One glance at Will Greenwood’s try-scoring record for England is enough to understand the quality he brought to his country’s midfield during his decorated international career.
With an uncanny knack for crossing the whitewash, by the time the quick and rangy centre hung up his boots he had 31 tries in 55 appearances for the Red Rose – a remarkable strike rate.
Add to that his ability to sense space in the opposition backline and create opportunities for his teammates, Greenwood was one of the most dangerous centres in world rugby.
His arrival on the international scene coincided with England’s rise to greatness, which included Six Nations title wins in 2000 and 2001 and the Grand Slam success of 2003.
To celebrate the Six Nations’ 20th anniversary, you can create your Greatest XV on the Guinness Six Nations app and choose from more than 150 players, including England centre Will Greenwood.
But his path to the top was not always a straightforward one, with Greenwood overcoming multiple false starts before going on to establish himself as one of the all-time great centres.
GIVING UP THE DAY JOB
Greenwood spent his childhood in Italy and Lancashire and showed promise as a cricketer until deciding to concentrate on rugby, going on to Durham University to study Economics.
He began his rugby career with Harlequins after moving to London from Lancashire following his graduation to work as a trader with Midland Global Markets – now better known as HSBC.
But with rugby turning professional in 1996, Greenwood committed full-time to the sport and swapped Quins for Leicester after finding his first-team opportunities limited.
After a spell at Leicester, in which he helped the club to two Premiership titles, he re-signed for Quins in 2000 and played a key role in taking them to victory twice in the European Shield.
His success with Leicester also saw Greenwood earn a place on the 1997 British & Irish Lions Tour despite being uncapped for England after being overlooked by coach Jack Rowell.
Following the Tour to South Africa, he was handed his first England cap later that same year and became a regular in the squad by the time the Red Rose began their rise to the summit.
Greenwood’s made his Championship bow in 1998 against France, forming a midfield partnership with Jeremy Guscott, with his first try coming against Wales at Twickenham.
Injury meant he missed much of the 1998/99 season but Greenwood recovered in time to play in the Rugby World Cup, which ended at the quarter-final stages for England.
But it was in the 2001 Championship where Greenwood really began to make his mark, scoring a hat-trick for Clive Woodward’s men against Wales in a dominant 44-15 victory in Cardiff.
Further tries came against Italy, Scotland and France as the Red Rose clinched the title, with Greenwood finishing the Championship as the top try-scorer with six.
He repeated the feat a year later with braces against Ireland and Italy, plus another score against Wales, as he topped the try-scoring table and received man-of-the-match in three games.
Then came 2003. In a vintage year for English rugby, Greenwood was once again in scintillating form as his tries against Wales and Ireland (2) helped the Red Rose to a clean sweep.
And having ended their quest for the Grand Slam, England made history by winning the Rugby World Cup later that year as Greenwood added five more tries to his tally en route to the final.
FINISHING ON A HIGH
Greenwood was appointed vice captain under Lawrence Dallaglio ahead of the 2004 Championship, playing all five games as England were unable to retain the title.
While England’s third-place finish fell below expectations, Greenwood reached the 50-cap landmark for his country during the Championship against Ireland at Twickenham.
His final and 31st try came against Canada later in the year before running out for what would prove to be his last cap against Australia in November 2004 – once again at England HQ.
Injury troubles ruled him out of the 2005 Championship but Greenwood’s perseverance came to the fore as he recovered and earned selection for the Lions Tour to New Zealand.
His third Lions Tour saw him feature in two Test matches, having missed out on the 1997 and 2001 Tours through injury, capping off a fine career by ticking another achievement off the list.
He announced his retirement at the end of the 2005/06 season after helping Quins secure promotion back to the Premiership, sealing his status as a legend for club and country.