Woodward's old partner at home in his club heartland

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The Independent Online

On the bookshelves of W H Smith at Leicester Station Clive Woodward's Winning! is on special offer - buy one, get one half-price. Paul Dodge, waiting outside in the car park, has already invested £8.99 in a copy, it transpires. "I have just flicked through it, to see where I get a mention," he says, jokingly it would seem, judging by the twinkle in his eye.

We have barely got clear of the station when the hushed tones of a Radio 5 Live newsreader can be heard mentioning Dodge's former centre partner. He turns up the volume to listen. Across the other side of the globe, Sir Clive Woodward has gone for a 54-stone front row to face the New Zealand Maori.

In contrast to the man with whom he struck up a profitable partnership for club and country, Dodge has never had any longing to leave Leicester. He was born there 47 years ago, has worked for the family business there for 29 years, and has served his beloved Leicester Tigers at Welford Road for 32 years - for 437 games as a centre of excellence in the first team, more latterly as backs coach to an academy team featuring his two sons, Alex and Oliver. You might be able to take the Tigers out of some Leicester old boys, but not this one. He keeps a tiger-cub mascot next to his handbrake.

"I'm happy here," Dodge says. "I'm Leicester born and bred. The family business is here. I was lucky enough to marry a lovely local girl, Julia, and we've got two lovely boys. I joined Leicester at 15, got into the first team at 17, and played through a great era. I stayed with Leicester, but got to travel the world with England and the Lions. It was ideal."

The long-time Leicester No 12 pulls into a parking bay and leads the way to the workshop of Syston Binders. "I've worked here since I left school," Dodge says. "We're restoration bookbinders. We do a lot of repair work, for collectors and dealers mainly, although we've just done a limited-edition, leather-bound run for Wisden. I do all the gilt work, the gold finishing on the spine. I enjoy it. It keeps the wolf from the door."

As for getting the Lions through the All Blacks' door in New Zealand, the Leicester bookbinder is content to leave that little job to his former Welford Road colleague. "No, I don't think I would like to be in Clive's position," Dodge says. "I'm quite happy to sit at home and shout at the TV, saying, 'What did you pick him for?' "

Inseparable in the four years during which they played together for Leicester and England, Dodge and Woodward no longer keep in close contact. "The last time I saw Clive was probably at a function four or five years ago," Dodge says. "We don't really keep in touch, but he'll always be a very good friend. We had some good times together. It was a good partnership.

"He's done a fantastic job as a coach and I'm very pleased for him. I think he's got a good chance of winning with the squad he's taken to New Zealand."

In their playing days, Woodward and Dodge were the Woodward and Bernstein of English rugby. Their probing as complementary centres - Dodge on the inside, Woodward on the outside - opened the door to England's Grand Slam in 1980, the first of a Red Rose tint for 23 years.

In the grand finale against Scotland at Murrayfield that year, Dodge's dummy run and Woodward's mazy midfield break paved the way for the first of John Carleton's hat-trick of tries. It was a perfect illustration of their neatly dovetailed talents: Dodge, the steadying influence, performing the vital donkey-work, the mercurial Woodward injecting the flair.

In his book, Sir Clive describes himself as a "maverick" on the field, "someone who could win a game or just as easily lose it". "That's one thing about Woody: he's very honest," Dodge says. "He knew he had that maverick streak in him but he was one of the first names you would put on the teamsheet because he would win you games more often than not. I always based the game I played on doing the basics well. That's what got me where I did."

For all his natural self-effacement, Dodge was undoubtedly a grand fromage of a player. He was England's most-capped centre when he departed the international scene after his 32nd appearance, as captain on the 1985 tour of New Zealand. He also played two Tests for the Lions in South Africa in 1980, as Ray Gravell's centre-partner in defeat in Port Elizabeth and in victory in Pretoria.

More recently, as a father and coach, he has taken great pleasure and pride in helping to nurture a couple of chips off the old Dodge block. Alex, a 20-year-old centre, is about to start a full-time contract with Leicester. Oliver, who plays of the wing, has been a member of the England Under-18 team for the past two seasons.

"I really enjoy working with the academy at Leicester," Dodge Senior reflects. " It's a great age-group to work with. We've had some good players come through the system."

One of them, of course, has progressed all the way through to the international stage as a centre. Formerly one of Paul Dodge's Tiger cubs, Ollie Smith is now among Sir Clive Woodward's pride of Lions.

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