Predictability is a kind of death, is it not, in sport? If your opposition knows what you’re up to; if you ‘telegraph’ things. Practice and conditioning and the set plays or grooved moves of the training pitch are rendered meaningless if they are expressed poorly, robotically. Fans detest and are actually depressed I think, by what they feel to be insultingly obvious routines transferred moronically into the real-deal arena; we hope for some liberation from our sporting heroes rather than mere regurgitation.
Following a clump of disappointments for the English I propose to heroically subvert the prevalence, the dominance of dull order and drudgery by throwing a few wild passes into the mix. Not for me (on this occasion) the considered appreciation hitherto expected of the mature journalist. I’m bullet-pointing you towards my gut. And – even though Capello’s arrogant, undisciplined, unprofessional rabble have again infuriated us – let’s start with the rugby.
- England went out of the Rugby World Cup at the Quarter-Final stage, in humiliating fashion.
- Clearly we can blame both the players and the management team; they both failed. Failed to contribute enough.
- Martin Johnson must surely be sacked. For an age ‘his side’ have been dull, crude, uninspiring, rudderless. It’s his job to facilitate the expression of their talents.
- Instead he has aimed cynically low – at a kind of “winning rugby” that has won neither admirers nor a particularly high percentage of big games.
- Against France his players were almost uniformly shockingly poor. They appeared strained rather than energised, wooden rather than dynamic. Being that uncomfortable is a clear failure of preparation, of culture. Johnson takes the blame for that.
- The central place that Mike Tindall has played in Johnson’s squad is a depressing symbol of their failings. Tindall is surely the most perfectly one-dimensional centre in international rugby. He is allegedly a solid defender but he rarely carries the ball with pace, grace or menace. He rarely passes the ball sharply or with imagination. Contrast his alleged presence and influence with that of Tuilagi, who moves powerfully, sinuously, alarmingly, beautifully even. How obvious does a profound dearth of talent need to be before it is pulled?
- England have real rugby footballers in different areas. Foden, Ashton, Tuilagi most significantly and perhaps Lawes from amongst the pack – most of whom are legitimate international players but not more than that. Their failure has been largely a thing born of ugliness beyond pragmatism; unambition masquerading as tactical minimalism. This is a central cause for the contempt with which they have understandably been held in the hearts of rugbyfolk worldover. They have largely chosen to deny the beauty and lifeblood of the game by opting for monotones. It is therefore appropriate that the manner of their defeat by an awakening but hardly inspired French side was chastening to the point of embarrassment. People feel that it is just.
- Aside from this thin tactical meanness now exposed, surely Johnson’s inability to truly motivate his players was also reflected through a lack of leadership on the pitch. Lewis Moody was crippled but was more of a loose cannon by nature. Tindall… ’nuff said. There was a core of very senior players who despite their undoubted honesty lacked belief. If that was because they understood the shallowness of their plans, I look forward to hearing their liberating dissent.
Next up… we sling mud at the footballers. Or… we revel in the brilliance of the Welsh.