category: rugby news

Cup was Jonny's poisoned chalice

Peter FitzSimons6/10/07

NO, JONNY. Not tonight. Not ever. Yes, yes, yes, the English media have built you up as the Messiah of English rugby, who, just as you have so suddenly been resurrected from the ruined, can now single-handedly raise the whole English team from the dead, and beat the Wallabies in the quarter-finals in Marseilles. But you know that is not true! For nothing can undo the deal that was done with the Great God of Rugby! Let me remind you.

It was on the eve of the World Cup Final in 2003 when England coach Clive Woodward visited you in your hotel room to go over, one last time, your role in the English team's two principal tactics - the up, and the under. You and Clive were so nervous about facing the Wallabies the following evening that you thought a few prayers on your knees might help. And suddenly, direct from heaven, The Voice of the Great God of Rugby boomed.

"I will," He said, "grant you a win over the Wallabies, right at the death - even though that is against nature - but you will pay with a pound of flesh. You, Clive, will barely ever coach another winning team again, and will soon stand down as coach. And you, Jonny, will be so perpetually injured hereafter that you won't play another Test for over three years. And even when you return, you will never have another win remotely like the one I will organise tomorrow night. Do you both agree?"

You will recall that you and Clive both solemnly made that vow, sworn on the holy skull of your ancestors, and the ghost of so many defeats past. And so it was done. And so it has come to pass. And nothing you can now say, nothing you can now do, can undo that deal.

Go well tonight in Marseilles against the Wallabies. Even try to make a game of it, if you must. But do not, for one second, imagine that you can guide the English to a win. The best you can hope for is to do what so many English sporting teams have done so well over the years - lose with dignity.

Everyone's invited

The major lesson of the Rugby World Cup so far? It is that if all of the world's rugby strength was put on either end of a see-saw, then the southern hemisphere would be like an elephant on one end, and the northern hemisphere like a rather emaciated chicken on the other.
For the surprise teams of the tournament so far have been Argentina, Fiji and even Tonga, while the disappointments have been Ireland, France, Wales and England. The once mighty Six Nations is looking rather sickly, while the Tri Nations & Friends are the ones who are making waves.

This surely presents a great opportunity to move on from both the Tri Nations and Super 14, both of which have become rather stale in recent times. Is there really still the appetite out there to see the Wallabies play South Africa twice a year, every year, and the All Blacks three times? Why not widen it?

For starters, get Argentina, Fiji and Tonga involved in an expanded Super 14, possibly including Japan. Then, with the commensurate increase in standards and experience of players from those countries, so too would their international teams expand, and international rugby could finally, fully, break free of the long-time equation which had it that Six Nations + Tri Nations = Everybody.

PETER FITZSIMONS - Sydney Morning Herald | Saturday, 6 October 2007 | Comment on this article

Peter FitzSimons

Cup was Jonny's poisoned chalice 6/10/07
Don't write off the Wallabies 8/9/07
Sympathy wasted 21/7/07
Lose-win situation 7/7/07

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