It is remarkable how well English sport matches the English character – an observation scrupulously demonstrated by the Rugby World Cup.

Being broadcast from New Zealand at unsightly hours of the morning means that this competition has not grasped the attention of the nation as well as it should have. Even die-hard fans struggle to find the enthusiasm for a 4:00am game.

…the outside observer would predict great things…

Those that have engaged have watched the English character in action. Having won the Six Nations earlier this year and with a squad that balances young talent with experience, the outside observer would predict great things from this squad of bruisers.

We in England, however, find such predictions rather distasteful. We would much prefer to be disappointed and to grumble and mock in widespread hopelessness. The team has certainly satisfied those desires with vigour, with the score lines posted back from New Zealand being adequate at best.

…England limped away with a 13-9 win.

The first game of the competition was against Argentina – a reliably unpredictable and spirited rugby nation – from which England limped away with a 13-9 win. Against Georgia – not a famed rugby outfit – the margin of victory was greater and England stamped their authority in a 41-10 win.

Although the England team sits at the top of Pool B, matches have been lacklustre, often scrappy and lacking the kind of excitement and spark that a rugby side at the top of their game displays.

…the nation’s discomfort with success…

It is almost as if the team recognised the nation’s discomfort with success and has responded by giving the rugby public a fantastic reason to be disheartened and pessimistic.

This brings us great joy.

…none have brandished the knack of a title-winning side.

The competition as a whole has been very much alike. The top teams have won their games over rugby minnows but none have brandished the knack of a title-winning side. Kicking has been generally poor, games have often lacked structure and individual flair has been non-existent.

As a result rugby fans around England are ecstatic in their misery as they sit and mutter over pints in pubs. The sullen words of Martin Johnson following the drunken antics of some of his team: “rugby player drinks beer – shocker” seem apt, not just for the nature of the team but also for the country behind it.

…there will always be a flickering spark of hope…

We too will cast aspersions about the team, the way they play and the coaching; but there will always be a flickering spark of hope that this side will blossom when it clashes with the cream of the crop. For that we will wait and see.

Image courtesy of International Rugby


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