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Bryn Palmer

England enjoy dice with death (89)

Versailles - England may still, in the words of Brian Ashton, be “looking down the barrel of a gun” as they prepare to face World Cup shock troops Tonga this week.

But if the world champions remain in do-or-die mode after their victory over Samoa, at least they now give the impression of enjoying their dice with death.

Ashton certainly seemed in jovial mood as he announced his team on Tuesday for Friday’s crunch clash with their latest Pacific Island opposition.

“The England team,” he began, “to play Tonga on Friday is…Jesus it’s cold…” before breaking off and nodding his head towards the open door of the Moliere Room at the team’s Versailles hotel that he had just walked through.

Before it could be shut and Ashton could resume, one wag amongst the assembled press corps piped up: “You must be in trouble if you’ve Jesus at full-back.”

“Got half a chance of winning then,” Ashton quipped, quick as a flash, to widespread laughter before getting onto business.

And he did have something significant to announce. He’d just decided not to pick the player he’d appointed as his World Cup captain even though he was available.

Hello, we thought, this could be interesting.

There may have been very valid reasons for retaining the in-form Matt Stevens at tight-head prop, but it still appeared a big call to leave Phil Vickery, available again after his two-match suspension, on the bench.

Was Vickery, Ashton was asked, paying an extra price for his indiscipline in getting banned in the first place? “I’d like to think I am a bit more humanitarian than that,” he replied.

Did Matt Stevens give the team something perhaps that Vickery did not? “I am not sure he gives us a lot that Phil doesn’t,” Ashton continued, before going on to praise Stevens’ scrummaging and “impact around the field”.

“I suspect Phil is not the happiest man in this World Cup, but you take your punishment and have to live through it. He is fit and raring to go and I am sure he will have a role to play on Friday.”

So there. It was not a captaincy issue, Ashton insisted. He had not suddenly decided Martin Corry, who he relieved of the captaincy on his appointment, might be a better bet to lead the side.

It was merely that Vickery has not played since the USA game on 8 September, which given the course of England’s campaign to date, seems a lifetime ago.

Ashton acknowledged as much himself, when the subject of how much he was enjoying the different atmosphere after the win over Samoa, rather than the air of gloom that descended on the squad after their Springboks’ humbling.

“How long have we been here?” he asked. “It seems like two-and-a-half years!”

“There have certainly been lighter moments but some pretty dark moments as well. I wouldn’t say I am in any better humour today than I was this time last week, but I am looking forward to Friday evening.”

Indeed, after the potential peril of the Samoan fixture, the England squad give every impression that they quite fancy the similarly hazardous mission awaiting them this Friday.

While reports have floated of disagreements at management level, and clear-the-air meetings followed the South Africa game, the spirit and unity in the squad appears good, a determination to right the wrongs of that experience still strong.

And owing to injuries and England’s poor form in their opening two matches, it is a squad in which every member of the original 30 (Toby Flood being the exception) will have had some game-time by the end of Friday’s match, providing hooker Lee Mears makes an entrance off the bench.

Whether that is a good thing is open to question, but at least collective responsibility cannot be avoided.

If Tonga do pull the trigger on England’s reign as world champions, no-one will be able to say they didn’t have a chance to dodge the bullets.


Bryn Palmer is the BBC Sport website’s rugby union editor.


Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 10:37 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Tez wrote:

Bit more upbeat than some of your celtic offerings.
I hope England win

  • 2.
  • At 10:42 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Iwan wrote:

