Building Jerusalem – Q&A

After the great film which I’ve reviewed HERE, a Q&A was held featuring a panel of director/writer James Erskine (JE), Coach Sir Clive Woodward (CW), Captain Martin Johnson (MJ) and key players, Jonny Wilkinson (JW) and Matt Dawson (MD). Here is the summary of the discussions… sorry, it’s quite long but very interesting!

The first question was to JW about the winning kick:

JW: The kick is better now I’ve retired and can enjoy the moment. At the time, it was the relief of winning and barely even remembers how the kick happened.

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CW was asked if the routine had been part of England’s plan:

CW: Well, Jonny had already missed two drop goals earlier on so obviously we were choreographing a dramatic ending on purpose! It was great to look back. We threw everything at it (winning the RWC). We hoped all we had learnt stuck and came together. Australia as a whole was amazing – great hosts and great experience. We were hugely proud of what we’d achieved.

Asked MJ about the game:

MJ: It’s difficult to get a whole perspective of the game while playing. You know what you are doing and those immediately around you. We were constantly talking with Dawson and Jonny. We concentrated so much on winning, it was emotional, frustrating at times but we had to be cold. We did lots of preparation but there were frustrating moments.

MD: I had to stop MJ talking to ref. At one point he was marching towards him and I stopped him and said “Martin, stop, your body language is terrible”!

MJ: Yes, in the second half the ref gave lots of frustrating penalties and I had to hold back. Or be held back! When they got a penalty with 90secs left we didn’t panic. We had a game plan of where to put the re-start, how to approach the lineout and how to attack forward. Matt (Dawson) made his spontaneous run and we had a platform. He had the balls to do it but had he lost the ball or been turned over, we’d have left him behind in Sydney! Lucky it worked!

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MD: The film is an amazing way to look back. I’ve never watched the game in its entirety. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of the footage shown – press conferences, training. It’s all new to me! The film gave me a much better understanding of my teammates. It’s weird when you’ve travelled with them so much but it gave a new insight into each other.

MJ: I did wonder who was going to play me in the film when I was first asked about it. I was hoping for Tom Cruise but he’s not good looking enough!

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Question to JE about why he wanted to make the film:

JE: It’s great to recreate great moments. It’s like a heist movie – you have a team with lots of different qualities and they’ve put together a plan to go to a foreign land, steal the gold and bring it home! Bringing home the golden cup! It’s a legendary story and it is a big moment of history.

CW was asked about the make-up of his squad:

CW: First and foremost I picked talented individuals, the most talented at each position. Once I had them, I had to build a team. And that included talented coaches too, tough characters. There were difficult moments too, such as the strike but we kept moving forward.

Question to JE about asking some tough questions:

JE: It was difficult to get the guys to recall their memories of tougher moments. As sportsmen it is sometimes difficult to address and ask the questions.

JW: I confessed more to James than I ever did to my teammates. It was such a macho environment. You don’t talk about the fear side of the game but everyone feels it. You do eventually realise everyone helped without sharing the fears. There are better kickers than me but I just did my thing for the team. Before matches I’d write notes to remind myself. I copied the notes and gave them to Daws in case I needed help. I hid my copy in my sock in case I forgot what I’d written. I got into a routine during the World Cup and it included MJ’s team talks. For the final he gave his team talk and it was lots of shouting, swearing and spitting! Before each match, Johnno had said a final few words in the tunnel. He’d wait until both teams were lined up, turn to the team and say something. At the final we were in the tunnel and I was waiting for my final motivation. Johnno turned around, looked up and down the line and then just turned around again! I knew that Johnno didn’t need to say anything else – he’d looked at our faces and knew we were ready. We knew then we were prepped and ready to win.

Asked MJ about being in Australia:

MJ: In many ways it was great to be away from home, where they want to beat you. Lots of the team had been here before with the Lions and no-one wants England to win. The Australian press built it up and had their jokes, but they lost quite well! They’re better losers than winners! England are similar to the Aussies in many ways and it’s a great place to play. In the final, it was perfect to play the hosts, kept interest high. The home nation against the top ranked team. Being away brings you together, especially when you know nobody wants England to win.

