How Zara's husband Mike Tindall is the Royal Family's very own World Cup hero. He triumphed with England – before an evening of dwarf-throwing ended his international career!

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  • Mike Tindall played for England 75 times – breaking his nose at least eight times
  • The rugby star’s career came to an end after he captained England in 2011
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  • Latest Rugby World Cup 2023 news, including fixtures, live scores and results

With Wales already in the quarter finals and England now almost certain to join them, members of the Royal family are showing a keen interest in the Rugby World Cup  taking place in France. 

Prince William has been seen in the stands in Bordeaux supporting Wales, the Princess of Wales cheered on England in Marseille and Princess Anne, who rarely misses a Scotland game, is due to attend their crunch match against Ireland in Paris in a few days’ time.

But there is one Royal who has been following the tournament with a rather more up-close-and-personal involvement. 

Mike Tindall, husband of Princess Anne’s daughter Zara, was a hard-running centre in the England team that triumphed in a thrilling World Cup Final in Sydney in 2003.

Mike Tindall, husband of Zara, is the Royal Family's very own Rugby World Cup hero. Here, he is pictured during the quarter final against Wales  2003, when his England side lifted the trophy

Mike Tindall, husband of Zara, is the Royal Family’s very own Rugby World Cup hero. Here, he is pictured during the quarter final against Wales  2003, when his England side lifted the trophy

Tindall, a powerful outside centre, was key to the England victory. Here he meets solid French defence with Will Greenwood at hand during the 2003 semi-final against France in Sydney

Tindall, a powerful outside centre, was key to the England victory. Here he meets solid French defence with Will Greenwood at hand during the 2003 semi-final against France in Sydney 

We are more likely to see him at the races these days than on a a rugby pitch. Here Mike Tindall  accompanies wife Zara for  Ladies Day at Royal Ascot

We are more likely to see him at the races these days than on a a rugby pitch. Here Mike Tindall  accompanies wife Zara for  Ladies Day at Royal Ascot

And though the match is probably best known for Johnny Wilkinson’s dramatic winning drop-goal, rugby aficionados will also recall Tindall’s crunching dump tackle on the Australian scrum half and Wallaby legend George Gregan. 

It galvanised the English side and did much to change the momentum of the game in England’s favour. 

The tackle is still widely regarded as one of the moments of the tournament.

Now 44, Tindall had a long and successful career as a professional rugby player for Bath and Gloucester and represented England 75 times between 2000 and 2011 as an uncompromising outside centre – breaking his nose at least eight times in the process and playing in two World Cups.

He also suffered a freak and potentially life-threatening injury after landing awkwardly during an England match against Wales at Twickenham in 2008. He broke two ribs and suffered a perforated lung and lacerated liver. 

He was stretched off the pitch and spent five days in intensive care with Zara Phillips by his side, but went on to make a full recovery.

After missing the 2007 World Cup through injury, his eventful international career came to an ignominious end after he captained the England team in the 2011 tournament.

The rugby star carrying the Rugby World Cup as members of the winning 2003 team parade the trophy during half time at a 2013 match between England and Australia

The rugby star carrying the Rugby World Cup as members of the winning 2003 team parade the trophy during half time at a 2013 match between England and Australia

Mike Tindall holds The Webb Ellis Cup as he and his team mates arrive into Trafalgar Square during the England Rugby World Cup team victory parade in December  2003

Mike Tindall holds The Webb Ellis Cup as he and his team mates arrive into Trafalgar Square during the England Rugby World Cup team victory parade in December  2003

Zara Phillips and boyfriend Mike Tindall on the grid before  the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit in July 2004 in Northamptonshire

Zara Phillips and boyfriend Mike Tindall on the grid before  the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit in July 2004 in Northamptonshire

Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh meeting Zara Phillips and her then boyfriend, Mike Tindall at a Buckingham Palace reception in December 2006

Queen Elizabeth II and the late Duke of Edinburgh meeting Zara Phillips and her then boyfriend, Mike Tindall at a Buckingham Palace reception in December 2006

After a hard-fought group-stage victory over Argentina, Tindall and other members of the squad let their hair down during a bar crawl in Queenstown, New Zealand, – causing media outrage when they ended up in a nightclub hosting a drunken dwarf-throwing event.

Even worse, newspapers around the world carried pictures taken from CCTV footage of him with his arm around a woman in a Queenstown bar just two months after he had married Zara and become a member of ‘The Firm’.

Although the ‘mystery blonde’ later turned out to be an old friend, the damage had been done. 

And when England were meekly ejected in the quarter-final by France, the Rugby Football Union decided to make an example of their captain, fining Tindall £25,000 and banishing him from the international squad. 

 The fine was later reduced to £15,000 on appeal, but Mike never played for England again.

However, the one thing the RFU could never take away was Tindall’s 2003 winner’s medal and his status as part of England’s only World Cup-winning team.

The 2003 World Cup was life-changing for him in another way, too. It was during the tournament that he first met his wife Zara, sparking a romance that was to see him become a member of the Royal family.

Princess Anne, Prince William, and Catherine, Princess of Wales helped record a special episode of The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast at Windsor Castle

Princess Anne, Prince William, and Catherine, Princess of Wales helped record a special episode of The Good, The Bad and The Rugby podcast at Windsor Castle

Tindall, who has since taken part in several TV reality shows and now comes across more like a country squire than the tough international rugby star he once was, can often be seen accompanying Olympic horsewoman Zara to equestrian events.

The couple live in a seven-bedroom farmhouse on Princess Anne’s Gatcombe estate in Gloucestershire and have three children, Mia, nine, Lena, five, and two-year-old Lucas.

Today, Mike is still in love with the sport of rugby, co-hosting a podcast called The Good, the Bad and the Rugby. It shows how times have changed for him that the last edition before the World Cup featured interviews with the Prince and Princess of Wales and Princess Anne, filmed at Windsor Castle.




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