IT's December 1986, and this was the first picture of me to appear in a national newspaper. In fact, it also marks the beginning of the life I have today - it's a watershed, a maturation of the things that have become major parts of what I am.

What happened was that the Sunday Telegraph was doing a piece on who to look out for in rugby - people who had never been heard of before. They came down to the Bristol Royal Infirmary, where I was a fifth-year medical student on attachment, and took a picture of me trying to look like a doctor.

It was very exciting, seeing my face there in a newspaper like that, and for a long time I didn't think anything like it would ever happen again. Nowadays I still find it amusing that people see me on the street and say: 'Oh, that's Jon Webb.' I can't quite work that one out when I don't feel any different - in a sense - from the chap I see in the photo.

But the three differences are that, since then, I've qualified as a doctor; I have an international rugby career; and also, I got engaged immediately after the photo was taken, then married. It's funny. On all three of those things I find it difficult to look back and remind myself of exactly what it was like, but to imagine a single life is probably the most difficult, and also the one I'd least like to return to.

I didn't enjoy being a medical student because you're such a pain in the arse; you're useless and it's difficult to fit in with people who are working hard while you're trying to learn. I prefer being a doctor much more, though it's harder work.

With rugby, I went through a terrible patch when I had to re- take one of my surgical exams in 1989 and so quit the game for the rest of the season. Then I was playing badly, so Bristol dropped me and I decided I was going to give up playing entirely, which was a wonderful sensation, a weight lifted off my shoulders.

But my wife and I had a long chat and she said: 'Look, I don't want you to look back and say you wished you'd carried on.' So I went back, I joined Bath, and I think the trauma of going through this trough and then starting all over again made quite a difference to me. I'm a lot more self-assured now, a lot less easily rocked by criticism.

But my marriage must rank as the biggest difference, because of all things it's the most important, the one that will outlast all the others. I met Amanda a month before the picture was taken. She went out on a date with a chap I knew at medical school and a whole gang of us turned up at a cinema where they were. I thought: 'She's very nice, what's she doing with him?' In fact, I was very excited to meet her. It sounds corny, but quite early on I hoped - this sounds terrible, I know - I hoped that she was the one. That's what I said to myself when I met her, and that's the truth, so

it wasn't corny. It was real.

Then she was at Bristol Rugby Club waiting with her friend who knew one of the players, and normally after an away game I would never go back into the bar, I would just have got off the coach, put on my Pakamac, got on my moped and gone home. But this time I did go in, and we started talking, and once I'd sidled in I couldn't be shaken off.

I couldn't explain what was different about this, apart from obvious reasons; I couldn't say why, but I've since been proven right. We got engaged just after the photo was taken, then we were married in 1988, and we've got two children now.

Jonathan Webb is in the England squad for today's game against Wales.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments