(Part 1) 1987 - 1991.
England were perhaps lucky in that their resurgence in the late 1980s coincided with the presence of two excellent kicking fullbacks - Simon Hodgkinson and Jonathan Webb. The two had in common the fact that they were both medical men, but had different qualities on the field. Hodgkinson was the slightly more reliable with the boot whilst Webb was more threatening with ball in hand. It was Webb who played for the national side first when he came on for the concussed Marcus Rose five minutes into England's world cup encounter with Australia in 1987. England lost the match and eventually went out in the quarter-finals to Wales, but the Bath player would go on to play in twelve of England's next thirteen matches, including eight in the 1988 season. During the summer of that year, a poor England side were beaten 2-0 by Australia, but came back in style to beat the Wallabies 28-19 at Twickenham the following autumn.
England, now under the captaincy of Will Carling, appeared to be on the verge of a new dawn, but Jon received severe criticism for his displays against Scotland and Wales in the 1989 Championship and was dropped. He then watched from the sidelines as his replacement Hodgkinson kicked 203 points in 14 matches and helped England to the 1991 Grand Slam. However, Webb's attacking qualities gave him the nod for the World Cup of that year whilst the otherwise blameless Hodgkinson sat out all but one of England's tournament matches. In the end, Jon's running game wasn't actually needed until the final, where England went down 12-6 to Australia with the fullback scoring all England's points. However, Webb did have the consolation of scoring an individual record of 24 against Italy in the group stages which included a first try for his country. In total Jon scored 56 points in the tournament, behind only Ralph Keyes, Michael Lynagh and Gavin Hastings. (Jon Collins)
Jonathan Webb playing for England on 6th March 1993 in the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham.
Photo George Herringshaw. ©
(Part 2) 1992 - 1993.
In the 1992 Five Nations Jon became the first English fullback to touch down twice in the same match when scored a brace of tries in a heavy defeat of Ireland, his first after just 23 seconds. He followed those tries up with another against France as England coasted to the Grand Slam. It was the first time since 1924 that had England had won back to back Grand Slams and Jon finished with 67 points, breaking Hodgkinson's record of 60 from the year before. However, the 1993 season began in nightmare fashion as two schoolboy errors by Webb against France at Twickenham gifted tries to the opposition. The first came when Jon dropped a high ball on his own goal line to allow Phillipe Saint-Andre to score, and was he then outjumped by the same player minutes later for the second. It looked to be going from bad to worse for Webb when what should have been an easy penalty kick hit the post, but winger Ian Hunter was on hand to catch the rebound and dash over for the try. The home side were fortunate winners by 16-15, but the writing was on the wall for England's ageing side.
In the next match against Wales in Cardiff, England were leading 9-3 when Emyr Lewis hacked the ball downfield for Ieuan Evans to chase. Poor communication between Jon and Rory Underwood then allowed Evans to score against the run of play, handing the game to Wales 10-9. Though England were able to redeem themselves with a powerful display against Scotland, the tournament ended in a 17-3 defeat by Ireland at Lansdowne Road which handed the Championship to France. Jon called it a day after that match to concentrate on his medical career, having won 33 caps and scored 296 points, a record that would stand until broken by Rob Andrew. His retirement coincided with that of Jeff Probyn, Mike Teague, Peter Winterbottom and Wade Dooley and so that match at Lansdowne Road could be seen as the end of an era. (Jon Collins)