“You know what hope is? Hope is bastard, hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease; hope comes near you, kick its backside, got no place in days like these…”
Ben Folds and Nick Hornby, Picture Window
So there we go. A punchline we saw coming a long way off, delivered for the mirth and enjoyment of others. There are people falling over themselves to tell you that they knew it was going to happen. England are out of their own World Cup. And if Wales didn’t act graciously towards their hosts last week, Australia have just urinated in the fruit punch. Pocock and Hooper: party poopers.
Why does this irk so much? How has the English rugby public been so duped? Last night’s twenty point loss at home was so emphatic, how did we not hear it coming? With Wales it seemed like some sort of crime had been committed. And yet, Australia were able to sweet talk their way past England’s front door with ease. Bernard was suddenly Ber-nard, and England were apart like a pair of wanton knees.
Hope is a bastard, sidling up and offering to buy us a beer. And even last night you can see why we said yes. There are combinations out there that work. They lift the spirits, raise the heart rate, provide Hope with that cheeky grin. Damn him and his tricks. Lancaster was just another man drawn in by what he thought he saw. Hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease.
If they were to prove anything, England needed it to break for them last night; Hooper to see yellow for his clear out on Brown; Brown himself to not experience a heinous opening twenty; Referee Poite to see things like Garces had; May’s injury to not sideline Joseph; Australia to lose their grip as England held on; maybe this isn’t luck, maybe this just looks like luck. Hope can do that to you. Bending the light; distracting you with the future so you fail in the present.
The future has looked good for England. Junior World Championship finalists in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Where has all that gone? That’s just the problem. It’s out there. Wandering around trying to work out where best to stand. Jettisoned into lesser roles. Soldiers behind officers who don’t know how best to use them. Latent talent, itching to play some ball; growing fallow with every passing over. Some will say the chance lies in 2019. There’s that bastard Hope again.
And poor old Lancaster. Stood under the posts at Twickenham last night, as England ran through their final warm up; alone in his thoughts but not in the nagging sensation that it wasn’t quite right. His arms folded across his chest, surveying the men. Staring, but not seeing. Looking around his front room, with that feeling you get when someone has been in your house. But Hope leaned in and whispered everything was going to be ok. Kick his backside, he’s got no place in times like these.
And this will be the end of him. Lancaster is a dead man walking. He will be cut adrift. A good man but not one for the here and now, with all his school masterly ways and talk of culture. It will happen, with a nod and a handshake. There is something ‘nearly but not quite’ about him. A lot made sense, but when it mattered, things didn’t really add up. You hope they’ll let him down gently. But we know what hope is.
Sam Roberts © 2015. (Text only). All Rights Reserved.
Quite right Sam. I’ve read in other places that the issue is our array of talent is substandard, but that is not the case. Your analogy of the generals is bang on.
It’s going to be an interesting scenario come the Uruguay game. The players will know it to be Bombers last. Many will know it will be their own last. So how do prepare for it?
Were I to be captain of that team, I would expel the management team from the changing room. I would talk to the boys about how furious I was to have failed. To have allowed it to have failed. I would throw all of the over coached strategy out to window and tell the boys to simple go out and play. Hard, fast, aggressive attacking rugby. But I would no allow one glimpse of celebration as points pile up against poor Uruguay. That has not been earned. It should be a while before they even think about being pleased with themselves.