The most capped England rugby scrum-half of all time, a captain of his country, and a two-times British Lions tourist, Matt Dawson’s career story is a colourful tale spiced with controversy, from club rugby at Northampton to England winning the Rugby World Cup in Australia.
The boy from Birkenhead learnt the game the hard way, working as a security guard and an advertising salesman in his formative years, in the days when rugby players found relief in an active and alcoholic social life. (Dawson: ‘The drinking started on Saturday night, continued all Sunday and most nights until Thursday.’)
Despite the frequent visits to the operating theatre and the physio’s table, hard graft for his club Northampton eventually heralded international recognition. Dawson talks about the influential, and occasional obstructive figures in his blossoming career: the likes of John Olver, Will Carling, Ian McGeechan and, more recently, Wayne Shelford, Kyran Bracken and Clive Woodward.
In typically opinionated mode, he also reflects on the successes and failures of the England team and, famously, the Lions in Australia in 2001. After speaking out against punishing schedules, disenchanted players and lack of management support in a tour diary article, Dawson was almost sent home in disgrace. He revisits that bitterly disappointing period in his life and is still not afraid to point out where everything went wrong.
Following England’s Rugby World Cup 2003 success, Dawson provides a first-hand account of all the dressing room drama – including a troubled Jonny Wilkinson – and the memorable final itself, followed by the stunning reaction to this historic win back home. And in a new updated chapter for this paperback edition, he reveals how the World Champions have overcome the retirement of key players, reviews the 2004 Six Nations, and looks at his own future in the game.