Lets face it: Samoa were overhyped, and the English misery was also overhyped. SA, when they play well, can beat anyone, and they will always beat you up front! This of course meant that the normal english 10-man gameplan couldnt work, so they had nothing. Coupled with the fact that 1st and 2nd choice fly-halves were out ie no proper playmaker/controller on the england side, as well as tactical kicker, this was always going to be a recipe for disaster. I dont think therefore that you can read too much into the SA match, beacuse we knew that SA had a full squad, were already better than england so were expected to win comfortably, that england had serious problems with injury in quite a crucial position, and that the SA defense and forward power was always going to be stronger than anything that this england team could throw at them. Admittedly the club form of some of the players has not been replicated, but England are not nearly as bad as the press might have you believe. They should beat Tonga, although it may be close.
Samoa however haven't actually shown anything remotely like a 1/4 final side this RWC-big hits are good for fans, but do not win games alone. Tonga seemed to have more of a complete against SA, so England should beware.
Basically what I am saying here is that the idiots who claimed that england couldnt beat samoa run with their tails between their legs, because they are clearly the worst sort of armchair pundits. Please please please stop doing england down - they may not play the prettiest rugby, but you weren't complaining when they won it 4 years ago with even more boring tactics and a very irritating group of players to watch. This group of england players are actually quite a good team with experience and youth combined. The cohesion is not there of course because the squad is very new, and this world cup was always going to be too early for them.

  • 3.
  • At 10:45 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Iwan wrote:

Lets face it: Samoa were overhyped, and the English misery was also overhyped. SA, when they play well, can beat anyone, and they will always beat you up front! This of course meant that the normal english 10-man gameplan couldnt work, so they had nothing. Coupled with the fact that 1st and 2nd choice fly-halves were out ie no proper playmaker/controller on the england side, as well as tactical kicker, this was always going to be a recipe for disaster. I dont think therefore that you can read too much into the SA match, beacuse we knew that SA had a full squad, were already better than england so were expected to win comfortably, that england had serious problems with injury in quite a crucial position, and that the SA defense and forward power was always going to be stronger than anything that this england team could throw at them. Admittedly the club form of some of the players has not been replicated, but England are not nearly as bad as the press might have you believe. They should beat Tonga, although it may be close.
Samoa however haven't actually shown anything remotely like a 1/4 final side this RWC-big hits are good for fans, but do not win games alone. Tonga seemed to have more of a complete against SA, so England should beware.
Basically what I am saying here is that the idiots who claimed that england couldnt beat samoa run with their tails between their legs, because they are clearly the worst sort of armchair pundits. Please please please stop doing england down - they may not play the prettiest rugby, but you weren't complaining when they won it 4 years ago with even more boring tactics and a very irritating group of players to watch. This group of england players are actually quite a good team with experience and youth combined. The cohesion is not there of course because the squad is very new, and this world cup was always going to be too early for them.

  • 4.
  • At 10:57 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Lance Mason wrote:

First, and most important, how do I change my e-handle from "bifpigface" (which I swear I didn't choose; some e-chaosmarvel attached to to me in the aether) to something more toff and erudite-sounding?
Second, are all the blogs and bloggers throughout this RWC going to be fatuous, vacuous, and apologetic-for-anything-edgy? C'mon, Gents, give us some dog! All this "Can we please do without the haka?" and chirpy camp-following bollix is fit for the nancies, but not for blokes like us. Whazza?

I believe that if England win convincingly against the Pacific Islanders then the mighty Southern Hemisphere sides will not look forward to playing England.

England has nothing to fear!

  • 6.
  • At 12:36 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • davo wrote:

What the hell will the so called 'British' media do if England fail to qualify ?

I know. Bleat on about 2003, 1966 (?) and other such meaningless crap and ignore the good rugby teams who have qualified for this WC's knock out stage.

  • 7.
  • At 12:39 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Nick Lay wrote:

#5 - just the right attitude. Why should we keep on fearing the SH teams? True, NZL, AUS and RSA would start as favourites against us at present, but if we stick to the basics in the first part of the match and refuse to be intimidated by their perceived and actual reputations then anything is possible.

Front up to them and we may still lose. Merely cow-towing to SH teams and will we definitely lose however. So no more of this "what a privilege to be playing you NZL, what a great team you are, how many points would you like us to lose to you by on this occasion?" attitude shown by Frank Hadden and co, let's not be afraid of them. We have to dare to dare in this life and rugby of all things embodies that.

Even if we get hammered by AUS in the QFs (should England beat Tonga) we should only lose by playing a better team regardless of their hemisphere, and not because we've been psyched out by the age-old NH vs SH debate - a debate which has been perpetuated by many a NH journo I might add.

  • 8.
  • At 12:56 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

SOMETHING in between would be good,We are not the team of 4 years ago and if we were so rubbish then ,why did we win ??.Still the last team to win it .ALL of 20 years NZ. Not the team to win it this time round but we have known that as supporters for a while .IFform is temporary class is permanent show me another side that peaks when it matters aussies aside ..Just a thought .!!!! bifpigface
no idea how you change your name. maybe deed poll
XX

  • 9.
  • At 01:05 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • WaspyLad wrote:

I'm still convinced that we(England)have a team that can take on pretty much anyone - too many players owe us a big game and if we get past Tonga who knows what will happen.

Mentally, England will go in to the game against Australia with everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose - if they get stuffed, well it'll be a few weeks of 'told ya so' headlines and recriminations - if they don't well .. who knows.

Whatever happens - let's take that step back - give Ashton or whomever a chance to build a team over time

Good Luck Boys ..

  • 10.
  • At 01:30 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Bobby H wrote:

Brian Ashton is a top man - not sure I would pick Jesus at Fulback though, I think his talents would be more suited to the dark arts of the scrum half - but an awesome back line I reckon is

15 - Moses - cuts through the line a treat

14 - Noah - good in the wet

13 - Herod - takes no prisoners

12 - St John - also knocks up a good supper

11 - St Peter - fast fisherman

10 - sorry cant see past Jonny W

9 - Jesus - captain of course - his disciples will follow him everywhere.


  • 11.
  • At 01:31 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Bobby H wrote:

Brian Ashton is a top man - not sure I would pick Jesus at Fulback though, I think his talents would be more suited to the dark arts of the scrum half - but an awesome back line I reckon is

15 - Moses - cuts through the line a treat

14 - Noah - good in the wet

13 - Herod - takes no prisoners

12 - St John - also knocks up a good supper

11 - St Peter - fast fisherman

10 - sorry cant see past Jonny W

9 - Jesus - captain of course - his disciples will follow him everywhere.


hi guys,

who am I? to become an obstcle to a mighty country(England) for his road to the QF, a country with many mountains......back to my pond in the mist of pacific ocean an invisible dot on world map with no mountains. But the only mountain we had "TONGA MO'UNGA KI HE LOTO"...means was inside our heart "NO MATTER WHAT THE WINDS BLEWS OUR HEARTS CANNOT BOW"....

cheers England.....

tonga fire power...

  • 13.
  • At 07:28 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Mark, Paris wrote:

Am I missing something:

Stevens over Vickery because "Vickery hasn' played for a couple of weeks"

Borthwick over Kay because "Borthwick hasn't played for months and he's chomping at the bit"

Isn't that a contradiction?

I live just down the road and I haven't played for 11 years or so, where do I fit in?

  • 14.
  • At 07:31 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • spooner wrote:

Davo,
no, they will probably go from brainless optimism to mindless doom, gloom and despondency, bemoaning the fact that England don't win everything in which they compete, as is their god-given right.
The imbalance on this and other media might be explained by the target audience. Don't have the exact figures, but in purely population terms, 75/80% English? Not necessarily condoning this, but it is a commercial fact.
Unfortunately, the views expressed by the media are the main reason why the English are ALL portrayed as arrogant, triumphalist, etc, etc, etc.
Shame really, because what the average English supporter does not do when they lose is say "at least YOU lost as well/at least we're not as bad as YOU/I'm not bothered about us as long as YOU get knocked out".
But although I share your views on the media's attitude to English sport, your tone is still a bit puerile.
Which good teams, I wonder?
And yes, 1966 is meaningless crap, it was football, but please don't demean the 2003 efforts. A neutral (someone who lives ON the equator) might be glad of a NH team at last breaking the SH shackles.

  • 15.
  • At 08:09 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Ringo wrote:

England winning against Tonga????

The words; Snowball, Chance & Hell spring to mind.

