'Mad Dog' rejects idea of captaining England

With a large portrait of the Prince Regent adorning the wall above him, Lewis Moody is speaking on the subject of leading England. A legendarily madcap character somewhat taken aback to find himself vested with the hopes of a nation, yet determined to show he is up to the job – and dear old Georgie boy had a notably colourful life, too.

"Mad Dog" Moody will turn 32 this summer, and far from losing his bite he was widely credited last autumn with stand-out performances in an otherwise stop-start series for England. It's the bark which has altered. More recently Moody was mentioned in dispatches by the team manager, Martin Johnson; bracketed with Jonny Wilkinson as providing valuable "leadership" in support of the captain, Steve Borthwick. It prompted or emboldened some to say the blond flanker – and not the pathologically undemonstrative Borthwick – should be England's skipper. Here in this London pub, and eyeing a pint of stout which in the distant past of his first tour with the national side in 1998 he would surely have downed in one, Moody rejected the idea.

"For me, who has not really been a captain in my career, apart from a couple of spots in there with Leicester, it's not something about which I think 'yes, I want to be captain'," Moody said. "It's something that maybe comes naturally to people. When you see people like Borthers, Cozza [the former Leicester and England captain Martin Corry] and Johnno do it, it seems very natural. You have got to want to do it."

A cross-check with Leicester reveals Moody's recollection to be correct: he has captained the only club he has ever played for just twice in his 14 senior seasons: away to Leeds two years ago and again this season at home to Sale Sharks. Both were wins, by the way. Moody's opinion is that he is quite content to be a talkative lieutenant alongside the "good example of a great professional" that is Borthwick. "It's nice to be complimented," Moody said of Johnson's remark, "but leadership is not something you consciously ever do. As the older guys gradually filter out, you just find yourself drifting into that role. You take over that spot because other guys coming in are quieter or younger or have less experience." He added that "maybe it's about time"; a self-deprecating nod to shared knowledge of his younger self, once described (lovingly) by the ex-Leicester and now England forwards coach John Wells as a "muppet" who could get injured wrapping his Christmas presents.

But Moody has also won a Grand Slam and a World Cup with England in 2003 – this writer assisted him with his rugby magazine column at the time, and can vouch for both his likeable lust for life and his raging desire to succeed – and six league titles and two European Cups with Leicester.

The downside has been injuries: too many for Moody to be a mainstay of the England team post-2003. In the one now managed by his old team-mate Johnson, he has a chance – fingers crossed and kept clear of the gift-wrapping scissors – to steer the course to the next World Cup. "It's still a very new management team and playing squad," Moody said. "Johnno is not that long retired from playing so he still has a degree of a player's mentality and he is open to all suggestions."

One of Moody's fellow thirtysomething forwards, Simon Shaw, has said that the players reacted to the autumn results – defeats by Australia and New Zealand, and a close-run victory over Argentina – by asking the management to loosen the straitjacket of an over-prescriptive approach.

"A debrief is something every team does but you never hear about it," said Moody. "I wouldn't want to go into depth but it was sitting down together, between the autumn and now, and talking about the positives and negatives. All aspects of the game; the hotel, the food. If the players feel there's something that needs addressing, we'll sit down with Johnno and address it. Socially he's made sure everyone gets to know each other off the field, so gelling on the field becomes much easier. It's as he did when he was a player. He'd always speak up when something needed changing."

Only the forthcoming Six Nations matches – beginning with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday week – will tell whether England's style, which was criticised by their autumn opponents as being easy to defend against, has changed for the better. Moody is expected to start as the openside flanker. Clearly his relationship with "Johnno" and England's other former Tigers – some call them "the Leicester mafia" – is a long way removed from, say, that of John Terry or Frank Lampard with Fabio Capello. "You want the coach to know what it takes to win," said Moody. "For me, it's as simple as that."

Lewis Moody was speaking at Guinness' Bring It To Life campaign ahead of this year's RBS 6 Nations

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower