Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Open Letter to Our All-Conquering Captain

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Open Letter to Our All-Conquering Captain

Article excerpt


Dear Martin,

CAN I add my congratulations to the thousands of similar letters that you will receive for your historic victory in Australia.

I hope that you can read this with a clear head and that you have not had the temerity to try and drink with Jason Leonard for the duration of the well-earned celebrations.

I know loud displays of emotion are not your style, but be assured the rest of us sat here watching our televisions will have more than compensated during an enthralling game.

On the Saturday morning of the final, I imagine the feelings will have been a little jumbled. The knowledge and belief that you were the best team in the world tempered by the fear that fate might conspire to rob you of your true right. Trying to keep it level-headed for a whole day, when all you wanted to do was get out on the field and hit something.

Being a perfectionist, I know the fact that we didn't kill the game in the first half will have irked you a bit. The first-half performance could have buried the Aussies who, after mouthing off so long about you, had to use the boot to score their try. The dominance of possession enabled Jason Robinson to slide over for a try which should have seen the end of the game.

I know that even as a captain you can only have so much influence on the game and you must have been frustrated as the lineout losses in the second half kept giving the Aussies ball and hope.

You also could do nothing about the referee who tried his best to even the game up with a series of mystifying penalties against us at the scrum. You must have been tempted to more forcefully point out that even though yours was the dominant scrum he was giving a succession of penalties to the Aussie con merchants. All the worse because two of those penalties were at crucial points in the game.

Still, we don't complain like that in rugby and your self-control was admirable.

I don't know what you said to the boys at fulltime, but it would have been easy for heads to have gone down. …

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