WILL Greenwood will be among those painting Twickenham a shade of palatinate purple tomorrow afternoon as Durham University hit rugby HQ for the final of the British University and College Sports Cup.
The England and Lions legend recalls his time in the North East as “the greatest three years of my life,” having earned a 2:1 in economics between 1991 and 94.
“All of my rugby mates from that period are still my best friends and six of us are having lunch in Richmond tomorrow before the game,” he said, as Durham test their season’s unbeaten record against Cardiff’s University of Wales Institute.
“We will all be reliving the old dreams, talking the talk from our stint there and pretending to be young again as we look back on the best time of our lives.”
A one-time runner-up and double semi-finalist during his three seasons in the famous palatinate jersey, Greenwood is steadfast in his insistence he would happily swap his World Cup winner’s medal if faced with the prospect of erasing his university days from the annals of history.
Recalling those memories, he said: “We had a small group of players who really made the most out of ourselves.
“We never had any floodlights, so we used to pull all the cars up to the touchline and turn the headlights on to train.
“We lived the dream, my friend, we lived the dream.”
One of many Durham old boys moving on to greater things, Greenwood insists it is all about the current crop tomorrow rather than those who have gone before.
He added: “When you are between the ages of 18 and 21 you do not give a monkey’s about who was playing there 20 years ago – and quite rightly so.
“You just focus on what is in front of you, and absolutely wringing your three years dry. It is all fun, enthusiasm, mates and drink, plus a little bit of studying on top just to make sure you leave with what you came for.”
Scoring 31 tries in his 57 tests for the Lions and England, his enjoyment of the game always shone through.
He said: “It will be a difficult proposition for some of Durham’s players tomorrow on such a big occasion, but all I would say is don’t do anything different from what you normally do.
“The pitch is still 70 by 100 metres, but it just happens to have a rather large stadium around it.
“Other than that it is no different from being down by the riverside next to Durham City Rugby Club, and the lads just need to stay tight.
“They should try to enjoy it because, for some of them, this will be the greatest rugby experience of their lives.
“It will be their absolute peak, and they might never return to Twickenham.
“All I would say to them is don’t let it pass you by.
“Don’t be talking about ifs and buts after the game, and don’t leave anything in the changing room.
“Bleed your body dry of every ounce of effort you can muster up from within and suck in the whole day.
“Win or lose, get yourselves out into town with your mates from Durham, who have travelled 300 miles to see you in the week of the Royal wedding, and get in among it. These times do not come round again, and you will regret it for the rest of your lives if you don’t have fun.” With his own ceremonial duties not scheduled until well after the final whistle, Greenwood added with a chuckle: “I am really not sure what sort of state I will be in.
“I will be doing a presentation to the Durham players along with the team of 1991 and a few from the later era around 1999.
“We will be there with bells on all day, though, to cheer on the mighty D-U-R-F-C, and that is what it is all about.”
Current head coach Alex Keay has embraced the enthusiasm of Greenwood and his fellow alumni, revealing: “Will Carling will be coming to the team hotel tonight to speak to the squad and make a presentation, as well as Will Greenwood’s involvement after the game.
“That is an important statement of what we are about, and it will be a real Durham day with something like 3,000 of our ex-students expected to be there too.”
Keay’s first season in charge of the side has seen a remarkable campaign without a single defeat, having already claimed league honours with the BUCS Northern Premiership title.
A fully-fit squad and a 42-22 win over Billingham in last week’s warm-up game sees Durham set fair for tomorrow’s big day, with Keay lavish in the praise of his charges.
He added: “I could not have worked with a better bunch, and we have done well this year because of how we have played as a team.
“It is a bit ironic we have gone unbeaten all season and made the Twickenham final, yet not had a player in the England Students squad.”