Though I do have to say I'm impressed with Johnny Bench-Boy, managing to play a whole game without falling over & hurting himself!

  • 16.
  • At 08:41 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • alfie noakes the 2nd. wrote:

not happy.....just found out i am at a 5oth b'day and will miss watching the match.

good or bad thing... who knows, but i do care.

allez le blanc.

  • 17.
  • At 08:42 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • tomthepom wrote:

with the business end of the tournament starting this friday, please can someone, anyone, everyone try and get the organisers to SORT OUT THE MATCH CLOCKS so that everyone knows 80 minutes means 80 minutes and the game ends at the next breakdown. at the moment it's all over the place, it affected the result in the canada/ japan game last night. are they really going to wait until this happens in a big game possibly affecting the result and eliminating a team from the toiurnament?

  • 18.
  • At 08:46 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • paul oconnor wrote:

people talk about Brazilian and Argentinian football as the best...but it's not! Football is a northern european game...what teams were in the last three quarter finals? the last final was a european affair. same as rugby. England have a very good record in this (new) competition... ok they aren't as good a team at the moment as the AB but we can still beat them. England just need to hang on in there...HEADS UP BOYS...DON'T READ THE PRESS!! THE REAL RUGBY COMMUNITY ARE RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

  • 19.
  • At 09:11 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Big Mel wrote:

Number 10, great post. My only question is who would you drop when Jason Robinson returns to fitness? I think he is best at fullback but you can't argue with Moses!

  • 20.
  • At 09:19 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Al wrote:

People, the poor ratings on England are due to form. Lets face facts, your team is ageing, has no depth and hasn't won anything major since the World Cup.

Winning against mino's Samoa or Tonga isn't a great achievement, and certainly doesn't suddenly make this England team a threat.

Lets remember back to the warm up matches when England were humiliated, or to the 36-0 score line against South Africa.

I think that due to form the Southern Hemisphere teams are a real threat and due to this, England should be worried, .......if they make it past Tonga !

  • 21.
  • At 09:21 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Robert Wilson wrote:

Bobby H, what an awesome post if not contriversal, brilliant! lol. Made me smile first thing in the morning.

  • 22.
  • At 09:30 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • past it fullback wrote:

All the rugby blogs currently running are littered with chippy comments from supporters of (in the main)Aus and NZ. What is it about you guys that makes you so insecure in respect of England? You are both exceptional sporting nations and you beat our teams in rugby union, rugby league and cricket regularly. Yet all we hear about from you is "the arrogant English." Far more arrogant is every NZ supporter's belief that it is his right for the AB's to win the WC every time. English supporters get behind their team as all supporters should, but there are no sour grapes if we lose to a better team on the day. As for John O'Brien (CEO of Aus RU) saying to the press that "it does not matter what sport we play, we all hate the English," there is only one word; disgraceful. If an Englishman (particularly one in his position) had said that about any other nation, the SH would have been bleating about it until Xmas! He should take a leaf out of Michael Lynagh's book; one of the finest No.10's the world has seen, a very able pundit and a complete gentleman. What is more, an Australian who lives in England. We cannot be that bad!

  • 23.
  • At 09:30 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Davo, how sad are you? why are you so obsessed with the English - are you a celt or antipodean by any chance? nobody knows better than us English how crap and bias our media are but don't tar us with the same brush. Most of the journalists aren't even English but are obviously under orders. Surely the vast majority of English fan's blogs show that we are usually quite fair in our comments and accept our true position in world rugby - we love the sport, so we care passionately, we are entitled to our opinion which you will religiously call arrogance, no matter what we say - get a life. Anyway, sorry about him - can anyone recommend a decent drinking hole for 2 English fans for friday in paris - only English answers please!

  • 24.
  • At 09:35 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

changing tack somewhat, does anyone know where 2 english fans can get a decent drink in paris before fridays match (english answers only please!)

  • 25.
  • At 09:39 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

"...I think he is best at fullback but you can't argue with Moses!"

You could if my wife was picking the
team. She can argue with anybody!

