joined the Sunday Times as their chief rugby
columnist in 2005 following 12 illustrious
years in the same role with the Daily
Telegraph. During that time he has also
established himself as a highly-rated
analyst, presenter and co-commentator on the
sport for Sky Sports.
Eminently qualified for those positions
after graduating from Oxford (where he was a
'blue' in the early eighties), Stuart gained
ten England caps and also represented the
British Lions in the following ten years.
A regular contributor to magazines across
the world, Stuart has written four books
including 'A Year of Living Dangerously'
which was short-listed for the William Hill
Sports book of the Year.
He also edited First XV rugby magazine
1995-97, and is an accomplished speaker and
the bottom of the pit England has clambered
to within sight of the summit.
It is proving to be one of the more dramatic
of all rugby expeditions. Brian Ashton has
got his team thinking and they have roused
themselves to a furious pitch of determined
and heart warming patriotism.
France and their conservative coach, Bernard
Laporte got their deserts. Yes, they froze
but with the extra talent at their disposal
behind the scrum and a competitive pack, it
was a poor and unambitious performance from
Fiji accept Mission Impossible
England, no chance, France, just as non
existent, Fiji, don't make me laugh.
Which leaves Scotland and Argentina as the
one competitive quarter-final, although
Argentina would be 20-point favourites if
they were called `France' instead of
Argentina...looks glum viewing for the
Northern Hemisphere reading the form lines.
There seems little hope but then I remember
Fiji in Nantes and I think anything can
happen. Whether we will see a game like that
again is doubtful but it is a classic
reminder that sport is a live event and the
past, no matter how recent, is no guarantee
of future success.
No time for
Tonga will not be pushovers for England this
Friday. A match which most thought a
formality before the tournament commenced is
now a straight knockout game.
Relief was the overwhelming emotion on
display in Nantes on Saturday as England
found the third gear required to overcome
Samoa and the first hurdle towards
qualifying for the last eight.
We can talk about the positive impact that
Jonny Wilkinson's presence brought to the
side, we can debate the continuing
sub-standard nature of his tactical kicking
(which Chris Latham will thrive on should
England win Friday), but perhaps this is a
time to acknowledge the spirit of the
tournament as much as the tactics - which
can wait for another day.
Friday night was a clash of eras.
Yesterday’s fading men from England, who
will mercifully soon be stripped of a world
champions tag they have held in nothing but
name for four long years, against one of
today’s leading teams and potential 2007
world champions, South Africa.
The history men were consigned to the back
pages by a side that did not need to perform
at its peak but displayed structure enough
to threaten the coronation of the All
Blacks. There is a way to travel, but with
the Springboks in the other side of the
draw, the likelihood of the sport’s two
traditional powers coming together for a
repeat of the 1995 final is gathering
momentum. Like the Titanic and the iceberg,
New Zealand and South Africa look destined