One of rugby’s more colourful characters in the wake of his career as well as during it, it is often forgotten just how good and dangerous a scrum-half Matt Dawson was.
A three-time Lion, Dawson had it all: lethal from close range, laser-accurate distribution, game intelligence and to cap it all he was a clutch goal-kicker if required, proven with a last-minute game-winning touchline conversion on the British & Irish Lions tour in 2001.
He has a reputation for mischief and occasional outspokenness, yet it is also often forgotten that if Martin Johnson was unavailable he would frequently be chosen to lead the side, a testament to his ability to maturely manage a game.
His lengthy list of charitable achievements in his post-career is also to his benefit when considering him worthy of legend inclusion, as is the fact that he, along with Lawrence Dallaglio, remain the only English players to have won both Sevens and XV World Cups.
Born in Birkenhead, Dawson was raised in Buckinghamshire and attended the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, where he excelled in cricket and football before deciding to concentrate on rugby.
During holidays and at weekends he was a dogsbody in a local pub, something he credits for giving him his good banter.
After briefly joining Marlow, he joined Northampton in 1991 where he would stay for 13 years.
For the four years before rugby went openly professional he additionally worked as a security guard and a rugby coach at a local school, Spratton Hall.
By the time Northampton Saints gave him his first professional contract, he had already struck up a half-back partnership with Paul Grayson that Northampton fans selected for their all-time dream team on the club’s 130th birthday.
His crowning achievement during his time at Franklin’s Gardens was the Heineken Cup win in 2000, although he missed the final through injury.
It was only when he left to join London Wasps – somewhat under a cloud after in-house disagreements over the way the club was being run under new coach Alan Solomons – that he got his first Premiership title in 2005.
In 2006 he retired, losing out to Sale in the Premiership semis in his final game.
He made his debut in 1995 and for a while was involved in a four-way scrap for the England number nine jersey, but he got his big break in 1997 on the Lions tour, playing a starring role in the 2-1 series win over South Africa, including a crucial try in the first Test.
The following June he captained England on their infamous ‘tour from hell’ which saw many senior internationals left at home and England suffer some heavy defeats.
But by 1999 he was established as England’s starting number nine, captaining England during much of the 2000 Six Nations.
Four defenders with one dummy…
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 21, 2020
In 2002 his career was nearly ended by a head-butt from Corne Krige, whose arrival at Northampton precipitated Dawson’s departure, but he recovered and one of his trademark snipes provided the crucial 20 metres of gain to set up Jonny Wilkinson for the winning drop goal in the World Cup final.
He retired from international rugby in 2005.
Dawson was married to German former model Carolin Hauskeller until September 2020 and the couple have two sons, Alex and Sami.
Sami was critically ill with meningitis early in his life, and much of Dawson’s charity work is dedicated to meningitis treatment and research, along with research into Lyme disease which Dawson contracted after being bitten by a tick in a London Park.
He was a team captain on BBC’s A Question of Sport for a long time and has appeared in several reality TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.
It’s fair to say that he has done well out of his media activities, with A Question of Sport especially propelling his worth into seven figures.