  • 26.
  • At 10:01 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • bulldog drummond wrote:

Kipperchris: Hear, Hear! I'm a lover of rugby and a despiser of our fawning, fickle, hypocritical, celebrity-obsessed media (and politicians for that matter!). It was great to see a little confidence return to the team following what was a crunch match against a dangerous Samoa.

Like them and many fans, I was worried; I have good reason now to be less so against Tonga. Besides, the team will do their best on the day - support them!

And to prove how unbiased and lacking arrogance an Englishman can be, I'd actually like France to win! It's their tournament (extremely well organised it seems - apart from the crazy Cardiff & Edinburgh fixtures), they have a superb set of players (especially Chabal and Michalak), and it's kinda their turn. Then what fun it would be to beat the World Champions in the 6 Nations!!

  • 27.
  • At 10:23 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Perhaps you should have Methusela on the bench in place of Dayglow? They're not so far apart age-wise. ;o)

  • 28.
  • At 10:36 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Methusela on the bench with Dallaglio? they're roughly the same age!

  • 29.
  • At 11:07 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DaveM wrote:

Mark in Paris - if you've got your boots, you're on as #12 son!

  • 30.
  • At 11:11 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DaveM wrote:

Mark in Paris - if you've got your boots, you're on as #12 son!

  • 31.
  • At 11:13 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DBH wrote:

Agree with most of your backline choices, Bobby H but not sure about Moses at 15. His record shows he delivered eventually but certainly took his time (40 years in the wilderness or so which puts NZ's 20 yrs without RWC into perspective).
In contrast, most of the reports re Jesus, seem to be associated with saving so he could be the ideal at number 15. Also appears to be good at handling pressure, just what's required when you've got 20st of Tongan coming at you (and that's probably just a winger!).

A few thoughts on forwards. Gog and Magog appear to be the required size for props these days and might even make Carl Hayman worry. Also, discipline problems aside, like the idea of Samson in the pack, bit like Seb Chabal but vulnerable to losing his rag and attacking the opposition with jawbones, etc.

Any views on Goliath as a lock? From a different country, I know, but he may qualify after a residence period.

  • 32.
  • At 11:14 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • derek belm wrote:

England's biggest problem is a chronic lack of confidence. That is why some of the back play look so stiffled and they're more inclined to rumbling slowly, tightly and often fruitlessly upfield through the forwards. Another win against Tonga and the confidence levels will improve considerably and then a decent side might start to play more cohesively.

My concern for England on Friday night is that as confidence is so fragile, they may try to restrict the game too much that against a quick and imaginative Tongan side they could well come unstuck.

I'd like to see all the home nations qualify, but the painful truth is we could all miss out come the end of the weekend.

  • 33.
  • At 11:20 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DaveM wrote:

Mark in Paris - if you've got your boots, you're on as #12 son!


Oh - and England probably exactly where they would have been if they had been playing really well. They were always likely to come off second best to SA, so had to beat the other 3 to ensure a quarter final spot. Which is exactly what they are going to do. The only surprise is that Tonga are playing for the same spot, rather than having seen off Somoa, who were expected to have been fighting for that spot.

  • 34.
  • At 11:46 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

BOBBY H
No sign of doubting thomas or judas iscariot,maybe they are masquerading as rugby journo"s.Any way Hercules at 8 ,Apollo on the wing.achilles at inside centre.jonny 10 jason 15.methusala coach.
fill in the gaps .

  • 35.
  • At 11:52 AM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Woody wrote:

..... thanks for that Ringo (15) and Al (20), we're all hoping for a cracking match and depending which colour you sport, the right result!

Many pundits are probably correct about the pre & 1st round team standings and clearly the ABs/Bokke /Wallabies are all poised at the 'crest of the summit' waiting to seize their given spoils. Issue is that that there is only one way to go for 2 of the group, guys and it's a big fall. After 20; 12 and 8 years respectively, holding the RWC aloft will be a triumph and whoever wins it will certainly get its just congrats from here.

