As a supporter of England at pretty much anything (tobogganing, tiddlywinks, and that’s just the t’s), there’s one thing I’m used to: the classic pose of dejection. Down on his haunches, the defeated Englishman removes his gumshield, wipes the mixture of mud and sweat from his brow, shakes his head forlornly, and trudges off for the obligatory post-match interview.
But it wasn’t all bad, was it? A couple of things in particular stand out as highlights of what was a superb tournament:
Tonga beating France
Tonga’s 19-14 victory over France has roundly been described as ‘the biggest upset in World-Cup history’. What was so entertaining about their win was how much they seemed to be enjoying themselves. When I played rugby at school my main objective was to avoid touching the ball at all costs. If you touched the ball, you see, it was deemed perfectly acceptable for one of the 8-foot-tall, 37-stone giants on the other team to push you face first into the muddy ground, to be met by the roared acclaim of our tyrannical games teacher. By contrast, the Tongans launched themselves at their opponents as if they’d been told the French secretly carry money and cake about their person at all times.
Unlike football followers, rugby fans seem to show their support their enthusiasm not in drinking their own bodyweight in lager and physically assaulting each other, but by launching into spirit-stirring songs and, if the mood takes them, wearing buckets on their heads as a show of solidarity.
Any words on England and the World Cup could not really be complete without mentioning Jonny Wilkinson. It would have been too good to be true, in what may be his last ever game for England, for him to have kicked us to victory, but he remains an absolute stalwart of professionalism, a genuine hero. The term ‘role-model’ is bandied about far too easily when it comes to sports stars, but Jonny is someone every youngster can look up to. Lest we forget, he’s also responsible for the greatest ever moment in World Cup history. This single swing of his right boot made my dad jump up and down on the spot, bellowing like an orch trapped in a tumble drier. And for that I will always be grateful. Prepare to get goosebumps…
Posted by Richard Roper, Non-fiction