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on 28 December 2013
This is a phenomenal book with great attention to detail. I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone who is a true sports fan. The story highlights the environment created for England Rugby to become one of the most elite sports team on the planet and the rollercoaster ride to the summit. Enjoy!
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on 25 June 2015
Highlights the genius of Sir Clive Woodward and the hard work every player put in to make a formidable team. A great read.
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on 20 January 2014
This is an interesting book. It pulls together a variety of sources and explains the England journey to the rugby world cup 2003
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on 9 June 2014
A very good read. Highly recommended to any sports or rugby fan. If you want to know the background to the 2003 World Cup win then this is the book for you.
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on 27 January 2014
Largely consisted of extracts from other books instead of original thinking though the topic was enthralling. Came across as disjointed
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on 17 August 2015
Fantastic insights into what made this team champions.
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on 6 January 2014
Others have loved this, so I wanted to put another point of view.
First, it's about a subject matter that appeals to me: sport, business insights into sport and arguably English sport's greatest triumph of the last ten years, so I'm biased to like it.
As an account of how this happened, it's an enjoyable read, and he has got a few new sources e.g. Roger Uttley.
However, the basic flaws are that, for an aim at a 'definitive' account, he hasn't got enough sources, and where he does, he isn't sufficiently critical of them.
Almost all of the good bits here were established in Clive Woodward's own "Winning!", and Burns just trots them out. Hence the story about Jason Robinson's shirt being an example of marginal gains (even uncritically copying out Woodward's own verdict of his email to Nike requesting new shirt design becoming a 'legend' in the company: was it really?); Jonny Wilkinson's practice sessions; Woodward picking up the credit card bill when switching hotels in South Africa and winning over the players. If this is new to you, then this book is worth your reading, but otherwise it will hold few surprises.
Worse than that, Burns doesn't dig where he could afford to do so. For example, just before the 1999 World Cup, Woodward took the players out on an army exercise and reviewed with the army officers afterwards who the best people were, and also the opposite: who were likely to hold back the group. In his autobiography, Woodward states that the army captain's opinions of the players chimed in with his own, and led to certain players being dropped from the squad. He doesn't name names, but then, you could see why: as Woodward, he didn't want personally to aim at them. Surely, it was Burns' remit to work out who these were. For example, I've always suspected that Phil de Glanville was one of them, as he never played for England again despite scoring against the All Blacks, but I don't know that. I wanted Burns to have uncovered some evidence on this: after all, it was a seminal moment in selecting the core for the 2003 squad. He just doesn't bother, he just trots out Woodward's account of the exercise, without delving any deeper.
Where he does get new sources, e.g. interviewing Roger Uttley, who says Woodward was a bit of a nightmare on the 1998 tour of hell, he downplays it, as it not wanting to offend Uttley or Woodward. This was a good piece of information and firmer opinion was needed on what it says about both characters.
Occasionally, too, his writing strains to be somewhat poetic, and doesn't quite manage it e.g. the scene set of Henley RFC doing aerobics.
Finally, he needs editing: how many times do you need to be told that Jason Leonard's achievement of 100 caps was especially remarkable given that he played in the front row?
If all this sounds hypercritical, perhaps it is.
Burns has written an enjoyable account, amalgamating various sources, mainly player autobiographies, but especially Woodward's, and arranging them well so that the story coheres. He adds in a thesis about 'growth' mindset, which is hardly rocket-science.
In the introduction, he says he was very influenced by 'Moneyball', but he's no Michael Lewis.
If you want to know more about business and sport and incremental gains employed by Woodward, read his own book "Winning!"; if you want a general, slightly hagiographic, account of the greatest ever England rugby team, then this is probably it. But the definitive version is yet to be written.
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on 19 February 2014
This book just draws together highlights of several biographies and autobiographies. Clive Woodward, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Dawson, Will Greenwood etc are all extensively quoted and it is very difficult to see what input and investigation the author has had towards the content.

It also doesn't go deep enough into the inner workings of the England set up as promised, instead highlighting the main things which many keen rugby fans already know.

Another failure of the book is to deliver on its promise to examine the aftermath of the World Cup victory. This particular section of the book seems to be a rushed after thought and could've been better.

Overall it leaves the reader wanting more, but as this was not intended to be a series, then it fails to meet its objective.
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on 3 October 2015
I've had this on my Kindle for a while and decided that the current 2015 RWC was the perfect time to read it. I found it an excellent blend of the personal stories of some of the people involved and interesting details about the organisational and management theories used by Woodward et al. Whilst I am sure that (as pointed out by some other reviewers) much of the material is available elsewhere, this is a very good overview if you don't want to read all the individual (auto)biographies.

It's just a shame that Stuart Lancaster obviously hasn't taken any notice of the lessons learnt on the way to winning the Webb Ellis trophy, particularly about planning for every eventuality and T-CUP.
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on 22 November 2013
This is a very impressive account of the unique approach to management that Woodward brought to the England job. The style is vigorous and pacy and a welter of interesting background detail is unobtrusively woven into the narrative. It is something of a challenge to pull off a hybrid between a straight account of a sporting campaign and a study of management and organisational techniques, but the author achieves this triumphantly and it turns out to be a thrilling read. All the background detail about Woodward's previous career and personality breathes life into aspects of management that would otherwise be dry and technical. The analysis of how Woodward works and gets his players to respond is absolutely fascinating.

Though, as other reviewers have said,the style is at times almost novelistic like other books in this genre like The Damned United, this makes for great readability, while in the author in fact sticks closely and accurately to what is actually on the record.

Bringing it out to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the World Cup win is an excellent move, as it makes available to fans, players and coaches the inside story of the planning, the dedicated professionalism and the personalities that lie behind one of England's greatest sporting triumphs.
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