'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

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam