Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Jonny Who? One England Victory Doesn't Make a Rugby Summer, Writes Adrianne Blue

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Jonny Who? One England Victory Doesn't Make a Rugby Summer, Writes Adrianne Blue

Article excerpt

Will anybody out there disagree with me when I say that England's rugby World Cup victory four years ago was a fluke, and that our chances of retaining the trophy in September are minimal? I wouldn't dare say such a thing if I were not thousands of miles away from England, and I hope I will have to eat my hat.

But it would be naive to let the 62-5 thrashing of Wales's second string at Twickenham on Saturday create delusions of grandeur. Let us not forget that England have lost 12 of their previous 16 Tests. A win against a Welsh first string might have been instructive. It might have been held up as a preview of how an imaginative England might counter any of the southern hemisphere teams that now dominate the sport, particularly the team of teams, the All Blacks, who run even better than they arm-wrestle.

Part of what made England great four years ago was the stupendous Jonny Wilkinson at his peak. Despite the 17 points he kicked against the Welsh, Wilkinson is past his best. The England head coach, Brian Ashton, who must cut ten players by 14 August to make his final World Cup 30, would kill for someone of the stature of the legendary Martin Johnson, who captained four years ago and has, alas, retired.

Here in South Africa--where I am surrounded by rugby fanatics in a sleepy little village in the Karoo--no one thinks that England have a hope of withstanding their team's sheer brute force. You may be thinking I have fallen into bad company, into a den of Springbok fans. But these South Africans know their rugby inside out. I watched a match at the local bar with, among others, the country's greatest prima ballerina. She could have been a referee.

Rugby is a religion, if not the religion in South Africa. …

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