Thursday, 27 October 2011

Whither England 2011

Four years ago, after the 2007 World Cup, I wrote an optimistic post entitled “Whither England”, such optimism being based on the presumption that England would move forward with a degree of stability.

Stability? What was I thinking? Four years on and here we are after another World Cup with an England squad in crisis, a coaching team on the verge of being disbanded and a governing body not fit for purpose and awash with internal investigations and reviews.      

The good news is that the news isn’t all bad. A poor World Cup aside, the following players can all still be said to have had a decent last 12-18 months in an England shirt and should form the basis of the England squad in 2012:

Alex Corbisiero, Matt Stevens, Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Tom Palmer, Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft, Tom Wood, James Haskell, Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, Manu Overboard, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.

That’s not a bad core group and, if you also consider the success of the England Under 20s last season and the fact that Tigers fly half George Ford has just been named IRB young player of the year, there is every reason to think that the bare ingredients are there for England to be successful.

Unfortunately it's not just going to be about the playing personnel as we come back to that word again – stability. For England to prosper we will need a stable and supportive RFU as well as a senior coaching team willing to embrace whatever it takes to produce a winning team.

Put simply, what is needed is a leaner, fitter, more technically accomplished and utterly professional England squad, doing the simple things well.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Tindall's Pants

Mike Tindall as you've never seen him before (unless you're reading this Mrs T):

The cause, Rugby for Heroes, is a noble one.

The timing, however, might have been a tad more judicious. And as for the caption...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Reasons to be cheerful, 1 2 3

  1. George Ford – IRB Junior Player of the Year.
  2. Courtney Lawes – named in a composite team of the Rugby World Cup. OK, so it was a team voted for by Facebook Group Queer Eye for the Rugby Guy but, hey, right now we’ll take what we can get.
  3. Err, that's all.
[For those interested the full Queer Eye for the Rugby Guy team reads: 1. Cian Healy, 2. Ross Ford, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Courtney Lawes, 5. Victor Matfield, 6. Inaki Basauri, 7. David Pocock, 8. Sergio Parisse, 9. Mike Phillips, 10. Francois Trinh-Duc, 11. James O'Connor, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 13. Maxime Mermoz, 14. Richard Kahui, 15. Frans Steyn.]

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Four more years

And so it is over. Another Rugby World Cup has come and gone - another 7 weeks of my life that I'll never reclaim.

For what it's worth, a few reflections:
  1. The Final: Congratulations again to New Zealand. Much deserved and the 24 year old monkey is finally off the back. But, amidst the understandable euphoria down under, there really does need to be an acknowledgement of the French contribution to a fabulous match. Written off by everyone (me included), they were just magnificent. Perhaps Marc Le Fou is a genius after all.
  2. The Final#2: The referee had half of a very good game. Mr Joubert did a particularly good job refereeing France. It would have been nice if he'd also refereed New Zealand. Just saying.
  3. The Final#3: The IRB have fined France for advancing towards the Haka on Sunday, an act which added hugely to the drama and theatre of the occasion but which was in defiance of IRB regulations which stipulate that the opposition team should stay on or behind their own 10 metre line. It's about time someone told the IRB where to shove this particular piece of politically correct bureaucratic bollocks and I hope the French simply refuse to pay.
  4. England: that the Rugby World Cup was very nearly won by a team that England beat comfortably back in February should be a sobering thought.
  5. Game of the tournament: the Final. For sheer drama it really had everything.
  6. Try of the tournament:- Didn't see it live owing to the ungodly hour, but the dummying, side-stepping effort from Welsh prop Gethin Jenkins against Namibia takes some beating, even allowing for the opposition.
  7. Player of the tournament: Mike Tindall. Just kidding. No, my vote goes to newly crowned IRB player of the year, Thierry Dusautoir, who was immense throughout despite the chaos of the French campaign and who produced one of the greatest performances of all time on Sunday. McCaw, Kaino, Warburton and Harinordiquy were also contenders. And yes, I realise that all the aforementioned are backrowers. So sue me.
  8. Hair of the tournament: Without his marvellous barnet, Radike Samo is only 5 foot 7.
  9. Special mention: to France, for allowing the All Blacks to play in black in the Final, despite winning the toss to decide choice of kit.
  10. And finally, the Total Flanker Dunderhead of the Tournament Award - for all the reasons previously mentioned on this blog, the British Press. Disgraceful performance.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Phil Vickery: Masterchef

Putting the World Cup firmly to one side, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to congratulate former England skipper Phil Vickery on his victory in Celebrity Masterchef this weekend.

