Can I make a tiny confession? It’s just between the two of us so don’t tell anyone else, but I have found myself enjoying the rugby union world cup. And not just a bit, but quite a lot. I have always enjoyed the Six Nations and occasionally the odd club game too. My rugby of preference, by light years (and a lot of them), is league. The current union world cup has been a lot of fun, at times.
I am finding it far more enjoyable now that England have been eliminated. I watched our boys scrape home against Fiji, self-destruct against (a superior) Wales and get slaughtered by the Australians. Happily, I avoided our shock win against mighty Uruguay because I was at Old Trafford watching my beloved Wigan lose to Leeds. That hurt far more than England’s limp exit from our own tournament.
Some of the group matches – most of them, if the truth be known – excited me less than an evening with Victoria Wood (and I can think of nothing more boring than an evening with Victoria Wood), some were very good, especially if you happen to be Welsh or Australian. The quarter final knockout stages have been, with the exception of France’s pathetic capitulation at the hands of the masterful All Blacks, outstanding.
The tags brave losers go to Wales, unlucky to lose virtually their entire back line and then to South Africa, and Scotland, twice robbed by referee Joubert, were even more unlucky. I even felt sorry for the Scots when the winning penalty went over because, yet again, a great game was decided by the referee’s guesswork. Maitland’s yellow card was a nonsense, the final penalty a travesty. Ireland were absolutely dicked by a rapidly improving Argentina. But the Scotland v Aussie game, it was thrilling stuff, not even marred by John Inverdale’s smarmy, smart ass presentation. Radio Five Live’s commentary – I had that on as well – was dominated by the monotones of one-eyed Gavin Hastings who demanded the referee be sent home immediately. Nothing like a good loser there, then, and certainly no chance of impartiality.
In the absence of England – two weeks now – I have finally found a team to support. For no reason other than the fact I really enjoyed their demolition of Ireland, I’m plumping for Argentina. This does not mean that I am also demanding that the Falkland Islands be handed back to them forthwith. It’s just a sporting matter where I can want someone to win rather than wanting two teams to lose, as I did when Wales played Australia.
I firmly expect New Zealand to win the world cup because they seem to be so much better than anyone else. For the others remains the fleeting hope that actually France were even worse than they looked and the All Blacks will take it too easy. Some hope!