In the realm of Twickenham, Sir Clive Woodward reigned supreme for an impressive seven-year stretch, spanning from 1997 to 2004.
His indelible mark on the annals of history was solidified when England emerged victorious in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
While his legacy is celebrated for the era during which the Englishmen in white surged to global dominance, securing numerous Six Nations trophies and boasting some of the world’s finest players, Woodward’s tenure wasn’t without its share of disappointments.
Here, we delve into the five notable underachievers of the Woodward era, individuals who failed to live up to the considerable hype that surrounded them.
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#1. Olly Barkley
- Caps: 23
- Position: Fly-half, Centre
The prodigious talent earned 23 caps for England between 2001 and 2008. Such was his early acclaim that Woodward granted him his England debut even before making his club appearance with Bath.
Blessed with a graceful left foot and the ability to excel as a fly-half or inside-centre, Barkley seemed destined to become a fixture in England’s midfield following Will Greenwood’s retirement.
Curiously, the enigma surrounding Barkley lies in the uncertainty of where it all went awry. Though lacking blazing speed, he compensated with impressive kicking accuracy both from the tee and out of hand. Moreover, he proved to be a skilled playmaker, a superb distributor, and a robust defender.
Woodward later labelled him as arrogant, yet even with that perspective, Barkley’s career remains one of the most perplexing mysteries in English rugby during the 2000s.
After retiring, he revealed that his heart wasn’t always in rugby as he always dreamed of playing football.