He may not have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup in 2007, but surely winning the coveted Masterchef trophy is compensation enough.

The Raging  Bull saw off the challenge of broadcaster Kirsty Wark and actor Nick Pickard in the competition's final.

The winning menu:
  • Scallops with black pudding, pea shoots, crispy Parma ham and apple puree
  • Fillet of lamb with baby carrots, asparagus wrapped in mint and Parma ham and fondant potatoes
  • Orange and chocolate bread and butter pudding served with clotted cream.
Bang goes the diet...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

RWC Final 2011 - Initial thoughts

Many congratulations to the All Blacks - much deserved winners over the course of the tournament but boy did you ride your luck today.

In a cracking match only heroic defence and some debatable decisions kept les Bleus at bay today. Against all expectations I thought the French were just excellent and were unlucky not to get a result - but I guess they used up all their luck in the semi-final.

And it would have been nice for Messrs Henry and McCaw to have acknowledged the French effort during the post-match TV love-in.

Just saying...

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Total Flanker Guide to: the Rugby World Cup Final 2011

How does one preview a foregone conclusion?

Because a foregone conclusion is surely what Sunday’s Rugby World Cup Final is. The impression I get from what I read and from what I hear is that the world expects New Zealand to stroll to victory on Sunday. And quite right too, based on what has gone before.

There is always the possibility that France might be able to dredge up a performance from somewhere. But from where? In the pool games they summoned up 10 minutes against Japan, maybe 15 minutes against each of New Zealand and Canada and nothing at all against Tonga. They then impressed for 20 minutes in the quarter final against England but followed that by more or less refusing to play any rugby against Wales in the semi final. So that’s a total of around 60 minutes half-decent rugby at this tournament which, even were they to reproduce this on Sunday, would still  be nowhere near enough.

There is also the possibility of an All Black choke, but I wouldn’t count on it. If the choke was going to happen anywhere it would have occurred against Australia last week when the tension dial was turned up to 11. I sense that reaching the final has considerably eased the pressure on the New Zealand team. Might this be counter-productive and lead to complacency? I suspect not.

From a neutral’s perspective I hope that France produce that elusive performance out of nowhere and make a real game of it. There have only been 2 finals in Rugby World Cup history where the result has not been close – 1987 and 1999 – and both times it was the French who finished as heavily beaten runners-up. Who knows whether or not this French team can reverse that trend? I hope so. If New Zealand are to be crowned champions, as we all expect, let’s hope at least that they are made to work for it.

Diolch a nos da

So Wales will go home having finished fourth at this World Cup, a prize they would probably have taken before the tournament began.

Apologies if this sounds as if I'm pissing on Welsh fireworks but, despite being praised to the rafters by the media and the hysteria generated by the quarter final victory over the Irish, the bare facts show that Wales ultimately came up short at this tournament.

That Wales have some talented young players is not in doubt but, having lost to South Africa, France and Australia, the jury is still out on the question of whether this so-called “Golden Generation” can deliver in tight games against the top teams.

Just saying…

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

'The Match'

No, not THAT match.

I've been contacted by photographer David Matches who has spent the last 5 years taking a series of life-sized portraits of amateur and international rugby players in New Zealand, resulting in an exhibition - ‘The Match’ - currently being shown in the NZ Portrait Gallery in Wellington, closing on 1st November.

The portraits, photographed between 2006 and 2011, are designed to capture the essence of rugby with players being photographed as they left the field of play before the effects of the match could evaporate, stood against a white paper backdrop taped to the clubhouse, with only a single photograph of each player being taken.

Great concept - I admit I'm a bit of a sucker for this kind of thing and am delighted to give David a bit of a plug. And if the photos are ever turned into a book...

For more info please visit or

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

To cheat or not to cheat...

Warren Gatland has admitted that he considered cheating on Saturday by faking an injury to one of his team's props to take a game to uncontested scrums but decided not to do so because it was "morally wrong" (well, duh).

And, in a somewhat bizarre application of logic, he also suggested that because he decided not to cheat, the referee should not have sent off Sam Warburton. Go figure.

