The last occasion in which an England team had to contend with a Six Nations postponement came in 2001, when an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain caused three Tests in Ireland to be called off.
Clive Woodward’s England, seeking a first Grand Slam since 1995 – something then yet achieved by any player within the squad at the time – eventually travelled to face Ireland in Dublin the ensuing October 2001.
It proved a day to forget for England as they suffered a 20-14 loss and saw a chance of a Grand Slam evaporate. Though they still picked up the trophy, perhaps never has a title victory appeared so hollow for a group of players.
Can the group of 2020 fare better whenever this year’s Six Nations returns? Below are the men that were involved that day in Dublin almost two decades ago, and what happened next to them…
15. Iain Balshaw
A Bath player at the time, Balshaw picked up the last of his 35 England caps in 2008 – picking up a Rugby World Cup winners medal in 2003, coming off the bench in the final.
At club level, the full-back left Bath to play for Leeds between 2004 and 2006, Gloucester between 2006 and 2009 and Biarritz in France’s Top 14 between 2009 and 2014, retiring aged 35 due to knee injuries.
Since then, Balshaw has worked as a dedicated sports speaker and for a strategic sales company.
14. Dan Luger
Back in 2001, Luger was involved in a famous incident on the day as Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer produced a sensational tap-tackle to stop a certain try.
A Harlequins player then, Luger would play for four more clubs in his career: Perpignan (2003-05) and Toulon (2005-06) in France, RK Nada (2006) in Croatia, and then Nice Côte d’Azur (2006-10) back in France, where he combined playing with coaching.
His Test career did not last nearly as long, as he played for England for two more years until 2003, travelling as part of the victorious Rugby World Cup squad, though he didn’t feature in the semi-final or final, and did not feature for England again thereafter.
In 2009, Luger actually ventured into bobsleigh, taking part as a driver in the British Bobsleigh Championships in Italy alongside Olympic medalists Jason Gardener and Craig MacLean, and World Championship medal-winning decathlete, Dean Macey. The quartet qualified for the British Championship but had to withdraw due to an injury suffered by MacLean.
In 2019, Luger launched a long/short equity fund.
13. Will Greenwood
Current Sky Sports Rugby pundit and analyst, Greenwood was a key man in the centre for England until his retirement in November 2004, finishing with 55 caps and some 31 tries.
He went on the 2005 British & Irish Lions tour, but wouldn’t play for England again, while he played out his club days with Harlequins – having rejoined them from Leicester in 2000 – until 2006.
Since then, Greenwood has worked in the media, covering rugby throughout each of the following seasons, while he coached with the Barbarians in 2016 and 2017.
12. Mike Catt
At inside centre in 2001, Catt featured for England over a huge number years between 1994 and 2007, retiring after the 2007 World Cup final defeat to South Africa on 75 caps.
Catt came off the bench to pick up a World Cup winners medal in 2003, while his appearance in the 2007 final, at age 36 years and one month, made him the oldest ever player to play in a Rugby World Cup final – a record since broken by Brad Thorn.
At club level, Catt played with Bath until 2004, before joining London Irish and finishing out his playing days. From 2008 to 2012, Catt was attacking coach at London Irish, before becoming England backs coach between 2012 and 2015, Italy attack coach between 2016 and 2019, and now Ireland attack coach since 2019.
11. Jason Robinson
Having only converted from rugby league to rugby union in 2000, Robinson had not long been with England in 2001.
The fleet-footed wing became a vital part of the set-up, however, scoring in the victorious 2003 World Cup final, and featuring – like Catt – until the 2007 final, after which he retired on 51 caps.
Robinson had initially retired from Test duty in 2005, but returned during the 2007 Six Nations, ending a 15-month absence.
He then retired from all forms of the sport in 2007, bringing to a close seven years with the Sale Sharks.
In 2008, the RFL announced that Robinson would return to rugby league in a coaching capacity at grassroots level for the England national side, becoming a dual code ambassador for the sport, while in 2009 it was announced that Robinson would be re-joining Sale Sharks as new head coach from the 2009 season, departing in 2010.
10. Jonny Wilkinson
Perhaps the greatest kicker of his generation, Wilkinson was already 31 caps into his Test career by 2001, but would feature for another 10 years until international retirement after the 2011 World Cup.
The fly-half was pivotal in Rugby World Cup 2003 glory, kicking the winning drop-goal with his weaker right foot late in extra time to beat Australia on Aussie soil.
After that ultimate high, however, Wilkinson would suffer a spate of injuries over three years: shoulder, knee (both), groin, kidney and appendicitis.
At club level, Wilkinson remained with first club Newcastle Falcons until 2009 before moving to France with Toulon, where he became a club legend, winning the Top 14 title in 2014 and two European Cups in 2013 and 2014.
Since retirement, Wilkinson has largely worked in broadcast media and become a kicking consultant with England on several occasions.
9. Matt Dawson
England’s captain in Dublin in 2001 with Martin Johnson injured, Dawson played on for England until 2006, finishing on 77 caps.
The scrum-half played a vital role in setting up Wilkinson’s winning drop goal in the 2003 World Cup final, sniping for crucial extra metres and field-position.
