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'The World Cup is all about the stash and the wedge'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Mickey Skinner had a message for the England class of 2023 delivered second-hand this weekend by Jonathan Webb, his former 1991 Rugby World Cup final teammate who is now an RFU council delegate on the World Rugby executive committee.


Webb, the former full-back who won 33 caps between 198 and 1993, played at two finals and he was in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to make a speech at the capping ceremony in the French seaside town for Steve Borthwick squad.

All players, bar stand-in skipper Courtney Lawes who was left at the hotel following a heavy training session on Friday, and a multitude of staff – even legal eagle Richard Smith was present – were in attendance at Palais des Congres where they received their 2023 tournaments caps and participations medals.

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Before they were all individually called to the stage to receive their mementos, Webb spoke about his experiences at the World Cup back in the amateur days of rugby and the message he was asked to convey from some of his colleagues on the 1991 team that reached the final at Twickenham only for them to get beaten by Australia.

“I’d like to give you my own experiences in two World Cups,” he said. “It will be a far cry from what you will experience in the next seven weeks but it should give you an idea how this great event has changed.

“My first cap was in Rugby World Cup 1987. We played Australia in Sydney to a half empty stadium with no live TV coverage. I was on the bench with no expectation of playing given there were no tactical subs and full-backs traditionally never get injured. In fact I was eating a chocolate eclair when Marcus Rose was knocked unconscious and on I go, my first cap, all a blur.

“I subsequently lost my place and even gave up for a brief period before getting back to play again in the ’91 World Cup. We reached the final and that second opportunity was all the sweeter because having lost something you realise more deeply how much it means to you, so cherish every moment of these next few weeks.


“I did ask a few of the boys for words to say to you. The vast majority is unprintable. Mickey Skinner, some of you may remember, the great Harlequins flanker said, ‘Webby, the World Cup is all about the stash and the wedge’. I’m not sure about that.

“I prefer George Schultz – not a great rugby man but a great statesman. He was in the US Government for many years and he said trust is the coin of the realm. When trust is in the room, whatever room that is, the family room, the school room, the coach’s room, the office room, good things happen. When trust is not in the room, good things do not happen. Everything else is detailed.

“I trust you all but most important is that you trust yourselves, Steve and the coaches and play without fear. Today is the official start of your France 2023 Rugby World Cup journey. That cap that you will receive will recognise the sacrifice that you have made, your loved ones have made and teammates around you to be here.

“As for the medal, this will also represent something else. Each medal is made from recycled mobile phones collected with the help of community rugby clubs around the country. So each one is a special gift, a direct link to the clubs where we all started playing, the fans, the grassroots volunteers.”




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