I can only imagine the hellfire and damnation that would have descended upon Martin Johnson had he, rather than Warren Gatland, made the same admission...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Seeing Red

As the debate about Sam Warburton’s red card rages on I must admit that my initial reaction of astonishment and outrage has given way to a more considered view.

Given the IRB directive on the tip tackle, Alain Rolland really had no choice other than to send the Welsh skipper off. That other refs in the RWC have not applied the law correctly in the tournament is irrelevant. Regrettably he had to go.

However, despite playing for most of the match with a man down, a dysfunctional lineout and a scrummage in retreat (which probaby should have been penalised or more than one occasion), Wales still had more than enough possession and field position to win the game. Poor decision making in the absence of Rhys Priestland cost them dearly and the fact the rookie fly half was missed so badly doesn't reflect at all well on either of James Hook or Stephen Jones.

All that said, my initial view that this was an immense Welsh performance in the face of adversity remains undiminished. In particular Jamie Roberts, Toby Faletau, Leigh ½ p and McDonalds Phillips were all absolutely top drawer and the team can be rightly proud of its efforts. Crikey, even Luke Charteris is now beginning to look like a rugby player.

For those claiming that Wales are well set for RWC 2015, however, a note of caution. Yes, Wales currently have a good young squad with loads of promise but, as Francois Piennaar said on Saturday, the World Cup is all about the here and now. Wales were superbly prepared for this particular tournament. Arguably, therefore, 2011 was their one chance to land the biggest of prizes and, for whatever reason, they failed to take it. Who knows whether the same opportunity will present itself in four years time?

Sunday, 16 October 2011


A ruthlessly physical performance today full of skill, intensity, athleticism and brutality. And that was just St. Richie of McCaw. I have to admit I have never before witnessed a man strip the ball from the grasp of another while upside down mid-somersault. Truly extraordinary.

The rest of the All Blacks weren't half bad either.

On the basis of today's performance we may as well just hand over the Webb Ellis trophy to New Zealand right now and save everyone the bother of turning up next Sunday. France simply haven't a prayer.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Glorious Failure

Hats off to Wales - a hugely brave, immensley committed and utterly  disciplined performance from the men in red today in the face of adversity and a series of unfortunate events - the loss of Adam Jones, the ridiculous sending off of their captain (red, Monsiueur Rolland, are you serious?), a conversion hitting the post and a last gasp penalty missing by inches.

With 14 men for over 60 minutes the performance was nothing short of heroic - and Toby Faletau in particular came of age as an international player of serious quality.

Wales have achieved much in this tournament, not least keeping the likes of Mike Phillips and Andy Powell off the front pages of the newspapers. Ultimately, however, for whatever reason, the Welsh campiagn has ended in failure - glorious failure undoubtedly - but failure nevertheless.

How very, very British.

This blog is now officially French.

Sour Grapes

South African rugby fans appear to have taken their team's exit in the RWC quarter final last week very badly indeed, blaming referee Bryce Lawrence for costing them the game.

And, despite plenty of evidence that Lawrence is merely an incompetent fool as opposed to a biased cheat, the head the University of Cape Town's Sports Science Department, Tim Noakes, has now waded into the debate, effectively accusing Lawrence of match fixing.

"When science is manipulated to produce a predetermined outcome, it's called bent science," says Noakes, very scientifically.

"When the outcome of a sporting event is predetermined, we call it match fixing."

"There was something wrong with that game. It seems it was predetermined."

Sounds conclusive enough to me but, in an added twist, Noakes has called on the IRB to prove that South Africa's exit from the World Cup was not fixed and, by asking them to prove a negative, has ensured that his theory cannot be disproved.

Clever chaps, these scientists.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Fear factor

I must admit I’m looking forward to watching a bit of rugby this weekend without having to wake up in the morning feeling sick with anticipation and fear. Well done England.

So, far from feeling envious, I in fact pity the French, the Welsh, the Aussies and the Kiwis.

Especially the Kiwis, as New Zealand’s semi-final against Australia on Sunday has taken on a national significance way beyond the imagination of mere mortals.

The New Zealand nation has had, let’s face it, a disastrous year. After the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch and the mining disaster at Pike River, now comes an oil tanker aground in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island, spilling thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean and polluting kilometres of otherwise pristine coastline – and this in a country that justifiably takes massive pride in its natural beauty.

