Ex-England skipper Martin Corry during a three day visit to Sri Lanka to train the Navy rugby team finds time to have a chat with Daily FT. His visit was arranged and funded by Frontier Automotive Ltd., sole agent for Land Rover in Sri Lanka, Principal Sponsor of the Sri Lanka Navy Rugby team
By Sachin David
Former England Rugby captain Martin Edward Corry arrived in Sri Lanka on Monday in order to conduct a few training sessions with the Navy SC rugby team for three days. Corry is scheduled to leave the country on Friday (2). Martin Corry played mainly as a loose forward but had the occasional stint as lock forward. He had an illustrious career at the top level of English rugby for over a decade and has now in his retirement taken on coaching as a hobby in order to help develop the sport around the world.
Corry played for the Leicester tigers from the year 1997 and also made his international debut when he represented England against Argentina. Corry has been a part of five premiership winning teams and two Heineken Cup winning sides. At international level Martin was a member of the squad which won the World Cup in 2003 and came out the runners up in 2007.
He also captained the English side in 2005 and 2006. The Daily FT was able to catch up with Martin Corry for an exclusive yesterday at his hotel in Colombo.
Q: Give us a brief introduction as to how you got involved in rugby and at what stage?
A: In England the mini rugby system is very good and it is spread all around. My Dad also played rugby before me and my mum came from a Welsh family so rugby is a tradition in my family. My dad took me down to the local rugby grounds and I have been in love with the game ever since.
Q: Can you say the game has evolved through your career and how?
A: Yes definitely, when I started playing it was just full on rugby even at the junior levels but now they’ve brought in elements like tag rugby and touch rugby which are more about teaching youngsters the basic skills early in their career so that when they grow up they find the basic skills a lot more natural. Being a forward the technical elements of the game in the scrums, lineout and breakdowns are things that evolve almost daily and in the backs it’s a case of running angles and spatial awareness and the techniques of finding the gaps
Q: What sort of work did you have to do to earn the England and thereafter the British and Irish lions Jersey?
A: It was always my ultimate goal to play for England and to play for the lions was just a dream. To be honest I was never the most skilful player, I was in fact far from it and therefore I had to make up for it through my hard work in training and commitment to the sport. I sacrificed my whole life for it. When I first played top level rugby I was too light so I had to change my entire diet around to build up my body to physically match up. When I was able to compete at that level I had to make sure I was fit enough and was skilful enough to continue at that level and thankfully I was given the right advice from good coaches and I have played in good sides which allow me to develop my skill and when I got the call up to England my fitness and my skill levels were good enough to get me into the side.
Q: Later on in your career when you went into the 2003 World Cup what was the team mentality going in?
A: It was a long journey for us leading up to 2003; we started training immediately after we had finished the 1999 World Cup. We had a disappointing exit to the 1999 World Cup after losing to the Springboks in the quarterfinal so Clive Woodward our coach got the build up going from four years ahead and Martin Johnson the skipper at the time brought the team together and we decided collectively that we were going into that World Cup as the fittest team of the tournament and that was a very bold statement to make considering that New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were all very fit teams. Therefore we worked very hard and we pushed ourselves to the absolute limit to become the fittest we could be and we were. I was the fittest I have ever been in my career as so was the rest of the team. We knew that we had the skill set enough to beat anyone and when we coupled this with knowing we were the fitter than everyone gave us a huge boost. So when we went into the final we knew that we were fitter and that there was no way the Wallabies were fitter than us so this plays into our hands.
Q: After having prepared for four years when you finally saw Martin Johnson lift up the Webb Ellis Cup what was the feeling among the team?
A: All along we had sort of put ourselves away and locked ourselves in our little bubble as a team, devaluing the game and telling ourselves that it was just another game that when we actually won it, we took awhile to digest it and by then Johnno had collected the trophy and we were back in the dressing room. That was when it actually hit us that we had actually done it. It was in fact more a sense of relief rather than jubilation and all the hard work we had put in had paid off. In life we think that you always get what you deserve but rugby has a way of playing cruel tricks on you but for us to have actually done it gave us a the feeling that it was worth it and we had the medals to show for it.
