Jason Leonard, June 2018
|Birth name||Jason Leonard|
|Date of birth||14 August 1968|
|Place of birth||Barking, London, England|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight||17 st 7 lb (111 kg)|
|School||Warren Comprehensive, Chadwell Heath|
|Children||Harry, Jack & Francesca|
|Rugby union career|
Jason Leonard(born 14 August 1968) is an English former rugby union player, who gained a record-breaking 114 caps for England during his 14-year international rugby career.
Leonard played in England teams which won four Grand Slams (1991, 1992, 1995 and 2003) and the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and was part of the British & Irish Lions squad that won the test series during their 1997 tour of South Africa. Jason played for the Lions on three tours, gaining five additional caps.
He was awarded MBE for services to rugby in 2002,which became an OBE after England's Rugby World Cup success. He was also inducted to the World Rugby Hall of Fame in 2014.
Since his retirement in 2004, Leonard has remained highly involved in the world of rugby. He was President of the RFU from 2015-2016, and is currently a board member for both the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions.
In 2008, Leonard joined Besso Group, and has since worked as a senior advisor for the established Lloyd's broker. Outside of the corporate world, Leonard has recently launched his own special event service, the Fun Bus.
Jason Leonard's lengthy career straddled both the amateur and professional eras and he had a job as a carpenter. He began playing for his home club, Barking and his school teams as a youth, and as his playing talents became recognised, interest was shown by London club Saracens, where he moved in 1989. Following a year at Saracens, he moved to Harlequins, where he stayed until his professional retirement in May 2004, making a total of 290 appearances for the team.
Leonard won his first cap in a 'friendly' on 28 July 1990, against Argentina in Buenos Aires. At the age of 21 he was the youngest prop forward to ever play for England. The visitors were made to feel unwelcome, however, as the game was played on the 8th anniversary of the Falklands War. Leonard describes in his autobiography that the crowd were throwing oranges (among other things) at the England players. The most interesting object he saw on the pitch was a bathroom tap. England eventually won the game 25–12; it proved a baptism of fire for the young Leonard.
Leonard played his whole England career in a largely dominant pack and in his early career played with established forwards such as Brian Moore, Wade Dooley, Dean Richards, Mick Skinner, Mike Teague and Peter Winterbottom. The England pack of this era helped England Rugby win much success, often playing a limited 10-man game that suited the large and physical England forwards. During this period, England won back-to-back Grand Slams in 1991 and 1992. Despite losing the opening pool match to New Zealand 18–12, England made it to the Rugby World Cup Final in 1991, losing 12–6 to pre-tournament favourites Australia. In that game, England played open rugby, like they had in the Five Nations in 1990, although it was the forward-dominated 10-man game which earlier in 1991 had won them the Five Nations Grand Slam, as well as the quarter-final against France and semi-final against Scotland. The front row of Leonard, Brian Moore and Jeff Probyn was fearsome, and the England scrum was famously solid, with this trio able to more than hold their own against any front row in world.
Against Wales in 1992, Leonard suffered a neck injury: he experienced a numbing sensation in his right arm, but had no idea he had ruptured a vertebra in his neck, so played out the remainder of the match. Later, he required emergency surgery, where bone from his hip had to be grafted into his neck. Leonard's career was in grave doubt, after only 10 tests. Due to brilliant surgery and his rehabilitation regime, however, he made a full recovery, winning his 11th cap against Canada at Twickenham that autumn without missing an England test.
In 1993, Leonard was selected for his first British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.
With Dick Best no longer England head coach, the RFU appointed well-known and highly successful Bath coach Jack Rowell as his replacement. There was much speculation amongst many established England players as to what changes the new coach would bring to the England setup, particularly one with such close ties to a successful Bath Rugby Club. Rowell claimed he would rid England of the cautious, forward-dominated 10-man game which had done so well for them earlier in the decade, and play running rugby more similar to Bath's. Leonard kept his place in the England team, which now included several new players such as Mike Catt, Ben Clarke, Victor Ubogu, Steve Ojomoh (all Bath players) and Tim Rodber. In the 1995 Five Nations, Leonard won a record (for a prop) 38th cap for England, playing against Scotland, and the victory meant his third Grand Slam.
England held high hopes for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in South Africa. At the World Cup, England were drawn in Pool B, generally regarded as one of the easier groups in the competition. However, England experienced setbacks, gaining only narrow victories over Argentina (24–18) and Italy (27–20). In England's final pool match against Western Samoa, Leonard was rested and his record of 40 consecutive England caps ended. England won that match 44–22 and also won the subsequent quarter-final against Australia 25–22, before losing the semi-final to New Zealand 29–45 and finishing the tournament in fourth place.
