The sporting public were spoilt for choice over the weekend and saw for themselves the full range of agony and ecstasy experienced by elite athletes all round the world. It is what they live for, and the result of months if not years of total dedication. Cricket, Rugby, Rugby League and Formula One all featured and supporters of English participants were subjected to a rollercoaster of emotions.
Top of the bill was the sensational Women’s Rugby World Cup Final. The match itself was a match up of opposite styles and full of drama and some controversy. As a losing finalist in a Rugby World Cup Final myself, I can feel the pain of the Red Roses. Their incredible courage playing with 14 for so long with such distinction deserved a medal in itself. However I will leave the field to the incredible Black Ferns, who embraced total rugby with such skill and panache. Wayne Smith their coach has worked a miracle and why is anyone surprised, he is the best attack coach in the world bar none. It is an avoidable tragedy that he could have coached England in the 2015 World Cup but not selected! Answers on a postcard or should I say to Ian Ritchie.
Women’s rugby will surely now explode upwards. All credit to the RFU for their investment and other Unions must surely commit their own rather than equivocating, as the imbalance in the game itself is embarrassing and unacceptable. Here is the touch paper and this change should start now.
The second highlight was the drama in Marseille as France resisted the Springboks – just. Alongside the Auckland World Cup thriller, this gladiatorial contest played at high pace shows our game as irresistibly attractive, when combined with ambition, fan support and a unique narrative. I also place these two and Ireland at least 20% ahead of the other nations and England in particular have even more ground to make up than I thought. To see élite players throwing every last ounce of energy and talent into their efforts, it does not get any better. As much controversy in this match as with the Women’s Final, arguably inevitable with the wafer thin margin between success and failure, and all in the pressure cooker of Marseille, a World Cup venue.
Murrayfield was brimful with misty-eyed support for Doddie Weir in the lead up to the All Blacks game and Scotland even played with his tartan on their back. Some things are more important, such as finding a cure for MND. However, on field the Scots should have put this game away and paid a bitter price as the men in Black secured a barely deserved win. I think they travel to Twickenham this coming weekend with well justified nervousness.
England have some momentum to take into the match and most likely some self belief because the All Blacks look vulnerable after this weekend. However we await Jones’ selection because he could quite possibly put the game beyond his eager players with what I can only describe as his quixotic decisions not to mention tactics. The record is so scratched on this topic that for now I will desist and await the challenge all Englishmen relish- the All Blacks at Twickenham. Perhaps time also to avenge the Red Roses.