In September the Rugby World Cup will return to England for the first time since 1999 and with it brings England’s best chance to win the tournament since they last claimed the Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, according to Mike Tindall.
Tindall, 36, was part of the last England side to win the World Cup in Australia 12 years ago and, despite currently being ranked fourth in the world, he believes only the All Blacks can stand in the way of the home side’s prospects.
“If I put my hand on my heart I don’t see England losing,” Tindall told Press Association Sport. “With the home advantage and the leaps and bounds they made at the Six Nations, they are in a really good spot right now. Their strength in depth, especially through the pack, is incredible and now they have a backline that is backing them up.
“England have got a very high level of performance and consistency, so I can see them getting to the final. You would put money on New Zealand being there to face them and then it is just a one-off game, but England have that game to beat them.”
Sussex will play host to two of the tournament’s Pool B matches, as South Africa face off against Japan on Saturday 19 September before Samoa take on the USA the following day. Sussex has more than one link to the tournament, as it has been the starting point for three of the players pushing for a place in the tournament squad.
Billy Twelvetrees, born in Chichester, played for a number of West Sussex rugby sides including Haywards Heath, where he lined-up alongside Harlequins prop Joe Marler, who was born in Eastbourne. London Wasps’ Joe Launchbury also has roots in the county as he attended Christ’s Hospital and also played for Horsham and Worthing before moving to the capital.
With a strong squad to choose from Stuart Lancaster will have to make a number of tough choices during the tournament, something that Tindall has become all too familiar with since hanging up his boots in July 2014.
Since then he has stepped into the realm of reality TV – not the most obvious choice of career move for somebody that married into the Royal Family. But the husband of Zara Philips – the Queen’s granddaughter – has got stuck into the reality sphere like it was a scrum against the All Blacks.
Not once but twice the 36-year-old has put himself through the mill for our entertainment – first with The Jump, the Davina McCall-hosted winter sports competition and then with Bear Grylls: Mission Survival, an intense endurance journey in the rainforests of Costa Rica.
“The Bear Grylls thing was around the time of the start of the season and it was a way of taking my mind off anything else and refocus and just get out there. With The Jump, when it was on last year, I said I’d love to do that just for the skiing side of it and when they asked me, it was a bit of a no brainer. I wanted to do it and it fell into my lap at the perfect time.”
But there was more to it than giving him purpose. Ever the fierce competitor, self-improvement was also a factor. “For me to do them they had to have the element of a challenge. They had to have something that I felt they would get out of it.”
With Mission Survival, through the epic 12-day survival test Tindall wanted to push his physical and mental wellbeing to the limit. “I always said, if you think about a rugby player being a manly, deal with anything sort of guy, a tough guy, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to find out if I am, whether I am durable in the true sense of the word. That was the challenge. In the lead up, to prepare myself I tried to imagine the worst that it could possibly be. Luckily we didn’t get there!”
Drinking your own urine, as contestants on Mission Survival had to do, would be considered many people’s definition of “worst it could possibly be.” Yet Tindall emerged during a time when such activities were standard as rugby dressing room camaraderie – no, really – and he managed to do it with worrying ease.
“Unfortunately initiations are old school rugby and they don’t happen so much nowadays. But initiations definitely could have involved that in the past. And I have to admit that it wasn’t the first time; Bear did look at me a bit strangely when I said, ‘are we drinking our own or are we drinking other people’s?’”
Overall, Tindall enjoyed his foray into light entertainment, but is unsure if he’ll be making another reality TV appearance. He has other interests to consider, such as media performances and his charity work, which does so much good for military veterans.
The former Bath and Gloucester outside centre is patron of Rugby for Heroes and through his annual celebrity golf day has raised over £100,000 to help former army officers to get back to normal civilian life.
At this year’s event, playing in bright multi-coloured trousers, Tindall finished well off the pace and after coming second in both the Jump and Mission Survival he jokes that his days of winning might have ended with his rugby career. “I’m getting used to that now. I’ve been lucky in the past at winning finals. But I can’t win any outside of rugby unfortunately!”
For more information on the Rugby World Cup please visit the website.