ITV World Cup presenter Laura Woods’ rise to TV stardom, famous ex and worst ever interview
The presenter has become one of the most recognisable faces in sports broadcasting.
With 64 games being played at the 2022 World Cup, viewers at home are not only watching a huge amount of football, but getting to hear a lot from pundits and presenters across the channels, especially the BBC and ITV, and one of the most recognisable faces on ITV’s coverage is Laura Woods.
She has quickly become one of the most-respected sports presenters in the country through her appearances on Sky Sports and talkSPORT and is now used to fronting World Cup games alongside pundits including Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Eni Aluko.
Here, we chart her rise to fame as well as stories from her career, including her worst-ever interview experience and what other broadcasters make of her. Here’s everything you need to know:
Who is Laura Woods and where is she from?
Laura Woods is a sports presenter working not only for ITV, but also DAZN, Amazon Prime Video and talkSPORT, where she hosts the Sports Breakfast show three days a week alongside former Scotland star Ally McCoist.
Born in Dagenham, East London, in 1987, she started out in broadcasting after graduating from Kingston University with a degree in print journalism. She got a job as a runner at Sky Sports in 2009, and eventually worked her way up to becoming a producer at the channel.
Woods moved into presenting by doing behind-the-scenes interviews for Sky Sports’ darts coverage on YouTube, before getting a job on Saturday morning children’s show Game Changers.
After that, she began reporting on NFL coverage before joining the Soccer AM online presenting team, heading up the show’s Facebook coverage of Euro 2016.
In 2018, she became a regular pitch-side reporter on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday, but left the channel earlier this year after 13 years.
Following her departure from Sky Sports, it was announced in August 2022 that Woods would join former American football stars Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell to front ITV’s Friday night NFL highlights show. A few months later, she was named as one of ITV’s presenters for the World Cup in Qatar, alongside Mark Pougatch, Kelly Cates and Seema Jaswal.
The 35-year-old broadcaster balances her work with ITV alongside her role at DAZN, reporting on boxing and the Women’s Champions League for the online streaming service.
Famous former partner
Woods is said to not currently be in a relationship, but has a famous former partner from the world of sport. She was previously in a long-term relationship with former England rugby player Alex Corbisiero. The pair dated for eight years, before Woods ended the relationship a few years ago, telling The Sun that she had no regrets about her decision to break up with the former loosehead prop, but “loves being in love” and wants to get married and have children.
“My last relationship was eight years and I was nearing 30 when we broke up,” she said. “It was my decision – it was the right one and I’ve never regretted it. We’d lived in each other’s pockets and breaking up with him felt like coming up for air. The next thing for us was probably marriage and having kids. And I do want that one day – I love being in love and I love kids. But I’ve prioritised work because I love that too and my ambitions are important to me.”
She added: “The one thing I know is that I won’t settle and I’ll wait for the right guy. I’ll know when it’s the right person because I’ll want to make that sacrifice. But if there’s one thing lockdown has taught me is that I put work first too much and I need more balance.
“I don’t use internet dating sites. I hate being set up and I’m quite fussy – if I’m not in control I don’t like it! I’d rather meet someone organically in the pub. I don’t believe in forcing anything. I’ll know when it happens and until then it’s not an area of my life I feel like I’m missing out on.”
Worst ever interview
Woods has interviewed some of the biggest names in football, from Paul Pogba to Cristiano Ronaldo, but it was one legendary Premier League manager who was responsible for her worst ever interview.
While at Sky Sports, the presenter faced a disgruntled Jose Mourinho, then at Tottenham Hotspur, after a game in which Harry Kane had a goal controversially ruled out for offside. The Portuguese manager was not happy with the decision, meaning Woods was on the end of an intense exchange, in which the coach “looked into her soul”.
Discussing the interview with former Arsenal striker Ian Wright, she said: “Harry Kane had just a scored a goal that was ruled out or something like that. Wrighty, he was looking into my soul! He was looking into my soul and he didn’t like what he saw. That’s how I felt.
“Anyway, I started the interview, asking him questions and he immediately flipped it back on me and went, ‘well, what did you think?’ And I was like, ‘right, I have to put my big-girl pants on here’. I was like, ‘it’s not about me, it’s about you. No one cares about my opinion’. [He replied] ‘well I care, what did you think?’ And I agreed with him but I just thought I had to hold my own.”
Despite the frosty exchange, Woods is still a fan of Mourinho’s, adding: “I think he was testing me but I like him as well. I miss him when he’s not around, like I miss that personality. That job, for any football fan looking in, it looks like a really simple job but it’s not.”
Criticism from Lynam
Woods has quickly become one of the most respected and recognised faces in sports broadcasting, but not everyone is a fan.
Legendary broadcaster Des Lynam, who fronted coverage of the World Cup, Olympics and Wimbledon for the BBC and ITV during a 45-year career, criticised her after she made her presenting debut at the tournament in Qatar, claiming her “over familiarity” with pundit Ian Wright “made him wince”.
Writing an opinion piece for the Telegraph, in which he criticised broadcasters’ coverage of the number of social issues at play at the Word Cup, the 80-year-old took a dig at Woods after she referred to the former Arsenal striker as “Wrighty” during coverage of Senegal v Netherlands, having known him for a number of years.
The former broadcaster had no problem with other hosts like the BBC’s Gary Lineker referring to Wright by his affectionate nickname, but admitted Woods’ comments had made him “a touch uncomfortable”.
“This was the first live match for ITV and was presented by the ever–smiling Laura Woods,” said Lynam. “She has done quite a lot of presentation work on both radio and television and comes over as both confident and capable.
“She called Ian Wright ‘Wrighty’ which sounds comfortable coming from the likes of Gary Lineker but it made me slightly wince. I may be wrong and perhaps they are close friends but the over-familiarity made me a touch uncomfortable.”
“The other pundits were Gary Neville and the former Dutch international Nigel de Jong,” he added. “Laura refrained from calling them Gaz or Nige.”
Woods herself hit back at the criticism, responding to the article on Twitter by writing: “Jeez, of all the things covered this is what made Des wince?”
Wright also couldn’t resist having a cheeky dig at Lynam after the unprovoked attack, firstly taking to Twitter and writing: “How’s Des vexed that Laura called me ‘Wrighty’!!! Looking for something negative to write,” before coming to his friend’s defence live on air.
When the pair appeared together during ITV’s coverage of France’s 2-1 win over Denmark, the former England star took a swipe at the veteran broadcaster after Woods asked him a question when referring to him as “Ian”. Wright responded: “You know what Lozza, it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to call me Ian. Look, how long we’ve known each other? Call me Wrighty like you normally do.”
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