Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The World Cup Winners That No One Remembers; and They Think Their Fly-Half Was Even Better Than Wilkinson

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The World Cup Winners That No One Remembers; and They Think Their Fly-Half Was Even Better Than Wilkinson

Article excerpt

Byline: RAOUL SIMONS

AS history beckons for Clive Woodward's side on Saturday, a member of Britain's last World Cup-winning team today issued a belated plea for recognition.

Should Martin Johnson lift the Webb Ellis Cup in Sydney, comparisons will inevitably be made with Sir Alf Ramsey's 1966 football heroes.

But it is highly unlikely that anyone will give a second thought to our only other World Cup winners: the Great Britain rugby league team of 1972.

They returned home from France as world champions, after overcoming the mighty Australia.

But now, more than 30 years later, winger John Atkinson believes his team deserve far more credit and even reckons they had a better stand-off than Jonny Wilkinson.

Atkinson, 57, said: "You have to look at our sporting achievements.

We have not won the football World Cup since 1966 and we have never won the union World Cup. At athletics, we are not outstanding and we never win anything at tennis.

"So if you look at it like that, our victory is something to celebrate. I find it annoying that people talk about '66 but not '72.

"The truth is we won the World Cup in '66 and in '72. We ought to be pleased about these achievements.

Hopefully, on Saturday we will have a rugby union World Cup as well."

Great Britain were led by the late Clive Sullivan - the first black player to captain a British team at any sport - but Atkinson remembers Leeds stand-off Jon Holmes as the tournament's outstanding player.

Holmes broke the world individual scoring record with 26 points in the 53-19 victory over New Zealand and was the lynchpin in other wins against France and Australia.

Retired policeman Atkinson said: "Very few people have heard of Jon Holmes, but he was streets ahead of Jonny Wilkinson as a footballer.

"He could not kick goals like Jonny, but as a rugby player his skill was unbelievable." As with the 2003 competition, their three main rivals in 1972 were Australia, France and New Zealand. In fact the trio were the only other teams in the tournament, which reflects the limited international appeal of league.

But Atkinson refutes suggestions that their achievement was less impressive than World Cup winners in other sports. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.