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William Carling

Nation: England
Place of Birth: Bradford-on-Avon
Date of Birth: December 12, 1965
Position: Centre
Internationals: 72 caps between 1988 and 1997
Inducted: England v Argentina (November 25, 2000)

The match was over. The crowd was dispersing. The stadium echoed to the occasional call of a triumphant supporter, or the slap and bang of cables as technicians dismantled the tons of broadcasting paraphernalia that winds itself around big sporting events.

Then out of the now-darkened tunnel a shadowy figure emerged and stepped onto the hallowed turf of HQ. He moved out towards the middle of the pitch, echoes of past triumphs reverberating in his memory; matches won, matches lost; tries scored, heroes made; tears of joy, weeping in defeat.

“Oi! You! What do you think you’re doing? Get off the pitch, now!” The indignant member of the Twickenham groundstaff reinforced his instruction by making his way urgently towards the chunky, powerful figure who was still half concealed in the gloom.

Then he stopped, recognising the man in front of him. “Oh, it’s you Will. Oh, that’s all right – stay out here as long as you like.”

It is a bizarre yet touching memory to have of the ground where, as captain of England, Will Carling had led his team to back-to-back Grand Slams – the first Englishman ever to do so. Each one was concluded at Twickenham.

He had also played in a World Cup final on his home turf in 1991 and limped out of his leadership in March 1996, after the fickle turf caught his studs and he had to be carried off after 32 minutes of his final match as captain.

“I do have other memories of Twickenham, of course,” he adds. “The two Grand Slams which were both settled at the ground. Beating New Zealand in 1993 is another. That was special. But there are so many. Too many. Most of them good.”

Carling is still the most successful captain in rugby union history, having led his team in 59 of his 72 England appearances. His achievements in the game are legion, so it is no surprise that he has been elevated to the Wall of Fame.

“I am amazed,” said Carling. “It never occurred to me that anyone would ever think of me in such terms. I am deeply honoured.”

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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