Do you remember where you were? I do.
I was at home, just got out of bed with a cup of coffee. I was too nervous to go out and meet friends. I was too nervous for a proper breakfast. At the end I was relieved. I’ve seen the end a million and one times since then but I’m always keen to see it again!
And so I headed to Leicester Square and the Empire Cinema for the opening, and only, night of Building Jerusalem. I was excited for the film, of course, but knowing that one of my friends and his company had been involved made it even more of an event – the bugger didn’t get me VIP passes, though!
The rugby fan in me made sure I was there early. I positioned myself outside the theatre early to try and catch the players arriving and was grateful for the time spent by the players in the rain signing autographs.
The film itself concludes with the greatest moment in English rugby but the story begins many years before. The main stars of the show spoke openly about how rugby affected them when they were younger. Jonny Wilkinson, the bar-setter for fly-halves of future generations, spoke about how he beat himself up regularly on his lack of perfection. Martin Johnson, seemingly a generation removed from Wilkinson, spoke of the fun and games of the Leicester Tigers clubhouse, having come into the game during the amateur era.
Of course, this point is quite poignant given the 20th anniversary this year of the switch to professionalism and Johnson clearly demonstrated the shock when he was finally paid to play rugby, his hobby!
With professionalism brought new ideas, and new problems. The new ideas came in the shape and form of Clive Woodward – from nutritionists, to positional coaches, even an eye coach. Listening to Johnson talk about this some 12 years later you can still hear the scepticism in his voice. But Woodward got them to buy into it and off the back of an average 1999 World Cup, he built a legacy.
There were road-bumps along the way with Dallaglio’s “drug-dealing” past and a players’ strike, but even they were dealt with calmly, almost clinically, by Woodward.
Reliving the big moments from 2003 was actually quite emotional for me. My brother and I were in Perth and Melbourne for the SA and Samoa matches, respectively. To be able to say “we were there” whilst watching the footage was pretty special. I have to admit I did try and pick myself out in the crowd scenes!
I’d left Australia on the day of the QF and still to this day have never watched it but my memories of the semi and final are no better having sat through every minute of those. In fact, I was still nervous watching final. Even knowing the result, hearing Messrs Wilkinson, Dawson, Johnson and Woodward talk about their approach, I still felt nervous watching Elton Flatley knock the penalties over.
The break from Dawson, the pickup and drop to the floor from Johnson, Dawson back on his feet and back to Wilkinson… I had to hold myself back from cheering all over again. That moment never gets any less spine-tingling for me. It’s the perfect storm.
The film was a brilliant documentary and James Erskine, the writer and director, told the story with such a wonderful perspective. The openness with which he got Wilkinson, especially, to talk about his feelings, his emotions made the film compelling. If you didn’t want to hug Jonny already, you will have done by the end!
Buy this film. You won’t regret it. I’ll be buying it… unless I can swing a free copy!
To find out more about the film, see HERE!
You can follow Kaleidoscope on Twitter here: @UKKaleidoscope and more about the film here @JerusalemRugby
Most importantly, you can buy the film HERE!
There was also a Q&A afterwards with the players – see a summary HERE.