In November 1996, Leonard skippered England for the first time, against Argentina at Twickenham. The game was very close, with Argentina taking a narrow lead close to full-time. From a rolling maul, Leonard scored a try to level the scores, and a Mike Catt penalty won the game 20–18. The try remains Leonard's only score for England.
In the 1996–1997 season, Leonard began to play for England at tighthead prop (number 3) to make room for Leicester Tigers loosehead prop (number 1), Graham Rowntree, and in 1997, Leonard was selected for his second British and Irish Lions tour, this time to South Africa.
In September 1997, the RFU appointed Clive Woodward as head coach. The Autumn internationals saw England playing Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Against Australia, Leonard found himself selected at loosehead prop again, with Wasps' Will Green winning his first cap at tighthead. For the remaining two tests, Leonard was moved back to tighthead. The ability to scrummage effectively on either side of the scrum proved to be one of Leonard's great assets.
Leonard continued to be an England regular under Woodward. In 1999, England competed in the Rugby World Cup, hosted this time by Wales. World Cup matches were also played throughout the rest of the British Isles and in France. England had shown signs of improvement under Woodward, who had been looking to play a more expansive game, but were denied a Grand Slam prior to the World Cup due to Neil Jenkins' boot and a last-minute try by Scott Gibbs. This, however, was to be the first of four consecutive near-misses.
In the 1999 World Cup, England were drawn in Pool 2 with New Zealand, Italy and Tonga, but were knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage by South Africa.
The new Millennium saw Leonard break several records; he surpassed Rory Underwood as England's most capped player with his 86th cap against Argentina in November 2000, and 12 months later against Romania he overtook former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick as the world's most-capped forward in his 93rd appearance.
For the 2000 Autumn internationals, Leonard was dropped to the bench and replaced by Graham Rowntree. In 2001, although England had scored 28 tries in their first four Six Nations matches, they lost the fifth to Ireland after the match had been rescheduled. 2001 also saw a tour of the British and Irish Lions, coached by Graham Henry, to Australia. The Wallabies won the Test series 2–1, though the Lions had convincingly won the first Test and were in the driving seat at half-time during the second Test in Melbourne. After this, England began to notch up regular victories against the big guns of the Southern Hemisphere (New Zealand, South Africa and Australia), culminating in the 2003 World Cup.
On 15 February 2003, Jason Leonard made history as the first-ever front-row forward to make 100 international appearances when he started against France in a Six Nations clash. He was also the first Englishman and overall third player (after Philippe Sella and David Campese) to achieve this feat.
In March, Jason played a key role in securing England's Grand Slam with a win over Ireland at Lansdowne Road and in August he captained England for the second time in a crushing 43–9 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It was Leonard's versatility along with his proven ability and experience which earned him a spot in the World Cup Squad and he made appearances in all seven matches of the tournament, including the semi-final against France during which he overtook Sella as the world's most-capped player. Leonard appeared in his second World Cup final as an extra-time substitute for Vickery and played a key role in reducing the scrummage penalty count which was high during normal time. The then coach Clive Woodward later wrote in his autobiography that Leonard's introduction was the key substitution which helped England to win the match.
Leonard played one more match for England in the subsequent Six Nations Championship against Italy before announcing his retirement as the most-capped forward of all time.
Jason Leonard has worked with and supported numerous charities throughout his career. He has been holding Annual Dinners since 2004, which have to date raised over £2 million for charities and good causes.
In 2014, he founded The Atlas Foundation, a charity which uses the power of rugby to improve the lives of impoverished young people all over the world and today he remains Chairman of the Foundation.
Jason Leonard was the subject of This Is Your Life in 2000 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel.
Until 5 August 2011, when it was renamed "Southend City on Sea", a class 357 EMU train (number 357 003) operated by c2c on the London, Tilbury and Southend line had the nameplate "Jason Leonard". The line serves his hometown of Barking, East London.
In 2012, Leonard was the second recipient of "The Prince Obolensky Award" presented by the Prince Obolensky Association to people associated with the game of Rugby Union who embody the "Corinthian Spirit".
Tom Smith is an English-born former Scotland international rugby union loosehead prop who played for Glasgow Warriors, Caledonia Reds and Northampton Saints and also represented the British and Irish Lions. He is now a rugby coach. Smith was one of the finest loosehead props of the modern era.
The England national rugby union team represents England in men's international rugby union. They compete in the annual Six Nations Championship with France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales. England have won the championship on a total of 28 occasions – winning the Grand Slam 13 times and the Triple Crown 26 times – making them the most successful outright winners in the tournament's history. As of 18 November 2019, England are ranked third in the world by the International Rugby Board. They are currently the only team from the Northern Hemisphere to win the Rugby World Cup, having won the tournament in 2003, and have been runners-up on three other occasions.