That said, anyone read the Zinzan Brooke column after the ABs vs Scotland B and witness the Boks B/A string under Tongan pressure?......

I would say spare a thought for Argentina; France and England. For the latter two certainly stutterings, shocks and heart in mouth stuff! But that is what makes the RWC the competition it is.

If the England squad selected for Tonga takes last Saturday's positives a stage further (control up front; >ball retention; confidence and >attacking flair) then its game on.

If England does come through for a QF place then I hope one Mr John O'Neill will be present at the game to see his side 'get square' as reported.... I hope his 'several' fellow Aussie compatriots working within the M25 and / or playing on the Premiership circuit will not take his lead and feel compelled to return home full of the ‘h’ word? If players have to face disciplinary panels for misdemeanours on the field, then leading officials who bring the game into disrepute ought to be held accountable off it.

  • 36.
  • At 12:16 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

Bust of cicero on wiki spitting image of ashton.

Check out this article on my blog. It’s a preview on the upcoming match between Argentina and Ireland. And don’t forget to leave your comments as well.

http://mundoalbiceleste.blogspot.com/2007/09/pumasireland-rivalry-resume.html

  • 38.
  • At 12:37 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Giles wrote:

Just remeber past performances in this world cup will have no relevance to the "big" games coming up.

Yes the SH teams have peaked earlier but that's because their tri nations wasn't as long ago as the six nations...

Remember England didn't peak until the Semi-finals last time....It's about playing the pressure situations better than the other teams...None of the top sides has been under serious pressure to date as none of the games have been you lose and your out except for england v Samoa but Samoa are hardly a "big" team...

When have we seen Barnes under pressure for Aus? How will it cope - will it be like Michalak in the last RWC?!

How will Butch James and Dan Carter perform when they are playing with scrappy ball when there pack are going backwards?

Have they had to do that in a World Cup game before? No

Has Jonny Wilkinson - Yes....

We have a lot of experience in our side for the big games. We are certainly not the most talented but we have a lot of experience and that's what matters when the "big" games start....

who knows but the early games have no bearing on what will happen ithe knockout stages as shown in the last RWC when NZ beat Aus!

  • 39.
  • At 12:39 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • james wrote:

As a proud Irishman I just wanted to say that I am routing for this English team. When you guys won the world cup four years ago it was well deserved and it wasn't shoved in our faces constantly when it was over. This is just a bad hangover and a quarter final place would be ok. Brian Ashton needs at least another two years to get things right. I also want to take this opportunity to apologiseon behalf of my country for the vomit inducing excuse for an alternative national anthem that we have exposed to the world.
Phew! thats better!

  • 40.
  • At 12:40 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Trev Wallace wrote:

Post 24 #

There is an Irish Bar next to the Pentheon across the bridge and down the road from Notre Dame, very good and a mean Fondu restaurant down the road for some entertaining fodder..

  • 41.
  • At 01:03 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Giles wrote:

Just remeber past performances in this world cup will have no relevance to the "big" games coming up.

Yes the SH teams have peaked earlier but that's because their tri nations wasn't as long ago as the six nations...

Remember England didn't peak until the Semi-finals last time....It's about playing the pressure situations better than the other teams...None of the top sides has been under serious pressure to date as none of the games have been you lose and your out except for england v Samoa but Samoa are hardly a "big" team...

When have we seen Barnes under pressure for Aus? How will it cope - will it be like Michalak in the last RWC?!

How will Butch James and Dan Carter perform when they are playing with scrappy ball when there pack are going backwards?

Have they had to do that in a World Cup game before? No

Has Jonny Wilkinson - Yes....

We have a lot of experience in our side for the big games. We are certainly not the most talented but we have a lot of experience and that's what matters when the "big" games start....

who knows but the early games have no bearing on what will happen ithe knockout stages as shown in the last RWC when NZ beat Aus!

