'A Captain's Cup' - an exclusive eight-part Radio Sport podcast series every Friday in which Louis Herman-Watt and Daniel McHardy interview every Rugby World Cup-winning captain. In part 5, Martin Johnson discusses 'that' Jonny Wilkinson drop goal, frustrating opponents and spending World Cup final day with his daughter.

Martin Johnson still remembers "that" Jonny Wilkinson drop goal, perhaps the biggest and most famous kick in rugby history, like it was yesterday.

The 49-year-old legendary England captain says having a teammate like Wilkinson meant it was almost better to not score tries against opponents.

"His [Wilkinson's] ability to snap a drop goal..., not to have a whole thing built up, he could just do it spontaneously from a relatively flat pass with people not expecting it," Johnson says.


"In a game like that, it could just accumulate. It was almost better not to score a try. It was almost better to frustrate them."

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The "magic" of the drop goal that seemed to stop time to win England their first (and thus far only) Rugby World Cup title, came down to a break from No 9 Matt Dawson, says Johnson.

"The magic of that score was Matt Dawson. He made a break out of nothing. I think they had 14 defenders on their feet. And he found a hole inside [former Wallabies lock] Justin Harrison to get an extra 20 yards, which really put us in place."

Read more:
David Kirk and the 1987 All Blacks
Nick Farr-Jones and the 1991 Wallabies
Francois Pienaar and the 1995 Springboks
John Eales and the 1999 Wallabies

England captain Martin Johnson lifts the William Webb Ellis trophy after beating Australia in extratime in the 2003 final. Photosport
England captain Martin Johnson lifts the William Webb Ellis trophy after beating Australia in extratime in the 2003 final. Photosport

After finally making it into the kicking zone, Johnson recalls noticing something that wasn't quite right.

"Our No 9 has carried the ball in. So Neil Back, the openside's, got his hands on the ball and the game seemed to pause. And I know this sounds a bit overly dramatic. He's got his hands on the ball and he's got it on his left hand and I don't remember consciously thinking it's on his left hand but I do remember thinking 'he looks a little uncomfortable'.

"You know he looks like he doesn't really want to make this pass right now. He's capable of it but you want your 9 to make that pass at that moment because that's what they practice. I was thinking no one made themselves available for the ball.

"It felt like I was furthest away from the whole thing getting up from the previous ruck. Everyone just seemed to take that [breath], 'are we going to do it now'? I just remembered thinking, 'no just go one more'."


Johnson took it upon himself to take on one last phase so Dawson could be back to deliver the all-important pass to Wilkinson.

"I just ran in looking at Neil nodding my head at him saying 'give me the ball'. Just a catch pass and it's amazing how under that pressure, the easiest things become the most difficult things - the things you do a million times.

"I grabbed it, wrapped the ball, went down very very soft because I didn't want to go very far. I just wanted to come down soft, let my guys get over the top and we could just roll the clock a little bit and just everyone be ready, get everyone in position and give him the best shot."

The rest, as they say, was history. Or in Johnson's case, "relief".