Neil Antony Back MBE is a former international rugby union footballer for England and the British and Irish Lions who also played for Nottingham RFC, Leicester Tigers, and captained both England and Leicester during his career.
In the game of rugby union, there are 15 players on each team, comprising eight forwards and seven backs. In addition, there may be up to eight replacement players "on the bench", numbered 16–23. Players are not restricted to a single position, although they generally specialise in just one or two that suit their skills and body types. Players that play multiple positions are called "utility players".
Graham Christopher Rowntree is a former English rugby union player and current coach. He played loosehead prop for Leicester Tigers and England. He was capped 54 times for England, despite having to compete for his position with the world's second most capped forward, Jason Leonard.
Philip John Vickery MBE DL is a former English rugby union tighthead prop and member of the England squad. He was a member of England's World Cup winning squad in 2003, playing in all seven matches in the tournament, and is a former England captain. Vickery ended his club rugby career at London Wasps, joining the London side in 2006 after eleven years with Gloucester Rugby. Given the nickname "Raging Bull", he played in three Rugby World Cups, including as England captain in the 2007 tournament, and toured Australia and South Africa with the British and Irish Lions.
Steve Thompson MBE is a former rugby union player who played at hooker for Northampton Saints and England.
Gethin Jenkins is a Welsh former rugby union player. He won 129 international caps for Wales and 5 for the British and Irish Lions. Jenkins was the record cap holder for Wales until he was overtaken by Alun Wyn Jones on 29 September 2019. He is the sixth most-capped player in rugby union history and the most capped front row forward. He is one of a small group of Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams including Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Ryan Jones, Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones. On 31 October 2018 he announced his intention to retire after a final game for the Cardiff Blues against Zebre on Sunday 4 November 2018.
Simon Dalton Shaw MBE is a former English rugby union player who played at lock. He last played for Toulon and played for England.
Matthew John Hamilton Stevens is a rugby union player who plays for Toulon in France's Top 14 and won 39 caps for England between 2004 and 2012. Born in Durban, South Africa, to English parents, he can play in both prop positions, and most of his England appearances were at tighthead.
John Hayes is a retired Irish rugby union player who played in the Pro12 and Heineken Cup for Munster. He didn't start playing rugby until he was 18; prior to this he played with the local Cappamore GAA club. It was his size that enabled him to overcome his late start to the sport. He continues to "follow GAA in Limerick very much and especially hurling".
Jeff Probyn is an English former Rugby Union player.
Rory David Best is a former rugby union player from Northern Ireland and was the captain of the Ireland national team from 2016 to 2019. He played hooker for Ulster and was registered for Banbridge RFC, having previously represented the Newcastle Agrics. Best earned 124 caps for Ireland, making his debut in 2005 and retiring at the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, his fourth World Cup. Best is one of the most capped rugby players of all time, as well as the most-capped forward to ever represent Ireland.
Alun Wyn Jones is a Welsh professional rugby union player. He is the current captain of the Wales national team, and the former captain of the Ospreys. He is the world's most-capped lock forward and Wales' most capped international player. He is one of a small group of Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams including Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Ryan Jones, Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins. He was named as the best player of the 2019 Six Nations Championship.
Adam Rhys Jones is a Welsh former professional international rugby union player for Wales and the British & Irish Lions. He is one of a small group of Welsh players to have won three Grand Slams, including Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR Williams, Ryan Jones, Gethin Jenkins and Alun Wyn Jones.
Dylan Hartley is a New Zealand-born former rugby union player who played as hooker for Northampton Saints. Hartley was the captain of England from January 2016 until the end of his international career in 2018. He is England’s most capped hooker of all time, earning his first cap in 2008. Hartley captained England to the Grand Slam in 2016, the first time that England had done this since 2003, and to a 3-0 series win in the 2016 Cook Cup against Australia. He announced his retirement on 7 November 2019.
Benjamin Ryder Youngs is an English professional rugby union player who plays as a scrum-half for Leicester Tigers and England. In 2019 he became England's most capped scrum half.
Dan Cole is an English rugby union player who plays at prop for Leicester Tigers in the Premiership, for England internationally, and has been capped 3 times for the British and Irish Lions. Cole is known for his scrummaging ability. His former coach at Leicester, Richard Cockerill, described him as one of the finest tighthead props in world rugby.
Owen Thomas Franks is a New Zealand rugby player who currently plays for Northampton Saints in the English Gallagher Premiership competition.
Tadhg Furlong is an Irish rugby union player for Leinster in the Pro14 and European Rugby Champions Cup. His preferred position is tighthead prop. Internationally, Furlong has represented Ireland and, in 2017, the British and Irish Lions.