Q: Four years later England went in with a much less favoured team and after the loss to South Africa the tournament changed for the better for England what was the reason for that?
A: It was an amazing contrast within the four years, we had four years of preparation for 2003 but with 2007 we had sacked our coach just 10 months before the tournament and the team was a mess. I remember the first game was against the USA and we beat them but were very poor, and then we got thrashed by South Africa in the 36-00 in our second game and it was probably the lowest point in my career. Then something funny happened and we felt the pressure just lifted after we scraped through to the Quarter final and drew Australia and no one expected us to win and we played to prove how much playing for England meant to us without the pressure on us we beat Australia and then France in the semi final and we suddenly found ourselves in the World Cup final, unfortunately we could not beat South Africa but we fought hard and made the world take notice of us again. That just goes to show how pressure can make an impression on the game and in the quarters and semi final the pressure was on Australia and France and none of it was on us. I also believe that if the World Cup was just a month later it would have been a completely different story.
Q: Have you now moved on to full time coaching now?
A: No, coaching is more of just a hobby for me. Obviously I love the game and I want to be around it. I don’t want it to be a full time job and I do it because I want to do it as opposed to having to do it.
Q: Being a world renowned player what sort of advice will you give an up and coming player in Sri Lanka?
A: Well there are two things you need to be a good player firstly the infrastructure and coaching to support a player’s development but most importantly something no coach can ever give you, and that’s the heart. As a player coming through if you want something hard enough and work hard enough then you will make things happen and that is what is most important.
Q: Who is your favourite player of all time and why?
A: A lot of my rugby career at Leicester and for England was under Martin Johnson and I think the way he reads the game taught me a lot. He is also somebody who is very open and he may be your best mate but he will come down hard on you if you are not training hard enough or if you mess up on the field but he leaves it at that. As a captain he has no favourites and he treats all his players alike. I think this makes him one of the best leaders and players in the world.
Q: Now that your career is over what are your plans in life?
A: Well that’s a very good question. I have spent most of my life playing rugby and have always known my goals for rugby but have not fully planned out what to do in my retirement. Since retirement I have stepped away from rugby to fall back in love with the sport and it will be interesting to see how the next few months plan out.
Q: What are your predictions for the upcoming World Cup?
A: I was waiting for this question. It’s definitely New Zealand’s tournament to loose and last week’s result with the Wallabies winning the Tri Nations probably gave all the other competing teams some heart, but all eyes will still sit on the All Blacks. They’ve got France who has been their dark horses in the pool stages and they’ll probably draw South Africa in the semi final and either England or Australia in the finals and it won’t be easy. The way to beat them is to attack them and get physical with them and South Africa have the players to do it, Australia have shown that they can do it and England are developing ways of doing it so you never know. My vote is still with New Zealand and deservedly so.
Q: When you were asked to come to Sri Lanka and run a development plan with the Navy what was your reaction and why did you accept?
A: I have heard a lot about Sri Lanka and I have always wanted to come and visit and I leapt at the opportunity when I was told I could come down here. If me coming down here can help develop the game and I can make a difference in the game then fine but if I’m not useful and I get to see a beautiful country and go back that’s also fine.
Q: How has your visit been so far and what were your first impressions of Sri Lanka?
A: It has been amazing. The people here are very nice and all the way in from the airport I was trying to get in as many sites as possible. So far I have been blown away by this country, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I’m only sad I have to leave so soon. I definitely hope to be back in Sri Lanka soon.
Q: In conclusion give us a brief overview on your plans for the Navy over the next few days.
A:The Navy have done very well in the national competition and I don’t think it will be sensible to change too much. I will just add a little of my experience and fine tune things and add a few techniques at the breakdowns and other areas. If I were to make drastic changes it would confuse the players and prove to be absolutely useless.