Lewis Moody on Success

Former Rugby international Lewis Moody talks to Land Rover about overcoming adversity to reach the highest level.

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As a former international rugby union player, Lewis Moody is used to overcoming adversity both on and off the field. The 2003 World Cup winner talks about the sacrifices he made to succeed at the highest level.

Bravery manifests itself in many different ways, but speaking from a sporting perspective, I guess one of the bravest people I met during my playing days would be [England flanker] Tom Croft, who was almost paralysed by a vertebral fracture in his neck. He spent a year out of the game and then, on the very day he came back, got a season-ending cruciate ligament injury. That's a double dose of psychological adversity to deal with – you've got the injury and the rehabilitation first, and when you finally go out to play you're thinking: "Am I going to break my neck in this game?"

Would I ever get back to fitness? Would I ever play at the same level again?

Away from sport, I'll never forget meeting a young man years ago called Joss Rowley, who had been diagnosed with cancer. He knew the graveness of the situation, obviously, but he was able to deal with it openly and with a smile on his face. To see him fight against it and face it head-on was an inspiration. It certainly puts your situation into context. Even when I was suffering heavily with injuries and had three operations in 18 months, I just got on with it. Don't get me wrong, I still had to deal with the negative emotions that came with an injury, and they can be tough. Would I ever get back to fitness? Would I ever play at the same level again? I put those thoughts to the back of my mind as soon as I could – you can only control the controllable.

I focused on what I could actually deal with, and that was the injury itself and getting better step by step. If you're a professional sportsman and they say to you that you're going to be out for a year, it's incredibly hard to take, but if you work out targets for every week of that year, you'll get through it. I had a whiteboard with every day noted down, my fitness routine and the goal for that week – let's say it was 10 more knee lifts. Even the initial couple of weeks when I was flat out were marked down as "rest" and it stopped me from feeling like I was just lying there, wasting my time.

By the time I was 28, I'd had 13 operations and was told that I was going to need another. It got too much for me and I reacted to the news very emotionally – through self pity, really. I called my wife and said that I couldn't take it anymore. I'd had enough. Thankfully for me, she gave me the wake up call I needed. She told me not to be so foolish, that I loved my job and that I shouldn't make the mistake of retiring and then regretting it later. She was so right – had I retired right then, I would have missed out on being England captain, playing in the World Cup and so many amazing experiences.

Had I retired then I would have missed out on being England Captain

When growing up, I wanted to join the army and I was naturally very interested in the career of my great grandfather and namesake, Lewis Walton Moody. He was a member of the British Expeditionary Force and went over [to France] in 1914. That's bravery. To go off to war like that, not knowing what you were going to face or what you'd signed-up for is extraordinary. I take inspiration from him and what he went through. Did I ever get "big match nerves"? Well, I wouldn't call it that, but there was anxiety mixed with excitement before those really important games – it made me feel a bit sick half the time. It usually starts 24 hours before and I think that if you don't feel it, the match obviously doesn't mean enough to you. Again, for me, it was all about putting negative thoughts to the back of my mind and keeping my emotions in check. One way I did this was by literally making a list of all the points that I needed to remember for both me and the team to perform well. Once that was done, I knew I had things under control. I could then relax, sleep, watch TV or whatever and get myself ready for the game.

Yes, it was going to hurt the next day, but I figured that if I didn't come off that pitch with stud marks scraped down my back or blood on my shirt I had not done enough for the team. Win or lose, I wanted to know that I had done my bit.

Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover are a partner of Hitz, a Premiership Rugby programme that tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today.