  • 42.
  • At 01:09 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Spencer wrote:

My biblical 15

1.Gog
2.T Whore of Babylon
(Only hooker of note)
3.Magog
4.Goliath
5.Samson
6.Lucifer (who better at the dark arts?)
7.David ( Feisty and willing to rob big men of victory just what's needed in an openside)
8.Simon of Cryene (All that cross carrying gives him the go forward required)
9.Judas Iscariot (All scrum halves are untrustworthy little so and sos)
10.Jesus (Bossing it from the 10 channel it’s our saviour himself.)
11.Gabriel (Winger geddit? Also they don’t like getting their kit dirty)
12.Peter (Jesus’s go to man)
13.Daniel (If he can get past hungry lions he can break the gain line)
14. Michael (Same angel gag as Gabriel)
15.Lazarus (His comeback from injury … well death actually now complete he’s willing to take his place)

Bench places for Jezebel (back up hooker), Moses (like Phil Vickery a good leader but out of form)

  • 43.
  • At 01:33 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Fraser wrote:

It should be a bruising game on Sunday, but I fancy the auld enemy will do more than enough to win.

On a side issue, I was glad to see Brian Lima finally banned from the WC. I've got no problem with hard tackling, but there is a world of a difference between that and his recent performance, in particular the Wilkinson and Jaque Fourie 'tackles'. It just seemed a case of a player who, knowing he was past his best, felt he had to somehow live up to his silly nickname and prove he was still the ‘hardest’ tackler around. I’m just glad it was only himself who got injured in this mis-guided hunt for glory. He should have stopped at four, my memory of him after this will be very negative indeed.

  • 44.
  • At 01:33 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Spencer wrote:

My biblical 15

1.Gog
2.T Whore of Babylon
(Only hooker of note)
3.Magog
4.Goliath
5.Samson
6.Lucifer (who better at the dark arts?)
7.David ( Feisty and willing to rob big men of victory just what's needed in an openside)
8.Simon of Cryene (All that cross carrying gives him the go forward required)
9.Judas Iscariot (All scrum halves are untrustworthy little so and sos)
10.Jesus (Bossing it from the 10 channel it’s our saviour himself.)
11.Gabriel (Winger geddit? Also they don’t like getting their kit dirty)
12.Peter (Jesus’s go to man)
13.Daniel (If he can get past hungry lions he can break the gain line)
14. Michael (Same angel gag as Gabriel)
15.Lazarus (His comeback from injury … well death actually now complete he’s willing to take his place)

Bench places for Jezebel (back up hooker), Moses (like Phil Vickery a good leader but out of form)

  • 45.
  • At 01:34 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • flyhack wrote:

Some intersting points on here and a few of the old cliche's (arrogant England etc).

I have to admit Ive not been looking at other nations forums but it does seem like England are being given a harder time than the other NH teams yet surely we can see that France, Ireland and maybe Wales should have had higher expectations than England, yet their performances have been as far from the big 3 SH teams as anyones. Infact so far Id say at least Eng are getting better now, they were "terrible" v USA, "poor" v SA, "average" v Samoa, maybe we will reach "good" v Tonga and then "Very Good", "excellent" and "World beaters" by the Final?

Its a hope!

But I have to admit the gulf between NZ & SA and the rest seems to have widend. Surely only the NZ habit for choking in WC later stages can stop them.

  • 46.
  • At 01:41 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Oz the England Fan wrote:

Pressure building for the home nations....

I find it impossible to find any predictions for the weekend games (other than on the BBC blogs). So to stimulate some healthy debate, here are my predictions:

Ireland 10 - 15 Argentina
Scotland 22 - 23 Italy
England 20 - 25 Tonga
Wales 32 - 37 Fiji

Now wouldn't set the cat among the pigeons?? Wonder what odds are for four home nations heading home after the weekend? Must be worth a fiver punt. Hope it doesn't happen but maybe we need it to happen so the home RFUs can have a decent clear out of under performing coaching staff and players.

Any other predictions out there??

  • 47.
  • At 01:42 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • SPC wrote:

With all due respect to a very consistent Tongan team, in the end their scrum and lineout is not good enough to really trouble England. Because in the end, England only has to fall back on possession and position to control the game.