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The panel were asked about the celebrations seeming fairly quiet:

MD: We were very good at celebrating! On the pitch though, we’d watched how teams celebrated after winning a QF or SF and we didn’t do that. We went back to the changing room and started thinking forwards. We’d only celebrate at the final when we’ve won. We’d lost grand slams at the last match and nothing else (other than winning) would do. Wins along the way mean nothing without winning the final.

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Asked JE how difficult to get them together:

JE: Clive, Jonny and Johnno all of the same agent so I spoke to them. Clive didn’t want to but I talked to the agent more and worked together.

CW: I didn’t realise I’d be playing myself. Maybe Bruce Willis for me. Was a bit disappointed I had to play myself!

JE: I explained the historical perspective of film and how I wanted to do it. Others had wanted to do a similar film but I was fortunate they chose me!

Question from the audience about going back to normality:

MJ: I enjoyed going back to being normal. We’d had about 26 weeks away that year and I just wanted to go home! Just back to driving a car, going shopping! Imagine listening to Dorian West for 7 weeks! It was special but I just wanted to get home. In fact, I trained on the Wednesday and played for Tigers the following Saturday!

JW: I was a bit shocked the next day… because nothing had changed! The following morning breakfast was same! No hired help! Still a buffet! You know the good film endings where you walk into the sunset? Well they never show you what happens afterwards when life goes on!

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CW: We don’t see ourselves as superstars, we weren’t expecting anything much but we were mobbed at the airport! It was chaos!

MJ: Jonny didn’t quite realise how things would change. He’d left his car at the airport so he was going to jump on the airport bus, go get his car and drive back to Newcastle! We told him he couldn’t just do that anymore so they arranged him a flight home! Even then, he didn’t realise and there were stories of the crowds and chaos when he went to the supermarket!

MD: I was so proud to be part of it but the rugby fraternity kept us grounded. I was back into it straight away and played Saturday at Gloucester – getting dog’s abuse from The Shed brings you back to earth!

Another question from the audience for JW – now you’ve fulfilled your boyhood dream, what do you dream about now:

JW: Taking the question literally, I have these weird dreams now where I’m running around the changing rooms looking for my lost boots! The lads are out, but I can’t find my boots!

Host: Did you steal his boots Matt?

JW: Daws is not in my dreams!

MD: You’re often in mine, Jonny!

JW: To answer the question, there is a hangover from no longer playing. My dreams now are trying to create opportunities for other people because of what help I had to achieve mine. It was an amazing journey and I want to provide support for others to achieve. I love working with others, coaching, etc. and I encourage the emotional discussions to make a team. These issues are no longer off the table. I just want to pay people back.

Audience Q – Asked MJ most intimidating player:

MJ: I’m always asked this! It’s difficult because for the big guys it’s easy to act intimidating. You’re 6ft 7 so it’s easy being tough. But it’s the smaller guys – someone like Neil Back, he’s 5ft 10, small but hard as nails. He just gets on with it! I almost admire the small guys more… but I still want to kick their heads in, too!

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Audience Q – Was the final the most physical match you’ve played:

MD: No, nowhere near. In fact, the World Cup final wasn’t hard physically at all. Nowhere near. The Lions Tour in 1997 to South Africa, that was tough. Australia just weren’t a physical side. South Africa and New Zealand were much tougher.

MJ: I wasn’t tired in the final. I could’ve run all day. It was frustrating but not hard work. The Aussies are smart but not tough, they’re never physical. George Gregan wanted to run us into the ground early as we were the old men, but we were never tired.

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Final question to JW – did you ever practice in the garden and commentate “Here’s Wilkinson, this kick for the World Cup…”?

JW: I used to countdown the clock, like a buzzer beater, even though rugby doesn’t have that. It’s almost like a pretend journey and a dream. You’re like millions of others with the same dream. I’m privileged to live my dream but I couldn’t have done it without my coaches and teammates. So often I asked myself what is the meaning of this and why is it all happening to me. But it was and I’m so thankful to have lived my dreams.

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