So here we are, four years on from that glitch in the order of the universe, and the stage is set for either some serious payback, or some serious egg on face. In rugby, this has got to be the ultimate in North/South grudge matches.
Sure, you’ve got the fact that we’ve both nicked Bill from each other – us in 91, them in 03, Campo, the B teams the gutless turd that is the ERFU keeps sending down and we keep caning, our front row stuffing at Twickers and Austin Healy (the dickhead, not the car).
But it goes deeper than just rugby for both sides; our recent twatting of them in every sport other than running away (athletics) – a notable exception being a certain Ashes series (another glitch in the space-time continuum) – but then also Bodyline, Gallipoli, Singapore, Gough Whitlam and that whole convict/colony thing. I’m not saying these are all necessarily justified or correct, but they all go into a creating a depth of feeling that’s beyond sport, unlike if Australia goes on to play NZ, SA or France.
Which is why it’s unsurprising that the war of words has started to ratchet up a notch or ten on the run up to next Saturday. The aforementioned penisaurus, Austin Healy, has demanded that John O’Neill be fined for bringing the game into disrepute;
“For the chief executive of a rugby union to say that about another nation undoubtedly brings the game into disrepute. Get him in the dock. Fine and sanction him for slagging off the mother country.”
In response, far from de-escalating the war of words, JO’n has made himself that little bit clearer:
“All I’m doing is stating the bleeding obvious.
“No one likes England.
“If they want further proof, how do they think France won the right to host this World Cup?
“It’s simple. No one would vote for England, and they were the only other country in the running.
“The only votes England could be assured of back then were their own.
“Sadly, this is all a by-product of their born-to-rule mentality.
“It’s been there for a long time now and nothing has changed.”
In for a penny, in for a pound eh John? And now LT has got in the act, effectively pasting every England player who’s not Jason Robinson;
“[Robinson] is probably their main attacking weapon and probably – and I don’t like to say it – but probably the only world-class back that they have playing in form at the moment, or was playing in form,”
So from the Aussie side the gloves are off, but is this the right way to go? In cricket, the on-field sledging has worked a treat for Australia in recent years, but that’s while we were indisputably the best in the world. While I like the sentiment and guts to be heard, I’m also failing to see what this gets us, other than to fire up an otherwise dejected England team. Right now the best weapon against England is their own press.
Those of you familiar with Stephen Jones of the Times will realise that outside of Greg Growden (before he found the pastries in France), there’s no stronger critic of Aussie rugby. Well, here’s a typical excerpt from his article today;
“Australia, behind their barricade, are a wonderful team. If they had Tony Woodcock and Carl Hayman, the great All Black props, they would be better than the All Blacks.
“They have athleticism throughout the team. They have a flow, with scrum-half George Gregan, diminished as a player but not as a controller, controlling that flow. Above everything, they have a footballing competence behind their scrum that is magnificent.
“Take Chris Latham, now a veteran full-back, but a true great, an era player (and what a capture for Bristol if he does sign on the dotted line). In Britain we seem always to be frustrated by the lack of roundness to our players. Mathew Tait? Lovely runner, shame he’s not bigger and stronger. Ditto Shane Williams. Mike Tindall? Great big bloke, shame he can’t step so well. Josh Lewsey? Great player, shame his kicking game is so short. Gavin Henson? Great talent, shame his temperament is away with the fairies.
Now look at Latham. A strapping athlete, he is quick, he can step, and by the sheer range of different kicks and the length of his boomers, he puts the kicking games of the home nations teams to shame by himself. When you surround Latham with the resurgent captain, Stirling Mortlock, the richly talented Matt Giteau and Lote Tuqiri, flirting occasionally with genius on the wing, you have a range of talent and danger.”
Fµck me Stephen, couldn’t have said it better myself. But it makes me nervous all this pommy mealymouthing. Maybe it’s because deep down I could just about live with a loss against the ABs or the French at home. But not against the poms, under any circumstances.
So, just when I’m about to suggest we cut them that bit of verbal slack I read this whining, nonsensical drivel in the same article above from Jones about the Wallabies’ scrummaging;
“But the Australians have become so adept at offsetting opposition advantage (only the uncouth would call them a bunch of Aussie cheats) and officialdom so adept at letting them get away with it, that England are unlikely to gain any advantage in the tight phases.”
Stuff restraint. LET’S GET IT ON.