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World Cup Rewind: Paul Ackford relives England's 1991 campaign

09 September 2011

  • How the 1991 tournament gripped the nation for the first time
  • Volatile quarter final in Paris held the key for Carling and Co
Paul Ackford battles for the ball against New Zealand in the opening game

Photo: Getty Images

During the 2011 Rugby World Cup we're inviting England greats to share their unique insights of the six tournaments that have taken place.

Harlequins lock Paul Ackford kicks off the series by looking back at 1991 when England's journey to the final gripped the nation only to be dashed in a controversial final settled 12-6 in Australia's favour by prop Tony Daly's try.

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AUDIO – Martin Johnson talks to RFU.com after France victory


Ackford, now the rugby correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, was given time off by the Metropolitan Police to join England's preparations at Tylney Hall in Hampshire from where they set out for the opening game against New Zealand.

He talks about England's "funereal" coach ride to Twickenham that day, the realisation that they were "too cowed" in the opening game which they lost 18-12, then takes us behind the scenes as England got on a roll to see off France in a "volatile, high-octane game" in the cauldron of the Parc Des Princes.

By then World Cup television coverage was everywhere - absurdly, Ackford remembers, even in the local hairdressers.

England's final defeat is still debated. Should they have changed the way they played - or were Australia simply the better team?

Ackford gives his verdict from inside a camp populated with great characters from 'headbangers' Brian Moore and Micky Skinner to the classic midfield trio of Rob Andrew, Will Carling and Jerry Guscott.