‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers / For he to-day that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother …that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.’ The England dressing room erupts at the sound of these immortal words. Here at Twickenham, the 1995 Five Nations Championship and Grand Slam is on the line. England and Scotland have swept all before them and the difference between the two sides would prove minimal in a game without a try. The difference would be motivating the pack, dominating the scrum and out-fighting the Scots. The difference would be made by one man – a destructive front row player, just months away from retiring as England’s most capped hooker – who that day won his third Grand Slam trophy. The difference would be the Shakespeare quoting hooker, Brian Moore.
Hooker is an unglamorous position and whilst the likes of Will Carling may have received much of the credit for England’s success during the 1990s, Moore’s influence should not be underestimated. Not only is he credited as being the primary source of the team’s motivation and togetherness – often giving the final team talk before the match began, a role normally fulfilled by coach or captain – he was a genuinely world class hooker capable of bullying his contemporaries. A veteran of 75,000 scrums Moore exceled in the fine art of retaining or regaining possession for his side, once famously forcing the French scrum so low that rival Daniel Dubroca couldn’t strike the ball, prompting the anger that led to two French red cards and a comfortable England victory at the Parc des Princes – and paving the way for the 1992 Grand Slam. That said, Moore had to scrap his way into the England side, facing tough competition from the talented Graham Dawe. Moore made his debut with Dawe suspended and refused to give up the shirt, missing just four internationals from 1987-1995. There was little between the two hookers other than Moore’s tenacity and dedication. He got through his debut despite an injury and played the subsequent 1987 World Cup on pain killers. After that failed campaign, Moore pushed himself to his limits, becoming one of England’s fittest players in an era of mass alcohol consumption and poor diets. His sprint speeds often exceeded England’s backs in training and one legendary training ground battle with Dawe earned him the nickname ‘Pitbull’. Moore set off to do a couple of extra laps after training and Dawe set off in hot pursuit. Faster and faster both men went, doing lap after lap, pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion. Legend has it that Dawe broke first and that Moore calmly stood over his vanquished opponent, smiled and helped him up. He knew the jersey was his.
A talismanic titan of a leader
Firmly established as England’s first choice hooker, Moore was at his peak and a force few in world rugby could handle. Equally aggressive and tactical, he was a consistent line-out thrower, ferocious tackler and frequently gained yards in attack. Moore’s area of expertise was of course the scrum and it was there where he frequently excelled in England’s run to the 1991 World Cup Final where they narrowly lost to Australia. Moore was England’s stand out player and was awarded with the prestigious Rugby Player of the Year Award – an award won only once since by an Englishman (Johnny Wilkinson, 2003.) Moore went on two Lion’s tour – including a victorious trip to Australia in 1989, the first time the Lions had beaten Australia in eighteen years. Not only was Moore the team’s starting hooker, he was also the glue that brought the four rival nations together and fostered the team spirit and unity that led to their success. Moore’s inspirational qualities took England and the Lions up a gear when necessary, for as World Cup winning Prop Jason Leonard noted ‘(he) was an extraordinary influence on me and everyone in the side. We’d be losing, heads would be dropping and suddenly he’d be in your face, geeing you up. There was so much respect for him … every time his country needed him, Brian delivered – and then some.’ The loss of Moore was keenly felt with England losing two of their first three games without him and failing to win another Grand Slam until 2003. A talismanic titan of a leader – Moore was England’s rock, a true rugby legend.
Moore’s achievements are made all the more impressive when you consider he played Rugby at the time when the game was moving from its amateur past to its professional future, with the official rule change coming at the backend of Moore’s career. It is outstanding that he maintained the standards of an elite level international sportsman whilst practicing as a highly-respected solicitor throughout the season. Then again, Moore has always been a man of many talents. Since his retirement, he has become an award-winning author, journalist and broadcaster earning the respect of a new generation of rugby fans with his honest insights into the game. Whilst the path from the pitch to the commentary box is a well-established one, few have done it with Moore’s success. Every sport has its ranting former professional in the media but for the likes of Geoffrey Boycott or Alan Hansen, the depth of their knowledge rarely seems to surpass the width of their mouth and their rants appear to be little more than criticism for the sake of controversy. Moore is different. Fiercely entertaining, he brings an almost unprecedented level of knowledge in his analysis of the scrum and of the game more generally. Alongside Eddie Butler he has become the voice of rugby and for many rugby fans, any game in which he does not commentate is made slightly worse by his absence. Furthermore, Moore’s criticism of referees is balanced and informed; he put his money where his mouth was in 2010 and qualified as a professional referee. Legendary not just as a player – but also as a broadcaster – English rugby would not be the same without its beloved pitbull, Brian Moore.bookmark me