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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Monday March 12 2007

Today I watched more rugby, and amazingly, England beat France.  Few were expecting that.  Certainly the French team didn’t seem to have anticipated much of a contest and played as if they reckoned that turning up would more than suffice.

England’s new boys excelled.  Strettle looks very good.  The BBC’s John Inverdale even compared him to David Duckham.  Remember David Duckham?  Probably not.  Well, David Duckham was the one England three-quarter able to play without embarrassment alongside that amazing, largely Welsh, British Lions midfield attack of the nineteen seventies.

The starting number ten, Flood, also did well, scoring the first England try.  Then he got hurt, and was replaced by someone completely new called Geraghty, who did wonderful things, two in particular.  First there was an astonishing pass out of a tackle, which created a sudden threat down the left when nothing seemed on at all.  Then, by running out of defence instead of continuing with one of those tedious ping-pong kicking matches that rugby seems regularly to degenerate into these days, he created and himself almost scored England’s second, match-settling try.  Suddenly, Wilkinson is fighting for his place, not just in the team, but in the squad.

The best news for England was the absence through injury of the former rugby league star Andy Farrell.  Sadly for Farrell, there appears to be no place for him in the England team.  Replacing him with a real inside centre, Mike Catt, creator of England’s first try, made all the difference to England’s midfield attack, which against Italy and Ireland had looked leaden and lumbering.  Today, they still made mistakes, but they also made tries.  Today, it was France’s backs who lumbered, regularly moving sideways instead of forwards, presenting amazingly little threat to England’s tigerish tacklers.  I have never seen French backs look so predictable.  I suppose that resulted from England winning up front, which they did.  Get bad ball, and there’s little you can do with it.  Move forward, suck in opposing defenders and then feed your backs, and suddenly they look brilliant.

Once again, the Six Nations continues to fascinate.  France narrowly beat Ireland with a last gasp try at Croke Park.  Ireland crushed England at the same venue a fortnight later.  Yet today England beat France.

Wales have lost every game so far, including to Italy yesterday, but I wouldn’t put it past them to beat England in Cardiff next Saturday.  If they do, that will be another of those improbable trios of incompatible results.  Come to think of it, another such trio would be: Wales, Scotland, England.

Just had a look at some of the numerous comments at this BBC blog posting about the game.  Amazing how people can disagree with one another so much.  Many thought Farrell must come back.  I think he must stay away at all costs.

And feast your eyes on some of the comments here, before the game.

7: “Make no mistake this team will get hammered by France.”

16: “We will get creamed.”

23: “France by 15-20 points.”

37: “If they don’t get hammered it will be a miracle.”

49: “ha ha if France feel like it they could win by 50 points”

55: “Unfortunately I can’t see England winning this one. In fact I can see them being on the wrong end of another record loss.”

74: “France are unrelenting, so incredibly powerful going forward. And most importantly, they make all the correct tactical decisions. Always taking the points when on offer. A superb set of players gloriously honed into an uncompromising team, who will surely dominate England in every area.”

75: “I think England will come third in this game! Even the referee has a better chance of causing an upset!”

92: “It doesn’t bode well for the men in white. Expect this game to be over with 20 mins to play.”

100: “This certainly is an England team held together by brown paper and sticky-back tape. I see them limping and hobbling along to a serious defeat and much embarrassment. Please would someone put them out of their misery. ... The French will be having their Roast Beef under done with loads of vegetables. ... Oh dear.”

At least everyone seemed to agree that Strettle is good.  And just as France probably lost because, deep down, they didn’t believe they’d have any problem winning, maybe England won because they were sincerely terrified of not just losing but being utterly humiliated.  Which is why I say Wales could win next weekend.

I love the Six Nations.  Especially now that, with anthropogenic-or-not-as-the-case-may-be Global Warming and everything, the weather for it is so nice.