugby Football Union, with unusual foresight, kept faith with their man.

It is a decision that has paid dividends, as the statistics now show.

Woodward's side have since put together a run of 21 consecutive home victories, won 31 of their past 35 games and finally laid to rest the ghost of Grand Slam failures against all three Celtic Nations.

When the celebrations finally die down, England fans will hope that Sunday's result can prompt an upturn in their country's World Cup fortunes.

It is a mark of how far they have come under Woodward that the World Cup - and not simply the Six Nations - is a credible goal for Martin Johnson's men.

The current crop of players are certainly among the most talented ever to have worn the red rose.

For Woodward and his elite, all roads now lead to Sydney.

England boss Clive Woodward
"The players deserve this"

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