What a time to exist. This last week has, amazingly, trumped much of what has come before. I mean, a man celebrated losing a general election by high-fiving a middle-aged woman’s tit. Politically, we are very drunk. Staggering left and right, eyes drooping, dance moves echoing around our body because we can still hear the music; deliriously chuntering to ourselves, oblivious to the amount of vomit on our suit. We should go home, but we won’t. The bus left hours ago. We are here and fucked. Shouting incomprehensibly at people holding hands. We have nothing but a dirty, heavy, nauseating hangover in our future. Better make this last.
And this piece has no political bias. Every way you looked was another politician grandstanding; talking on tiptoes, trying to be heard over the others; promising you better and hoping to god they didn’t ever have to deliver. Promises is what got us here and we continue to have people promising to sort us out. Satire drips from stories in the most serious of newspapers. Dear lord, we are at war with extremists and yet trying to form a government with a group of people who feel they can ‘cure’ homosexuals by praying for them.
I need to take you away from all this. And where better than Argentina? It is, if nothing else, a long way from here. And, after weeks of political gruel, Saturday night was serving up steak and Malbec, the likes of which we’d seldom tasted. Eddie Jones’ kids took on one of the most exciting teams in world rugby. It didn’t disappoint.
England lined up debutants and the inexperienced, alongside Hartley, Launchbury, Brown and Ford. 650 metres above sea level (and Welford Road), the latter would kick brilliantly and from rarefied distances. He would also rifle passes and find previously unaccounted space. If we were getting away from things, Ford was enjoying the distance between him and Blighty more than most. Hartley toiled and, on occasion, was made to look like the elder statesmen. Brown didn’t scythe at his best but there was more than enough rapier like steel in the backline to counter his seeming bluntness. And Launchbury, well, Joe played like a man thinking about New Zealand.
The game had just about everything. And owed so much to the hosts. If you’d just landed on planet rugby and were looking to pick an international side to support, you should pick the Pumas. They are not dissimilar to France of the 1980s. Their set pieces are solid, perhaps most notably their scrum, and they are more than happy with ball in hand. In the 50th and 52nd minute England were rocked by two outstanding and instinctive scores. The latter from Tuculet was perhaps the better, but only because it was from further out.
But if you expected the green and inexperienced England side to wilt, they didn’t. Players gaining their first cap looked like they’d had fifty, they fizzed and popped, seemingly inspired by the quality of the opposition in front of them. And despite enduring what could have been a match winning drop goal, England steadied themselves, trusted their processes and worked the ball wide into the arms of Denny Solomona.
And this was the moment. Here is where my two worlds collide. Solomona had come on and played his first ten minutes of international rugby like Diane Abbott in a memory contest. But when it mattered, when it came to him doing what he was supposed to do, what he’d promised to do with all that form amassed in the Aviva Premiership, he did it. There was no abdication of responsibility, no u-turn, no avoiding the question. He bumped his first defender and then cut an untouchable arc.
So, what do we have? A small mercy granted and it may sound flippant and trivial in the light of such seeming political unrest but the England Rugby team delivers. Eddie Jones has told us what he is going to do, how he will make things better, and is now doing it. The players themselves have fed off that confident pragmatism and can now produce the sort of rugby and results that anyone can get behind. England Rugby is something you can believe in.
I tweeted the following as a piece of silly satire. And yet, now, it seems almost sensible. Jones’ tenure is something worth replicating. If only we could find a politician clever enough to do so.
Sam Roberts © 2017. (Text only). All Rights Reserved