Clive Woodward has recalled that he was ridiculed when he first brought lawyer Richard Smith into the England set-up. It was 2002 when he first engaged the legal eagle and that recruitment is still paying dividends 21 years later as Smith was the lawyer who represented current skipper Owen Farrell at his three-and-a-half hour disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.
Amid fears that Farrell could be set for a hefty ban for the red-carded high shot he put in on Wales’ Taine Basham last Saturday, the outcome was instead very different as Smith played his part in convincing the independent disciplinary hearing committee that the red card should be rescinded, freeing Farrell to play on with immediate effect.
Writing in Sportsmail, Woodward, who coached England to 2003 World Cup glory in Australia, gave an insight into Smith, recalling how he proved invaluable at the finals 20 years ago during the controversy that surrounded a managerial error in the pool win over Samoa.
“I was ridiculed for bringing Richard Smith KC into the England set-up in 2002,” began Woodward. “Many said there was no need and that his presence would be a waste of time and money for the RFU.
“But Richard proved his worth to me instantly on several fronts and was an excellent team player. Two decades on, he is still working brilliantly with English rugby.
“The Farrell situation once again shows the importance of having a good lawyer in your team. I have no doubt that without Richard in his corner, Farrell would not have got off as lightly as he did.
“Richard helped us get off with a fine and I’ll always owe him a debt of thanks for that given we went on to win the World Cup in Australia that year.
“Farrell also has a big thank you to give him… Richard is the only survivor from my 2003 team still working with England today. He is still proving his worth. Richard is undoubtedly superb at what he does.”