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RWC 2003 REACTION – Defeat of France delights Johnson and Woodward

18 November 2013

  • “We came here to win this thing, not come second” says Woodward
  • Galthié admits France were well beaten


Martin Johnson and Clive Woodward both hailed the accurate, clinical nature of England’s game management after their side ground out a dominant 24-7 win over France to set up a date with Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.

In torrential rain and strong wind at Sydney’s Telstra Stadium, Johnson and his forwards were magnificent, providing Jonny Wilkinson with a pristine platform to play territory and overhaul Les Bleus from the tee following an early try for Serge Betsen.

At the final whistle, magnanimous France skipper Fabien Galthié had few complaints.

Olivier Magne takes a lineout

Photo: Getty Images

“Today the best team won the match,” said the scrum half. “We were under pressure for a lot of the match and these weather conditions made it difficult for us.

“England adapted better than us. We are very disappointed.”

Understandably, Johnson’s mood was completely contrasting – the lock first anointing Wilkinson as “the best fly half in the world” before congratulating the England pack on an exemplary display of power and precision.

“We had to have a performance really because haven’t played yet [in the tournament],” he added.

“We weren’t unhappy to see the rain before the game and both teams did try to play but it’s about pressure – Australia put New Zealand under a lot of pressure [in the other semi final, winning 22-10] and we did the same today.

Jonny Wilkinson takes a shot at goal 

Photo: Getty Images

“It was great – we needed that passion because we’d questioned ourselves as forwards beforehand. And we came through.”

“We kicked the ball more than we have but that’s what you’ve got to do. We’d have liked to have scored a try but there you go – we’re in the final.”

Joking about the inclement weather – “it rains in France as well, doesn’t it” – Woodward made sure to highlight the impact of England’s travelling fans.

“We’ve got a lot to celebrate and the English fans over here have been incredible,” explained the head coach. “It’s better than Twickenham. The noise and support have been fantastic.

“In the changing room, the big celebration is Jason Leonard’s 112th cap. It’s brilliant for him and I was glad the guy on the PA acknowledged it when he came on.

“It’s a happy changing room but we came here to win this thing, not come second.”

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Rugby World Cup win, is posting highlights and reaction from each of England's matches. On Friday, head here for highlights from the final against Australia.