Celts Confound the Merchants of Doom

Article excerpt


THE living do not take kindly to being pronounced dead. So the Five Nations Championship, traditionally the throbbing heartbeat of rugby in the northern hemisphere, reared from its slumbers to deliver two telling blows on the principally Anglo-Saxon prophets of Anglo-French supremacy.

It is too soon to say whether or not the events of Saturday amounted to knockout punches, just as it was premature in the extreme to conclude from record points margins a fortnight earlier that the fight had become so unfair as to be not worth contesting.

That will remain true even if England or Clive Woodward's P***pot United, whichever turn up at Murrayfield in two weeks, wallop Scotland and if France proceed to an expected Grand Slam by beating Wales at Wembley.

But Scotland, who in defeat revealed an attacking philosophy hitherto submerged, have a chance of upsetting England and Wales can surprise the French. The Five Nations has been like that for decades.

It has been producing nail-biters for even longer. The weekend added two more to the lengthy list, with the result in doubt in both London and Paris until the final whistle, as if somehow scripted by the beleaguered head of sport at BBC Television.

Who would have thought that Ireland would go to Paris and have the 33-1 on home favourites booting the ball desperately into touch to protect a slender two-point advantage? The answer is, surely, anyone with a passing knowledge of Five Nations history; anyone familiar with the infuriating, yet endearing, perversity of the Irish to be most dangerous at their least auspicious; and anyone well-versed on that uncoated spot on the French heel known as complacency.

Let us, therefore, hear no more about a two-tier game until a tornado tears away the tops of the stands at Twickenham and Stade de France, which was in essence what a succession of proud and slighted Celts from the so-called fringes lined up to declare. …