Friday, 19 October 2007

The Total Flanker Guide to: the Rugby World Cup Final

So, here we are, less than 24 hours before the 2007 Rugby World Cup final and totally gobsmacked that England are there to contest it with South Africa.

Four weeks ago there was clearly some kind of rift which opened in the space-time continuum somewhere over France, casting the Rugby World Cup into some kind of parallel universe in which players, who could barely put a phase of play together without knocking on or conceding a penalty, are now lauded as "Gods" by the English tabloids.

In this spookily surreal environment I guess I could launch into an in depth analysis of the relative merits of each team contesting the Final, the strengths and weaknesses of each player, the tactics that each coach is likely to employ etc but what would be the point? Other than in the front row, logic dictates that the Boks hold all the aces (although do they know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em etc?). Logic, however, has been defied on more than one occasion during this tournament, so I'll pass on that one.

Equally I could mount a detailed and passionate defence against the ridiculous tirade of abuse heading England's way about their "style" of play, pointing out that they can only play as the opposition allows and that, at a World Cup, the only style that counts is a winning style (believe me, Jake White and the whole of South Africa would be delighted with a 3-0 victory). But, on the basis that such criticisms are either borne out of bitterness and envy or are the product of unbelievably unrealistic naivety, and given that events are now way beyond reasoning, I'll also rein myself in on that one.

No, my Rugby World Cup Final preview will, instead be short, sweet and pithy:
Based on the two semi-finals and tonight's 3rd/4th place play off, whoever dominates possession is doomed.
Not impressed by my earth-shattering insight? Try this for size - only in this weird never-never land can someone like Nelson Mandela record a video message of support for the South African team and then find himself up against county & western legend Kenny Rogers who once again has sent a video message to the England squad (see below).

Mandela vs Rogers? No contest you'd have thought, but Rogers' career, after years in the doldrums, appears to be going through some kind of improbable renaissance, much like a certain nation's rugby team who are contesting tomorrow's final.

Am I reading too much into it? Almost certainly. Is it any weirder than what's already happened at this World Cup? Hell no, and the fact that I heard a report on the radio earlier today stating that the UK's chart-topping girl band, the Sugarbabes, has given its support to the national rugby team, merely serves to underpin the feeling that maybe, just maybe, England's name is already on the Webb Ellis Trophy this year.

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