|Born||Bath, July 7 1965
|Internationals||65 caps between 1989 and 1999
|Inducted||England v South Africa (November 25, 2006)
The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.
Jeremy Guscott played in two historic games for England against South Africa. The first was as a member of the team which took on the Springboks in the year they re-entered world rugby after the end of apartheid.
The former England and Bath centre, who played a total of 65 times for his country and a further eight Tests for the British and Irish Lions, has very hazy recollections of that match, which England won. He did not even remember that he had scored a try – the 15th of his international career – in that game.
“It was so early in my career, although I seem to remember the centre Danie Gerber played. Having seen him and knowing his reputation, that was the most intimidating thing about that match for me. He was in the twilight of his career and obviously therefore not as menacing as he used to be, but he was still a formidable opponent. But generally my memory of that game is not too vivid.”
But Guscott, who finished with a total of 30 tries for England, had no trouble recalling another match against South Africa, in which he played (and scored) in December 1998.
It was the match where the Boks were stopped from setting a world record for consecutive wins. They arrived at Twickenham having strung together 17 victories on the trot, thereby matching the All Blacks’ feat between 1965 and 1969. As a measure of how times have changed and how few Tests were played in those days, New Zealand’s run spanned three years 10 months, while South Africa amassed their 17 victories in just 16 months, a third of the time.
Nick Mallett was the mastermind behind the South African run and the tourists were determined to notch up that magical 18th win. “Nick Mallett was a good guy to listen to,” Guscott said. “He spoke a lot of sense and got the team really on a roll. But it was a significant match for us for another reason as well, because Clive Woodward had not long been in charge.
“England rugby then was about going out and giving it a lash, as Woodward used to say in his early days as head coach. Lawrence Dallaglio was captain, it was all incredibly exciting. Very fresh, very new.”
It was certainly an exciting match, and it ended happily for England and Guscott. “The game will always stand out for me, firstly because we ended South Africa’s run, and secondly because I scored a try, albeit a simple one.
“There was a cross kick to the left wing, Dan Luger palmed it down to me and I just happened to be there in support and came in and scored.” That was England try number 24 for Guscott, who went on to score four against the United States Eagles and wrapped up his career with a brace against Tonga in the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
But there is another, mischievous reason why Guscott remembers the match. “All the boys remember it because it was the match in which we all took the mickey out of Lawrence [Dallaglio].
“In the last two minutes of that game we were attacking towards the North Stand and something happened at a lineout. We thought we should have been awarded a penalty, but instead it was awarded to South Africa. They just tapped it and ran. The forwards were still protesting to the referee and before they knew it the ball had gone down the South African back line as far as André Snyman.
“We only realised all this after the match, when we were watching the video. But it was apparent that Lawrence had decided to give chase. He strode off like Superman, or the Incredible Hulk, covering the ground with those big strides. Then suddenly, after just five paces, it was as if a sniper in the West Upper Stand had got him in his sights and had taken him out, because he stopped in his tracks.
“He wasn’t injured, though – it just dawned on him that he did not have a chance in hell of getting anywhere near Snyman. He spat the dummy out and lifted his arms to the skies as if to ask ‘What the hell is going on?’ He just gave it up so it was left to us, in the backs, to save it, which Dan Luger did. The thing is that if they had scored the try and converted it, they would have won the match by a point.
“It was also actually a nervy few moments for me, because I had shown Snyman the outside and he had taken it. There were very few occasions in my career with Bath, England or the Lions when I did that and they then got the better of me.”
Guscott also recalls the after-match celebrations, surely a rare feat among rugby players. “They were legendary,” he said. “We went to Shoeless Joe’s, the bar owned by former England prop Victor Ubogu, in the New King’s Road. We went in there and caused a bit of a riot in the downstairs bar.
“So the bouncers went upstairs to tell Victor that his England rugby mates were misbehaving. Victor obviously thought it couldn’t be that bad and he started to come down the stairs, but he stopped halfway down when he saw the carnage. Then he turned back to the bouncers and said, ‘You deal with it – that’s what you’re paid for.’ And he ran away back up the stairs.”
Twickenham is a special place for Guscott. He picks the 1996 Pilkington Cup final between Bath and Leicester as an abiding memory.
“I was injured for that match and doing some commentary, so I went out to the West Car Park to see my family. They were having some good-natured banter with some Leicester fans and they struck a bet as to who would win.
“Long after Bath had won, the family went back out to the car. The Leicester fans had all left but there, under a windscreen wiper, was a £20 note.” The fact that the Leicester fans had honoured the bet in the absence of the Bath supporters and then that no one had stolen the money when it was in full public view, exemplify all that is good in the game for Guscott.
As for Twickenham itself, he has only praise for the ground. “It is a wonderful stadium. It is always an occasion, always an experience.”
As for his elevation to the Wall of Fame, Guscott is positively effusive – for him. “I am pleased. Recognition such as this is nice.” From someone so reticent to show their feelings and so imbued with modesty, yet who has achieved so much in the game, that is quite a statement.
Article by Dai Llewellyn