And so to the rugby – a chance for New Zealanders to put their annus horribilis year behind them – a  chance for the All Blacks to progress to the World Cup Final – a chance to compete for a prize that, despite consistently being ranked #1 in world rugby, the All Blacks have failed to land for 24 years – a chance that they must take without their poster-boy talisman – a chance that they must take with their captain playing on one leg – a chance that they must take against their old foe Australia, a team that has beaten them twice in the last 12 months – a chance that they simply must take.

Put simply the All Blacks have a chance to lift the hopes and spirits of a nation. Or to leave them damaged beyond repair.

Melodramatic as it sounds, defeat to Australia could be one disaster too far.

Quote of the day

Tom Shanklin on Twitter:

The last time I was this nervous about a semi I was watching Brokeback Mountain.


Welsh don't cry

According to a report in the Telegraph, the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard yesterday that a Welsh solicitor's law firm collapsed after he became so ill he could not bear to open his post.

Counsel for the defence said the solicitor could not bare his soul because of his ancestry, adding: "Welshmen do not cry in front of people - unless they lose at rugby."

With the Welsh nation (ably supported by the British press) talking up their team's chances to unprecedented levels (and that's saying something), let's just hope that the solicitor in question has no need of his handkerchief tomorrow morning.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Independence Day

The RFU's independent review of England’s failed World Cup campaign is to be led by none other than Fran Cotton.

That's the same Fran Cotton who called for the resignation of the then CEO John Steele back in May this year, who has declared himself to be a "massive fan" of Sir Clive Woodward and who has more or less already pre-judged the issue by publicly declaring Mike Tindall's behaviour in New Zealand as "unforgivable."

That's the same Fran Cotton presumably appointed by the discredited Management Board and self-appointed acting CEO Martyn Thomas, currently out in New Zealand with his RFU cronies on an all-expenses paid freebie.

Independent? My arse.

Meanwhile Martin Johnson has been given 2 weeks by Thomas to decide whether or not he wishes to be considered for re-appointment when his contract expires in December.

I wouldn't blame Johnson at all if he decided to walk away from this shambolic excuse for a governing body.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


There it goes again...

Another sharp intake of breath by the entire population of New Zealand as speculation grows about the extent of St Richie of McCaw's foot injury, speculation not dampened by the appearance of Crusaders flanker Matt Todd at training.

Not that Todd is actually training with the All Blacks of course, as IRB regulations state that players not in the official 30-man World Cup squads cannot train with the team. He's merely been there to help provide opposition and promises that he hasn't been listening to any of the calls, honest-to-god, cross his heart and hopes to die.

After all, the All Blacks wouldn't cheat. Only England do that.

Monday, 10 October 2011

A fascinating fact for you...

Since the inaugural World Cup in 1987 the defending champions have, apparently, always been beaten by the team that goes on to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

So, Australia for the World Cup?

I’ve had a sneaky, nagging feeling about the Aussies for some time now, a feeling that refuses to go away following their heroic effort against the Springboks on Saturday.

So, what happens next?

It appears that Martin Johnson’s future as England’s manager will be decided by the RFU Management Board based on the recommendation by Rob Andrew who, it appears, now has a new job as the RFU’s professional rugby director.

Firstly, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that Johnno will decide to put himself through the wringer again. I’m sure he’s no quitter, but after the events of the last 5-6 weeks I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he decided that enough was enough.

Secondly, the decision will made by the RFU Management Board, a body utterly discredited by the Blackett Report earlier this year and several of whom are under investigation relating to possible misconduct charges.

Farcical doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Twenty Four Hours Later

And so to the inquest... 

I’ve seen much written about England’s defeat to France yesterday, much of it very negative. The common sentiment is that England have had a dreadful World Cup, that the team is uninspired and one-dimensional and that this is mostly because it is made in the image of its head coach, Martin Johnson.

I'm afraid I don't buy that argument. England simply weren't as bad in this World Cup as everyone likes to make out - you only have to look at how Argentina troubled the All Blacks today to put England's performance against them in context, for instance. So England aren't as good as the All Blacks. Who knew?

