From the stands

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By Timmy Hancox

Johnny ‘bloody’ Wilkinson strikes again. The pitiful poms have somehow clawed their way into another World Cup final with a team that, on paper, should have made Australia and France thank their lucky stars for an easy way to the next stage. But all credit to them for playing their dull ten man game and not allowing them more exciting teams to use their backlines to any great effect. But who is complaining? Jake White should send Brian Ashton a big thank you card with some smiley faces and, perhaps, balloons too as the Boks, ranked third in the world, have the chance to win a World Cup without facing New Zealand, France or Australia, who make up the rest of the top four. Instead, a rematch of the 36-0 slaughter is all that stands in the way of a new chapter in the history books to accompany ’95. Many pundits will explain that this is a very different English side to the one we faced more than a month ago, which is quite simply a load of poppycock. It is the same team full of ponderous forwards and equipped with Mike Catt and his Zimmer frame in the midfield. Other sides should have taken a page out of the Springbok book and not allowed England to grind out a defensive game against them until there is an error and Johnny ‘I might stick my bum out, but never miss’ Wilkinson punishes you with three more points. A faster paced game makes for tired and slow English forwards and then Burger and co. can run riot. This will open up the game for the gas man, Mr Habana, to show his set of wheels.The waiting is almost over now and this coming Saturday will dictate the mood of the nation over the weekend. We all remember what it felt like to be world champions twelve years ago, and bragging right for the next four years is a bonus. That way if the Kiwis do recover quickly and dominate world rugby we can simply point out the trophy cabinet, and with a quiet grin. As much as England should be overcome, their entire performance can be determined by how Johnny ‘do I have to do everything’ Wilkinson plays. If he is under pressure, they will crumble all around him.The French will back our boys for their historic hatred of the English, and Paris will be green and gold for a day. In fact, it is generally a case for all countries to say I’m supporting whoever is playing England. This is largely because they are not the most popular country, but that is only in the world. Let the English cross the pond and watch their little colonial cousins show them a thing or two about the great game. For we may have crime, corrupt politicians and a very weak currency, but we damn well know something about rugby.  Cheers to that. Olé!

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