HELL FREEZES OVER
We heard the thudding sound back in England. Jonny Wilkinson was doing his best impression of Dobby, the house elf in Harry Potter, who routinely beats himself up.
‘Bad Jonny’ chanted the England first-five as he repeatedly bashed his head against his hotel room wall. Meanwhile the new from Hades was that, as well as Wilkinson missing five penalties, hell had indeed frozen over.
There were thudding noises across the living rooms and bars of England too – the sound of jaws hitting the floor. Even when England plays like scalded, neutered cats against fired-up Pumas, there is always the comfort of ‘our Jonny’ slotting his kicks. Not any more. Goodness to win the World Cup England may have to be creative. That wasn’t part of the plan.
Even the relief of replacement scrum-half Ben Youngs skating over for the game-changing try against Argentina had England supporters screaming “ground it!” as he insisted on getting under the posts and almost ran out of dead-ball area. Fair play to the Leicester man; he thought surely even Wilkinson won’t miss if I get it beneath the sticks.
It’s not much fun shouting at the television 12000 miles from the rugby planet’s biggest party. Envious? You bet. Should I leave a note for the wife and slip off to the airport? She’s half Kiwi; she’ll understand.
The England team may not have scared anybody on opening week, but Brian Moore did, which given he makes Dobby look like David Beckham is not surprising. The former England rake, looking for his Dunedin digs, knocked on the wrong door and terrified an Otago granny. At least he did not say: “Hello, I’m an old English hooker working here for six weeks.”
Apparently New Zealand brothel keepers are expecting the best trade to come from England fans, presumably dressed in England’s change strip just in case the other half spots them on Google Earth. Playing in all black, whatever the motives, was crass in the extreme and with the numbers peeling off the jerseys within five minutes England was as sartorially shabby as its rugby.
How we laugh when we remind any New Zealander we know that it has been 24 long years; that should they choke again, but this time in their own backyard, Dan Carter will be lucky to get a job mustering sheep, yet alone a backline.
We cannot decide whether to mock the Haka as a faux-warrior dance, or respect it for its noble traditions. Well I’ve made a decision to follow the All Blacks as my second team – and not just as a nod to a Tauranga father-in-law foolish enough to move to Australia.
A lot of guff is spoken about a sport defining a culture, but in the case of New Zealand it is achingly true. I cheer for England, but should Richie McCaw lift the World Cup next month it will be one of the greatest moments in all sport. I just wish I was there.