No, the frustrating thing for me was not that England were poor but that they could and should have been so much better. The irony of ironies is that, for me, yesterday was actually England’s best performance of the Rugby World Cup. The ambition was there and in patches there was a good attacking shape and the odd flash of excellence. That these moments were few and far between and more often than not came to nothing owing to a lack of precision was England’s undoing. That and the fact that the personnel selected were incapable of delivering the gameplan.

With the gift of hindsight, the writing was on the wall back in the summer when Johnno restored Jonny to the starting line up at the expense of Toby Flood. Yes, the same Toby Flood who (the Ireland match aside) had deftly steered England to a 6 Nations Championship earlier this year. The thinking seemed to be that World Cups are different and are won by big packs and a metronomic goalkicker. Thus the progress made since the win in Sydney in June 2010 was jettisoned for a more prosaic  approach, an approach that falls down immediately if your forwards are outplayed and your kicker ceases to be metronomic, as proved to be the case.
And that’s the sad thing for me. After struggling to find his feet as a coach, Johnson appeared to be getting things mostly right through last autumn and the 6 Nations. There was an issue with the balance of the backrow and a conundrum in midfield, but neither was unsurmountable. The discovery of Manu Tuilagi really should have solved the midfield problem and, although England lacked a true international standard fetcher, the emergence and progress of Tom Wood during the 6 Nations should have signalled the way ahead.

The great shame is that Johnson appeared not to trust the evidence of his own eyes and turned back to what was familiar, leading to some very muddled thinking and some very questionable decisions. Restoring Wilkinson to the 10 shirt, selecting an unfit Lewis Moody ahead of Tom Wood, picking Matt Stevens out of position when Andrew Sheridan was injured rather than trusting in Alex Corbisiero, thinking that Mike Tindall could ever be an international 12, not calling up Riki Flutey when the opportunity arose, adding Thomas Waldrom to the squad after Nick Easter had recovered from injury, recalling Easter at the expense of James Haskell, preferring Steve Thompson to the previous first choice Dylan Hartley, relying on the prosaic talents of Louis Deacon ahead of far more dynamic locks in the squad - when you add that lot up it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out why England's challenge came up short.
The real disappointment is that England were, for the majority of the last 12 months, on the right road. For some reason known only to the management team, however, they appeared to lose faith in the direction they were heading and turned off that particular road. The performances of the team were no way near as bad as made out by sections of the media – but it is true to say that the team did not come anywhere near to achieving its potential, and that is the saddest indictment of England’s World Cup campaign.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Merde Deux

To France - bravo, félicitations, magnifique.

For England the inquest can wait.

This blog is now officially Welsh.

Friday, 7 October 2011


So, will the French be 'les singes capitulards et mangeurs de fromage', or will they get off the bus?

I'm seriously worried...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Oh dear, oh dear, what IS he doing?

Not to be outdone by alleged dirty deeds down under, are there no depths to which Danny Cipriani won't sink in order to grab the headlines?


Areas for concern regarding England team selected to play France on Saturday:

Toby Flood? Yes. At centre? No. 

Matt Stevens? Yes. At loose-head? No.

Tom Palmer? Yes. Alongside Deacon? No.

James Haskell. Yes. On the bench? (After 51 tackles in 4 matches) No.

I'm afraid that this does nothing to settle a horrible feeling currently fermenting in the dark recesses of my bowel that the French are going to pull something special out of their chapeaux at the weekend.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Lies, damed lies and statistics...

Anyway, back to the good old British press and their coverage of the World Cup.

England have, it is widely reported, played boring and stodgy rugby. Wales, on the other hand, are now world beaters, second only to the All Blacks in their all round brilliance.

Just to show that facts should never get in the way of a good story, England’s record in this tournament so far is played 4 won 4, scoring 18 tries and conceding 1. Ireland have played 4 won 4, scoring 15 tries and conceding 3, while Wales have played 4 and won 3, scoring 23 tries and conceding 4.

Ah yes, exclaim the naysayers, but England’s pool was so much easier. Really? Wales have played teams ranked by the IRB (as at today) at 2, 11, 16 and 19. Ireland have played teams ranked 3, 12, 17 and 21, while England’s opponents are ranked 7, 10, 14 and 18. Not a huge difference then, especially when you take into account that Wales actually LOST to the number 2 ranked team.

