Something very odd happened to me today. I watched Wales play a rugby union match and I didn’t want them to lose. I am not sure this has ever happened before but it felt a bit like when I finally got round to liking Andy Murray, despite him being Scottish. The Wales bit contrasted dramatically with how I felt about them last Saturday when they beat England in the world cup.
I spent much of last Saturday feeling somewhat tense. Rugby union is not normally my first choice of sport – it’s not even my first choice of rugby – but it was England and it was A Big Game. By the time England had lost, I was feeling almost serene about it. No one had died, although some received bad injuries, and the sun would still rise the following day. And how could I not admire the wonderful talent of so many brilliant Welsh rugby players, led by the classy, in every sense, captain Sam Warburton. And something else: I have a lot of Welsh friends who turned out to be really good friends after their deserved win by not rubbing our noses into it (too much). Even if they had rubbed our noses in the brown stuff, weren’t they entitled to?
When the game was over, my feelings, apart from disappointment, as to the usual desolation I feel when England lose, moved to this Saturday’s game against Australia, a game which could see the hosts exit a world cup which would make them the first host nation not to escape their “pool”, ever. As the week has gone on, I have felt strongly, to the point of being convinced, that England will lose this Saturday night.
I have not had a premonition – these don’t exist – but the experts tell me that Australia are even better than Wales and if Wales could beat England, then the Aussies will win by even more.
Can you not imagine the scenario where Australia beat England by at least 10 points, crash out of the tournament and then, the following week, post 100 points against the amateurs of Uruguay in a game that matters not one jot? I can because I think it’s going to happen.
England just look so dull and unadventurous. I know that, unless you are a connoisseur of the 15 man code, that much of the game involves endless collisions, set pieces and endless collisions. England did have two wingers on show and indeed one of them scored a try, but for the rest of the game they were just bystanders. It looked like a percentage game that bit them on the bum when the pressure was on.
The optimism has been building this week, aided and abetted by the criticism from ex England players who themselves never made a mistake in their lives, but will it be enough? I expect we’ll have the usual electric atmosphere at Twickers, it will be a 30 man arm wrestle, with both sides exchanging penalties and then Australia will go on to win.
Let’s hope I’m wrong. I’d love to see England become world champions again but I just can’t see it. Wales might, though. Imagine that?