GHOSTS OF BATTLES PAST
The trouble is you cannot imagine Martin Johnson firing up his English team for the Auckland game by citing an unfair tax system, while Andy Robinson, his Scotland counterpart, would rather chew off his arm, which to be fair he frequently tries to do in the coach’s box, than wear a kilt, as the former England boss is as West Country English as dry cider.
However you can bet the Scots have been digging up all the old slights, perceived or otherwise, through history. The spirit of Robert the Bruce and the Battle of Bannockburn will be summoned and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s face will have been painted on Scottish tackle bags this week.
It’s a load of old sheep guts really. The idea that our Celtic cousins have the advantage of passion and patriotism because they blindsided King Edward’s English army in a Stirlingshire village 700 years ago is a little fanciful.
Never let reality get in the way of a good cliche, but rest assured, 12000 miles from the action, I shall be shouting “Remember Flodden” in my Sussex local on England’s south coast, confusing mates with no knowledge of military history. Don’t you mean Foden?
Ah Ben Foden. A downside of following the World Cup from afar is you have to read the ghost written thoughts of players. Over the years I have been Francois Pienaar, Joel Stransky, Ieuan Evans, Serge Blanco, Mike Catt, Matt Stevens and Steve Thompson.
I even once got the word ‘existential’ in the England hooker’s column, which rather gave the ghosting game away, while Blanco, so upset after Australia’s win over France in the 1999 World Cup final, turned his phone off and the only word in my notebook was merde. That particular column was poetic license and an existentialist poet at that.
Foden, in two successive weekly columns for The Sunday Telegraph, has joyfully told us his girlfriend Una Healy, a pop star with a girl band called The Saturdays, is pregnant.
So we now know what the England full-back gets up to on a Saturday, although Foden, rather worryingly, told us “the pregnancy was a little bit unexpected.” Too much rugby and not enough listening in biology class Ben.
Many congratulations to the couple and Foden gave that familiar cradle-rocking gesture when he touched down against Romania, but it’s rugby insight I want, not extracts from Mother & Baby magazine.
The biggest England mystery, until officially announced as part of the squad, has been the whereabouts of Thomas Waldrom. Was the tank engine on the South Island, the North Island or the Island of Sodor? If England wears its change strip again at least Waldrom gets to be an all black.