This is not meant as a pop at Wales. They played well against South Africa, fought their way past Samoa and thrashed the lower two ranked teams in their group, much like England fought their way past Argentina and Scotland and thrashed Georgia and Romania.

What I don’t really get, then, is why England are being vilified by the press while Wales (and, to a lesser extent, Ireland) are being lauded. I’ve even seen some guff written about how Welsh brilliance is all down to improved fitness and a new running technique which apparently involves looking straight ahead, pumping your arms and flexing your ankles (as opposed to looking at your feet, waving your arms about like a maniac and trying to run straight-legged, which is obviously where I’ve been going wrong all these years).

All that’s required of the national rugby press is objective reporting and rational criticism. From what we’ve seen so far this World Cup, even when they can be arsed to comment on the rugby rather than on extraneous tittle-tattle, this is obviously too much to ask.

Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu: Rugby’s Joey Barton

So, Samoa and Gloucester centre and scatter-gun Tweeter, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, has finally turned up before a World Cup disciplinary committee.

The suspended Samoan faces charges related to his outburst on Twitter after the Samoa v South Africa match in which he accused Welsh referee Nigel Owens of being a "biased, racist prick". This followed his earlier assertions on Twitter that the treatment of Samoa at the World Cup was comparable to the holocaust.

Although arguably the words used Fuimaono-Sapolu have been somewhat inappropriate, they do at least draw attention to the points he is trying to make. The scheduling of matches to the detriment of 2nd and 3rd tier nations is clearly an issue that needs addressing at the next World Cup and, while no one would accept for one minute that Nigel Owens might be racist, it was clearly lunacy for the IRB to put a Welsh referee in charge of a crucial game the result of which would directly affect the Welsh team’s prospects.

As Fuimaono-Sapolu so eloquently puts it:  

"Whether it's a perceived bias or an actual bias … You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work it out but you do have to be an idiot not to."

Fuimaono-Sapolu's one-man campaign to get the IRB "to stop treating the tier-two teams like crap” will resume on 15th October, the date to which the disciplinary hearing has been adjourned. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Quarters questions

So, now it begins. The “real” Rugby World Cup. Forget how well or how badly our respective teams have played to date. The fact is that for those teams who have arrived at the quarter finals, anything is now possible.

A few questions ahead of the weekend:

- Does this Welsh team have the bottle to dog it out in a tight game against the Irish? 

- It may be a well-worn cliché, but which French team will turn up to play England?

- Can the Aussie forwards win enough ball for their backs to have a go at South Africa?

- How will the All Blacks cope with a fired up Argentina and a nation in mourning?

Monday, 3 October 2011


There have been 20 teams at the World Cup. For the last few weeks there have therefore been 600 rugby players (plus those called up as replacements) representing their respective countries at this year’s jamboree in New Zealand.

Of those 600+ players, are we to take it that only English players have stepped out of line off the pitch?

For that is what the esteemed members of the British press corps would have us believe.

That is not to condone or excuse some of the alleged behaviour of certain players, only to treat it with a little perspective.

That the NZ press haven’t even felt the need to give the England team a hard time says everything about the voracious determination of our own press corps to make mountains out of molehills.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Don't Panic

There... Just there... Did you hear it? A sort of "Whooooosh" noise?

The unmistakable sound of a sharp intake of breath by every New Zealander at the news that Dan Carter's groin injury could put his entire World Cup in jeopardy?

No? Just listen.

Blessing in disguise?

Question: Although the severity of today's injury to Jonny Wilkinson will not be known until Sunday, could it turn out to be a blessing in disguise?

Having gone with Toby Flood as first choice at 10 for 12 months, the decision to restore King Jonny to the throne pre-World Cup was always an odd one for me.

Presumably the idea was that Jonny's boot would see us through but, as I've previously hinted, if he's not doing the business with his goal kicking then what's the point of him exactly?

Yes I know he tackles and hits rucks and works his socks off for the team, but it is evident that he's simply not in the same league as Flood when it comes to getting his backline firing. Ask yourself this - if Jonny had not been replaced by Flood today, would England have scored their try?

An injury to Jonny therefore lets Johnno off the hook in terms of making a difficult decision. Flood should start against the Basket Case XV next weekend.

That said, if Jonny is crocked there's precious little cover at 10. Next in line to be flown out to NZ is Charlie Hodgson - lord save us all.