The year 2003 will forever be a year to remember for England rugby fans. Long will they reminisce about that famous drop goal, beating Australia on their own turf to win their first-ever rugby world cup.
The celebrations come the final whistle were matched only by the open top bus parades through central London, as the players received their well-deserved honours from their own fans.
To have been a part of these incredible celebrations would have been the pinnacle of any rugby player’s career, to achieve the greatest honour in the game. For some however, just missing out on these momentous occasions would cause a huge amount of heartache.
One such player that came so close to being a part of the campaign was current Munster head coach, Graham Rowntree.
For 17 years Rowntree played for Leicester Tigers, amassing almost 400 caps. The prop also made 54 England caps in his time, but unfortunately for him, none of those were during the 2003 world cup.
Check out Rowntree discussing his missed selection, and the discussions he’d had with fellow omitted England player Austin Healey:
@pinergyie @MunsterRugby’s new head coach, Graham Rowntree, talks about how he bounced back from being left out of the England squad for the 2003 Rugby World Cup 🏉 🏆 #SUAF #WeAre16 #PoweringTheDifference #munster #munsterrugby #rugby #fyp ♬ Sugarsweet – Zach Sorgen
Rowntree showed the maturity he’d had as a player:
“It was tough, but I came back and got a good majority of caps after that disappointment. And I’m proud of that as a player”
On being given the bad news, he went on to say:
“But over time, a bit of reflection, and I look back now with my coaches hat on, it was the right decision”
Following their victory, Clive Woodward admitted that leaving Rowntree out of the squad was one of the hardest decisions he’d had to make during the time he was England’s head coach.