One of the greatest centres of all time – Will Greenwood is not only a Six Nations legend, but a true rugby great too.
The former England star had an astonishing strike rate, scoring an incredible 31 tries in 55 international appearances as he held down a spot in England’s XV for several years.
That culminated in World Cup glory in 2003, with Greenwood’s five tries making him the joint-highest try scorer and saw him represent the British & Irish Lions on three different tours in a glittering career.
A Grand Slam winner in 2003, Greenwood goes down in rugby folklore as a true modern day great, with arguably no other centre other than Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll able to do what Greenwood has managed over the years.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Born in 1972 to former England flanker Dick Greenwood, it seemed apparent that with rugby in his blood he was always going to be a serious talent.
Greenwood’s rugby journey really took hold at famous rugby school Sedbergh, where he had to make the decision between pursuing rugby and cricket.
Fortunately he chose the former, playing for first Preston Grasshoppers and then Waterloo while graduating with a BA in economics at Durham University.
Greenwood moved to Harlequins the year before the game turned professional in 1994, before moving to Leicester Tigers two years later.
In 1997 Greenwood had still yet to earn his first England cap, but the talent he had shown in club colours was enough to see him picked for the British & Irish Lions ahead of then England captain Phil de Glanville.
It was almost the end before his rugby journey really began, with the centre suffering a nasty head collision which saw him swallow his tongue – but thanks to the excellent medical care from longstanding Lions doctor James Robson and his team, Greenwood survived and returned home ahead of the new season.
The following season Greenwood finally earned that first England cap, against Australia in 1997, and he quickly formed an outstanding centre pairing with Jeremy Guscott.
In his second appearance in the Five Nations in 1998, Greenwood scored his first England try in a 60-26 win over Wales at Twickenham.
He was selected for the 1999 Rugby World Cup and went on to score a brace of tries against Tonga in England’s 101-10 win at Twickenham.
As the Five Nations turned to the Six Nations as we now know it, Greenwood starred for England in their 2001 title run, scoring a hat-trick against Wales as well as tries against Scotland, Italy and France as England won their second title in a row.
France went on to win the Grand Slam in 2002, but Greenwood scored five tries in the competition for the second consecutive year, once more showing an incredible knack for reaching the try line.
Something special was brewing in the England camp, with a clean sweep of victories over South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in the November Internationals showing England’s ability to beat anyone on their day, with Greenwood scoring two more tries against South Africa.
That led them into the 2003 Six Nations as the favourites for the title, and Clive Woodward’s men were finally able to deliver the much-awaited Grand Slam, a first in eight years, and momentum was building very nicely for the World Cup.
Greenwood would go on to be one of England’s best performers in Australia, scoring a double in the 84-6 win over Georgia, but he raced home to be with his wife who endured a difficult pregnancy.
That did not stop him from returning for the decisive group game against South Africa, scoring his 28th England try in a 25-6 win, before again scoring in England’s thumping 111-13 win against Uruguay as they sealed their place in the quarter-finals in style.
The quarter-final clash with Wales proved to be a difficult one, but Greenwood’s try proved to be the turning point and England advanced to the semi-finals where they would face France.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked England to glory in a 24-7 win, which put England in the final against the hosts Australia.
Greenwood would go on to play in all five matches in the 2004 Six Nations and subsequent November Internationals – scoring his 31st and final international try against Canada.
It was certainly dramatic, as England were forced into extra-time, but one of the sport’s most iconic moments saw Wilkinson drop England to glory, with no other northern hemisphere side lifting the William Webb Ellis Cup since.
Remarkably, England never lost a match when Greenwood had got on the score sheet.
In 2005 he went on to earn two Test caps on the tour to New Zealand, before retiring as a true legend of the game at the end of the 2005/06 season, lifting the National League 1 (now Championship) trophy with Harlequins to end his career.