Jeremy Guscott

I came to rugby relatively late in my childhood due to an overriding obsession with cricket. The 1995 rugby world cup was a turning point for me and this sparked a strong interest in the game that has remained ever since. From the beginning it was clear to me that Jeremy Guscott was the best England back by some distance and truly lived up to the moniker, bestowed by Clive Woodward, ‘Prince of Centres’.

With Will Carling, himself a much underrated player, providing the power and Guscott providing the guile, pace and finesse the England centre partnership of the early and mid 90’s was a truly great one. Factor in Rory Underwood outside as a devastating finisher and Rob Andrew commanding the back line it was a combination to be admired although one that on occasions did frustrate. As Walter Little, the great kiwi centre, once said ‘England have the best backline in the world, but they don’t know how to use it’.  Following Carling’s decision to step down as captain in 1996 the then England coach Jack Rowell made probably one of the strangest and worst rugby decisions ever by selecting Phil De Glanville as captain and moving Carling to 13. For this decision alone, Jack Rowell immediately made it into my personal top 3 most despised sporting personalities!

By 1997 Guscott was back where he belonged, undoubtedly the star of the line up and in the Lions team for the 1997 tour to South Africa. He had been the starting outside centre on Lions tours to Australia and New Zealand in ’89 and ’93 but Guscott found immortality for his drop goal for the Lions in ’97 against South Africa which clinched a famous series win.

My favourite memory of him is one of the few occasions I managed to see him play in person. It was England vs Tonga in the 1999 world cup group stages and Guscott by this stage was very much in the Autumn of his career. With the England pack having turned the ball over to the left of the posts on their own try line, the ball was passed out to Guscott standing under the posts. A dummy and a sidestep later he was away for a length of the field try which even before he got to the try line had Twickenham resounding to chants of  ‘Jerry, Jerry, Jerry’. Waiting for the restart he waved a hand to all for corners of the ground only for the chanting to go on for another minute. It was a fitting homage to a true great and wonderful player.


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