I had lost interest in the Rugby Union World Cup Final long before the end, as South Africa ran out comfortable winners. I had managed to scrape myself out of bed just in time to hear the national anthems and not in time for ITV’s miserable apology of a panel of posh boy ‘experts’. If I had tuned in for the preview, I might never have watched it at all.
As an Englishman, I certainly wanted England to win, as I do with most sports when England are playing. Rugby Union is not really my sport and defeat is never the crushing blow it is when England lose at football. Victory, as in 2003, is never bound in euphoria, either. When we lose at football, my whole weekend, and probably the entire month following, can be ruined. At Rugby Union, it doesn’t even ruin my morning. At half time, I barely cared.
ITV’s pundits are the usual privately-educated posh boys you associate, not always fairly, with Union. Lawrence Dallaglio, Ben Kay, Jonny Wilkinson, David Flatman, along with generic host Mark Pougatch, all come from the same private school background and, to be blunt, sound like it. Worse than that, it was blindingly obvious that they were not exactly judging the game on its (few) merits. It was all about England. Who were that other team?
Sir Clive Woodward, the winning coach from 2003, didn’t even try to make a balanced contribution. All the time it was ‘we’ and ‘us’. For such an apparently legendary figure in the game, it was disappointing to hear his expert half-time analysis that went, “Game on – big time!” It never got any better than that.
And so the game went on as an endless arm-wrestle until England decided to “go for it” as one of the pundits astutely noted and they, or should I say “we”, finally fell apart altogether.
I don’t normally care enough to apportion blame but I’ll make an exception this time. It was Boris Johnson what lost it during his cynical vote-seeking TV appearance, wearing an ill-fitting England shirt. “I’ve never seen a team like it,” said Johnson. “Come on England, win the World Cup!” To which former England hooker Brian Moore retorted, “Please fuck off.” That was the best punditry I heard all week.
Bad luck England. You were undone by a far bigger team. There’s always the next world cup in four years time. And well done, South Africa, where the win will bring the usual false hope to the townships where poverty and inequality remains as bad as it was during the apartheid era.
They’ll be singing and dancing in the streets of Wales today. That chariot never swinged lower.