Left Northampton Saints in 2004, before spending two years at Wasps. Has become a sports panel host since retiring, while has also worked as a pundit and commentator.
1. Jason Leonard
A highly-experienced prop forward, Leonard would play on with England until 2004, racking up a record 114 Test caps – coming off the bench in the 2003 World Cup final in his second-to-last appearance.
Leonard also saw out the remaining of his club days with Harlequins until 2004 – who he had represented since 1990.
He has since worked as a broker, acted as President of the RFU between 2015 and 2015, become a board member for the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions and launched his own special event service.
2. Phil Greening
Starting hooker back in 2001, England’s postponed Test with Ireland was actually Greening’s final appearance in an England shirt, and that at just 26-years-old. Hence, he’s one of the only players involved not to have been at the 2003 World Cup.
Woodward would not pick the Wasps man again, who finished on 24 caps, and Greening played on at club level until 2005 before retiring due to a toe injury.
Greening then coached in the England Sevens set-up as assistant to Mike Friday until 2007, before working as assistant to Danny Wilson at London Welsh – and then as head coach of the club between 2010 and 2011.
In 2012, Greening signed a three-year contract to become head coach and programme manage for Scotland Sevens, but left by March 1, 2013. He now owns a gym in Chester.
3. Julian White
From a player whose international career ended back in 2001 to one whose Test career was in its infancy. Tighthead White had only been around the set-up for a year in 2001, but was still picking up caps by 2009, finishing with 51 and as a 2005 British & Irish Lion.
Back in 2001, White had only just joined Bristol from Saracens, where he would play for two seasons, before joining Leicester Tigers, who he lined out for between 2003 and 2012 and then retired.
He was part of the World Cup squad that travelled to Australia in 2003, but featured very sparingly at the tournament, starting against Samoa and coming off the bench against Uruguay. He then pulled out of the 2007 World Cup squad for personal reasons.
Since retirement, White moved into farming full-time and oversees a pedigree herd of south Devonshire cattle, ewes and sheep.
4. Simon Shaw
Shaw was already 28 years old by the time of this 2001 Test, but remarkably was still featuring in an England shirt a decade later, retiring after the 2011 World Cup on 71 caps.
Despite playing in all the warm-up Tests, Shaw missed out on selection for the 2003 World Cup, though was flown out late due to a Danny Grewcock injury. As such, Shaw does hold a medal from the tournament, but has remarked he keeps it in a drawer and feels not to have truly won it, having not played a Test.
Shaw’s career was highly accomplished otherwise, playing at two World Cups in 2007 and 2011 and on three British & Irish Lions tours in 1997, 2005 and 2009 – the latter of which he was outstanding in against South Africa at nearly 36-years-old.
At club level, Shaw won everything there was to win: three Premiership titles in a row between 2003 and 2005 with Wasps, plus a further league triumph (2008), Challenge Cup (2003) and two European Cups (2004, 2007) with the same club.
In 2008 he became the first player in Premiership history to reach 200 appearances, while in 2011 he moved to France with Toulon, where he started in a 2012 Top 14 final defeat. Since the end of his playing days, Shaw has entered into the world of business.
5. Danny Grewcock
Grewcock’s England career did end against Ireland in Dublin, but not until 2007 as he featured regularly over the ensuing years to reach 69 caps.
He had just joined Bath from Saracens in 2001, and would stay with the West Country club until his retirement in 2011. Grewcock was in the 2003 World Cup squad, but a broken hand against Uruguay in the pool stages forced his injury withdrawal.
After retirement, he worked within the Bath academy and then as Director of Sports at Oundle School. He now works part-time between the Bristol Bears academy and as High-Performance Rugby Manager at Clifton College. He holds a black belt in karate.
6. Martin Corry
Blindside flanker in 2001 was Corry, with Lawrence Dallaglio injured and Richard Hill at No 8.
Corry was part of the 2003 World Cup squad, but featured only once at the tournament and was an unused sub in the final. The back-row featured for England until 2007, where he captained them to World Cup final defeat, picking up 64 caps in total.
At club level, Corry played on until 2009 with Leicester Tigers before retirement. Has since worked as a motivational and professional speaker in the UK.
7. Neil Back
An absolutely key man in England’s run to becoming 2003 world champions. The victorious 2003 World Cup final actually proved Back’s 66th and final England Test.
He came out of retirement to feature for the Lions in 2005 for one Test on their disastrous tour of New Zealand. At club level, he retired with the Leicester Tigers in 2005, having completed 15 years with the club from 1990.
He had already stepped into coaching by that point as player/defensive coach with the Tigers, after which he continued as defence coach and head coach of the Tigers academy. In 2008, he became head coach of Leeds Carnegie, before he spent spells coaching Rugby Lions and at Edinburgh in 2012/13.
Now works between the financial, business and corporate sectors. He remains the only forward in the history of England Rugby to have registered a drop goal at Test level.
8. Richard Hill
Like Back, Hill has a phenomenal performer in the back-row for England during this period of unrivalled success.
A World Cup winner in 2003, Hill largely swapped to the openside after the retirement of Back, and is regarded as the only player never to have been dropped by Woodward – a run of injuries saw him add just eight caps after 2003 however.
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