SIMON CARR COLUMN: England Show National Characteristics Are Not Black and White
Carr, Simon, The Independent (London, England)
TEARS, HOT tears, my eyes were brimming with tears on Saturday, as England went flying through the New Zealand defence. Out of a jumble of black shirts a streaking white one, English flyers jinking and jumping, twisting out of a tackle, suddenly finding a slant line across the field, outpacing their pursuers. Like a surfer emerging from the curl of a wave, this runner or that would burst out of an impossible situation and go for the great, green spaces. And occasionally they would succeed in doing the thing that can't be done against the All Blacks: score running tries.
But so they did. They ran, they passed, they caught the ball. Then they did something I'd never really seen before. They didn't drop it. Not once did they fall over a loose shoelace. Nobody lit up a cigarette in the scrum. And they held out in the last 20 minutes. They won the match! How times change.
Experts have been saying England have improved in rugby over the past 10 years; I'd never dared watch to find out.
The experience of watching England play rugby formed a whole world of national pessimism in my young mind. In the 1960s you watched England do well and you didn't dare hope. Those who hoped were disappointed. We weren't to win, we were to lose well. That's what we were good at.
What's changed in England to allow us to play like this? These things don't happen of themselves. A country's rugby style is deeply expressive of its character. Look at the French. Proud, unpredictable, petulant. The South Africans, fast, foul. The Irish. Owooo! This national character expressed on the rugby field has certainly been true of New Zealand. …