Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Die Is Cast

Four years ago, the England rugby team - known affectionately as "Dad's Army" due to the relatively old average age of the squad, packed their bags and left this fair isle to ply their trade in the Rugby World Cup in Australia. With almost the final kick of the game, in the final against Australia, Johnny Wilkinson broke the deadlock and gave England victory.

That moment is still crystal clear to me today - England had won the World Cup.

The final squad for next month's World Cup in France has now been named and it contains 13 of that victorious squad (highlighted below) - including the 35 year-old Lawrence Dallaglio at No. 8.

Backs (14):
M Cueto (Sale - Age 27, 19 caps); J Lewsey (Wasps - 30, 48 caps), J Robinson (unattached - 33, 45 caps), P Sackey (Wasps - 27, 3 caps); D Hipkiss (Leicester - 25, 1 cap), J Noon (Newcastle - 28, 25 caps), M Tait (Newcastle - 21, 12 caps); M Catt (London Irish - 35, 70 caps), A Farrell (Saracens - 32, 4 caps ); O Barkley (Bath - 26, 17 caps), J Wilkinson (Newcastle - 28, 59 caps); A Gomarsall (Harlequins - 33, 26 caps ), S Perry (Bristol - 29, 11 caps), P Richards (London Irish - 29, 6 caps).

Forwards (16):
G Chuter (Leicester - 31, 12 caps), L Mears (Bath - 28, 16 caps), M Regan (Bristol - 35, 37 caps); P Freshwater (Perpignan - 34, 7 caps), A Sheridan (Sale Sharks - 28, 13 caps), M Stevens (Bath - 24, 13 caps), P Vickery (Wasps - 31, 54 caps); S Borthwick (Bath - 27, 28 caps), M Corry (Leicester - 33, 56 caps), B Kay (Leicester - 31, 46 caps), S Shaw (Wasps - 33, 36 caps); L Dallaglio (Wasps - 35, 79 caps), N Easter (Harlequins - 28, 5 caps), L Moody (Leicester - 29, 45 caps), T Rees (Wasps - 22, 5 caps), J Worsley (Wasps - 30, 59 caps).
Since that famous win back in 2003, England have not suffered the best of fortunes on the international front, and my confidence in an England win is based more on hope than conviction. However, when one takes a cool look at the squad, there is quality and experience everywhere. The forwards are really impressive, big, beefy men who give no quarter when the chips are down, and on their day, there is no pack in the world that could live with them. And if the pack is on song, then they will give time and space for the talented backs to conjure up their magic.

I suppose, my one concern is that the reactions from some of the older players may not be as sharp as they should be, and on the counter attack or in defence, may leave a few holes to be exploited by the opposition.

Ah well! This is the team that is going to cause me such joy and grief (probably at the same time!) and I wish them all the best. Whatever the result, I know they will have given their all, and if England pull this off, then I'll probably stay drunk for a month!


sandegaye said...

Uh-oh. Stay off that bike while the celebrating happens.. ;o)

Eddie said...

Hi Mark,
Thanks for not doing a "Jeremy Guscott" and complaining that the inclusion of a nasty ex-League player, i.e. Andy Farrell will cause the England team to fail miserably. As you know I prefer League, but I do wish the England team good luck.
Unfortunately, rather like you, this is more in hope than expectation.
My choice is the All Blacks to win it.

Mark said...

I'll support any player that 'sees the light' and comes across to the glorious game, and as for who wins - anyone but the Aussies!