Friday, December 11, 2009

November ends with a sparkle but not for England or Scotland

While six countries showed that anything is still possible in rugby union, England just kept on looking for someone else to blame

I think that's the point: that the outcrop of entertainment involved six countries. France V Wales may have been soundly put in their place by the All Blacks and the Wallabies, but at least they showed every intention of being positive.

South Africa lost, but their assault on the Irish line at the end was the essence of the Croke Park drama. The game had come steeped in acid, as niggle between the two camps dominated the build-up, but in the end it stayed well within the bounds of acceptable, with Brian O'Driscoll's last-ditch tackle on Zane Kirchner the final stamp of approval.

As he had been against Australia, the extraordinary O'Driscoll was quiet against the Springboks, only to make a decisive contribution at the very end. It says much for his staying power and levels of concentration that he was able to strike twice at such a late stage.

I like to take people on and run from my own line and, if England do not agree with that style of rugby, I am not their man." England may not be playing well, but their two home matches in next year's Six Nations hospitalityare already sell-outs and all the hospitality for the first game, against Wales in February, have been taken. Australia and New Zealand are not so fortunate commercially and they will express their concerns about the stagnancy of the game on the field at this weekend's gathering of the International Rugby Board's general assembly in Dublin, followed by a meeting of the council.

Scotland V France was an altogether different exercise, a reminder that if defence is allowed to be the more dominant force rugby union comes second only to waterboarding as a torture of choice. November went out with a sparkle, but there was a sombre note of warning struck at Murrayfield.

England's captain, Steve Borthwick, their coach, John Wells, and their manager, Martin Johnson, may be riotous company in private, but before Andrew blames global currents for the chill over England, perhaps he should check the pulse of his own employees

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