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Clive Woodward was an 'absolutely rubbish' coach says one of his former London Irish players

By Ian Cameron

Trending on RugbyPass

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He may have gone on to steer England to a Rugby World Cup in 2003, but one former player of his says Clive Woodward wasn’t up to much in his early days as a coach.


Woodward’s victory at the World Cup in 2003 was followed by a disastrous British and Irish Lions tour in 2005, where the tourists were famously ‘black-washed’ three – nothing in the Test series. He hasn’t coached an elite side since, but has made a name for himself as an outspoken pundit with the Daily Mail as a motivational speaker and sports administrator. He was knighted in 2004.

Woodward coached London Irish between 1994 and 1997, where former Ireland international winger Niall Woods would have been one of his charges. Now an agent, Woods have recalled that while the Englishman was an excellent motivator, he struggled with the technical side of coaching.

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Speaking on Off the Ball, Woods recalled his experiences at the club while Woodward was in charge. “He was absolutely rubbish [as a coach]. Clive was an amazing individual, he is an unbelievable motivator, great talker, but technically as a rugby coach he wouldn’t have been very good at the time.”

Woods, who had been under the tutelage of Eddie O’Sullivan back in Ireland, said Woodward paled in comparison from a technical point of view.

“I had come from Eddie O’Sullivan in Blackrock in the AIL days, who at that stage was way ahead of his time in terms of analysing teams and players.”

Woods, who won eight Ireland caps, also revealed that Woodward would sign off letters with ‘Rugby is come home’.


“Clive used to send me letters, I was working at my dad’s accountancy firm in 1996, and he’d sign off… ‘rugby is coming home’. The Euros in ’96, we should all remember, was in the UK, and the song that came out was ‘Football is coming home’, so it was after the Five Nations, so it March, April and May.

“There were three or four letters, and he would sign them off with ‘rugby is coming home’.”

Woods admits that Woodward went on to become a good head coach, with the resources of the RFU behind him and a brilliant playing squad.

“The problem he had at London Irish was that he didn’t have a good enough squad. He went to Bath for a while, and then he went to England. Obviously they have quite deep pockets in the RFU, and he is, not necessarily a bully, but he will get his way when he wants it.


“That allied to him having a really good team in 2003 and their team for that World Cup in ’03 just peaked at the right time.

“When I had him, certainly, he wasn’t very good.”

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Clive Woodward was an 'absolutely rubbish' coach says one of his former London Irish players