This weekend, more than any other, provided proof that should you ever feel you know what is going to happen in the sport of Rugby Union, you don’t.
We have become heady with this Eddie Jones England Squad. Perhaps rightfully so. Having conquered all before them for so long, it is easy to get carried away. Some regard it as arrogance. Indeed, the response over the weekend of some former professionals missed the point entirely and failed to recognise the real story of the weekend. But they aren’t really to blame; this England circus has been quite the show.
What happened at Twickenham was something of a distraction. Indeed, Sunday took a lot of shine away from Scotland and Ireland’s performances, England’s next two opponents. They will have been disappointed to see so many Six Nations column inches dedicated to Italy’s interpretations of the law, when they had played so well the day before.
Eddie Jones has a plan you see. He leads the media to where he wants to go and ‘Ruckgate’ is a long way from discussing how poorly England played in that first forty. He won’t mention that Owen Farrell looked out of sorts or that Dan Cole was being given a turning over. He certainly won’t want to talk about the effectiveness of Dylan Hartley or how George Ford, once again, couldn’t really get things going. This is his tune. He’ll segue from how the Azzuri didn’t play rugby to how Scotland need to watch their mouths. He leads, the media follow. He really is quite the conductor.
Perhaps the British and Irish Lions should try and take Jones to New Zealand just to do their press conferences. The Kiwis love Jones (!) and he would revel in that particular role. Talking of awkward press interviews, the architect of the Twickenham fandango is pretty good at them. Brendan Venter, the once Saracens DOR now Italy defence coach, once gave the funniest interview to Martin Gillingham, after losing in the European Cup. Maybe he and Jones are cut from a similar cloth.
But let’s put this media funfair to one side; we are still missing the biggest rugby story of the weekend. Because life is really gritty when you are down the bottom. In fact, when you are out of form and struggling to compete this sport of rugby is tough. When changes in management mean you have to relearn and go again, find ideas you haven’t thought of before, that’s when you find your heroes. Or re-find them. Players you thought had no more to offer. Amongst the laughter of foes and the talk of relegation, that’s when the proper performances come. This weekend, the team that many had written off, the side whom have lost awfully heavily of late, struck back and stuck two fingers up at the perceived way of thinking: Gavin Henson kicked three penalties and a delicious drop goal as Bristol beat Bath on Saturday; a win at Worcester this Sunday and they are off the bottom of the Aviva Premiership table! That is the rugby headline this weekend. And because of all this hullabaloo, we missed it. Shame on us.
And three cheers for Sireli Bobo.
Sam Roberts © 2017. (Text only). All Rights Reserved