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Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Other Unions: 'No one cares if you're down. We're a nation who just want success stories'

By Owen Slot

The start of a series recalling the highs and lows of the past 12 months with leading sport stars.

TO KICK off The Times’s “2005: how was it for you?” series, we are sitting in the clubhouse at the Leicester training ground with Martin Corry, a man who started the year in a losing England team, who then became captain and managed to get England winning, who then became a Lion, then captained the Lions and was then dropped from the Lions. And that was only the first half of the year. And yet our man is so fabulously, genuinely modest that he seems taken aback that anyone should perceive his to be a 2005 worthy of note.

Indeed, invited to take half a step back — and this is not in his nature — to consider it, he does not even believe that he has done that much. He shrugs off plaudits, finds navel-gazing a fairly foreign experience and although he appears uncomfortable shining light on the depths of his personal achievement, he does reveal the following gem. Saturday, March 12, England v Italy, his first game as England captain is “probably the highlight of my career”.

“You’re appointed captain — yes, that’s great — but you never actually sit back and think, ‘Wow, I’m England captain.’ But I did say to myself that day, ‘I’m going to have a little moment, just in the tunnel with the lads, just try and enjoy it.’ And it was a huge moment. Everyone was ready, this was it, me leading the team out. We did have a great team spirit, I had tremendous support from guys like Ben Kay, Wig [Graham Rowntree].

“To experience something like that with great mates like that in the side — you can’t come in to your first game as England captain thinking, ‘I am the finished article.’ You need a lot of help and it was great having them around at that moment. I say ‘that moment’, but it lasts five seconds, then you run out and you’re in the game again.”

And there the self-analysis ends. What Corry shares with Martin Johnson is the belief that rugby is better played than talked about. Johnson would glower offensively when asked a touchy-feely question that might involve introspection; Corry, instead, takes a deep breath, swallows and looks up as if he might find his answers on the ceiling.

Question: “Has 2005 been a life-changing year?” Answer, after a pause for thought: “Can we not do this in the earshot of Austin Healey?” Exit the aforementioned bantamweight and Corry tells us what Johnson never would: the one about the 400 screaming women. This was the night that Andy Robinson, the England head coach, invited him to become his captain. Corry was in the car, driving to the Leicester Tigers’ ladies’ night, an annual tradition, “probably the worst night of the year”, which the players spend as wine waiters.

“I’m a terrible wine waiter,” he said. “I’m not very conscientious, I’ll do the bare minimum and I tend to hide. You’re comfortable in an environment you’re used to and having 400 screaming women is not an environment I’m either used to or comfortable with.

“Anyway, Robbo said, ‘Do you want the job?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He then said, ‘Think about it and I’ll call you in the morning.’ I said, ‘There’s not a lot to think about, I’m desperate for the job. If you don’t want my answer now, call me in the morning, but it’s going to be exactly the same.’ That made the night more bearable.”

And then it was on with the job. “You don’t dwell on what a wonderful honour this is, you just get on with it,” he said. Which is the attitude that has sustained him so well this year, because there have been some almighty lows, too. Which games would he like to play again to put right? He reels them off: the Premiership final against London Wasps, the first Lions international versus the All Blacks and then the recent international against the All Blacks again, when England came so close.

Half a year on, he would still be entitled to feel miffed that he was dropped after one Lions international in New Zealand. It was not as if he personally had the worst of games. Yet if there is one enduring impression of Corry in 2005 that summed him up as an athlete, it would not be any of the glories, or that special moment in the Twickenham tunnel before the Italy game, but the manner in which he took his relegation from that Lions side.

“I remember doing the press conference,” he said. “We were in this s****y little room in Palmerston North, the team had just been announced and of course there was me who’d been dropped. So all the press make a beeline for me and I’ve only just found out about it myself.”

And he duly sat there and discussed frankly how hurt he felt, never once suggesting that anyone but himself may have been at fault. Because for Corry, the only way of putting it right is to play better the next time he was given a chance. Again, this is Johnson all over.

“The most important thing as captain is how I play on the field,” Corry said. “How can you stand up at a team meeting if you’ve played like a fairy at the weekend. It’s not incredibly complex, doesn’t require a Churchill-type leader.”

Interestingly, it is he who brings up Johnson’s name. It is easy to imagine the ghost of Johnson as being one that haunts those trying to follow in his footsteps, but Corry — being Corry — sees his standards merely as something to aim for. There are those who believe that he is getting close; Phil Larder, the England coach, recently bracketed him, for his captaincy, with Johnson and Ellery Hanley.

Corry would shrink from such an assessment, probably draw a deep breath, swallow hard and look to the ceiling for a response. But this is the key to his success: that no slings or arrows or medals or prizes will change him. In 2005, he has risen from the ranks to the leadership and yet his airs and graces remain those of the foot soldier.

And that is why the England team have taken so keenly to following him. “Without getting too noble,” he said (as he would do), “as the phrase goes: laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you wet your face. No one cares if you’re down. We’re a nation who just want success stories.” And he is determined to provide one. It is just that he will struggle to acknowledge it when he has done.
nice arti - cant believe there is no whinging!  
But of course there wouldn't be PA

He is a true Union Jack Public School english bot taught to keep a stiff upper lip old chap and take it within his stride.

In contrast to the wannabe English arch whinger Stephen Jones

Of course St Michel will say that this is a classic example of a true englishman...
England who just want success stories....


Pity they don't get much of it....
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