It's obvious that Tonga thrive on turnovers, yet England is the one team (with the patience) willing to bore them into submission.

Though obviously Moody, Corry and Easter will have a testing afternoon whenever England do attempt to go beyond the maul.

  • 48.
  • At 01:44 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • fhm wrote:

Part of me wants to talk technically, the other half wants to talk psychologically. It's no secret that when one is affected the other one follows. The comment about England's problem being due to a lack of confidence is a good one, but which comes first...the lack of confidence or the lack of technique? In my opinion since the 2003 world cup, England's major problem has been the inability to creat quick ball to release some fairly decent backs into space. Even back then when we didn't create quick ball, our immense forwards (Johnson, Hill, Dallaglio, Back etc) were able to control the ball and maul us 20 yards up the pitch. If we weren't able to maul, from the slow ball we did get, Wilkinson would kick us 40 yeards up the pitch into position, and from there with the likes of Johnson and Kay in the lineout there was always a chance of us stealing it or if not forming a very good defensive lineout that put pressure on the opposition. Simple stuff right?... but the difference is we kept going forward, and our forwards back then provided that and worked well together to provide that. And in any aspect of life when you are moving forward then confidence builds. I hate to say it but in this England team, we rarely move forward and so our confidence lacks and our technique gets worse. We don't move forward because there is no real game plan. There is no real game plan because our forwards don't control the ball....our forwards don't control the ball because they are getting bossed up front...they are getting bossed up front because the technique and the discipline isn't there in this set of players in the quantities that it was 4 years ago... Rugby is a simple game when played with discipline and technique...You don't need that much flair to win...but this England team (particularly the forwards) lacks that and they don't provide a decent platform for our backs to get going... It's not about the size of the players (everyone's massive these days) it's about the top 2 inches..if the England forwards can remember how to go back to very very basics then they have a chance of going all the way...they should treat each opposition as just that...the opposition (regardless of hwta jersey they are wearing)...and just stick to the basics, play as a unit with one objective...to go forward! ...

  • 49.
  • At 01:44 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • fhm wrote:

Part of me wants to talk technically, the other half wants to talk psychologically. It's no secret that when one is affected the other one follows. The comment about England's problem being due to a lack of confidence is a good one, but which comes first...the lack of confidence or the lack of technique? In my opinion since the 2003 world cup, England's major problem has been the inability to creat quick ball to release some fairly decent backs into space. Even back then when we didn't create quick ball, our immense forwards (Johnson, Hill, Dallaglio, Back etc) were able to control the ball and maul us 20 yards up the pitch. If we weren't able to maul, from the slow ball we did get, Wilkinson would kick us 40 yeards up the pitch into position, and from there with the likes of Johnson and Kay in the lineout there was always a chance of us stealing it or if not forming a very good defensive lineout that put pressure on the opposition. Simple stuff right?... but the difference is we kept going forward, and our forwards back then provided that and worked well together to provide that. And in any aspect of life when you are moving forward then confidence builds. I hate to say it but in this England team, we rarely move forward and so our confidence lacks and our technique gets worse. We don't move forward because there is no real game plan. There is no real game plan because our forwards don't control the ball....our forwards don't control the ball because they are getting bossed up front...they are getting bossed up front because the technique and the discipline isn't there in this set of players in the quantities that it was 4 years ago... Rugby is a simple game when played with discipline and technique...You don't need that much flair to win...but this England team (particularly the forwards) lacks that and they don't provide a decent platform for our backs to get going... It's not about the size of the players (everyone's massive these days) it's about the top 2 inches..if the England forwards can remember how to go back to very very basics then they have a chance of going all the way...they should treat each opposition as just that...the opposition (regardless of hwta jersey they are wearing)...and just stick to the basics, play as a unit with one objective...to go forward! ...

  • 50.
  • At 01:49 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Trev Wallace wrote:

Post 24 #

There is an Irish Bar next to the Pentheon across the bridge and down the road from Notre Dame, very good and a mean Fondu restaurant down the road for some entertaining fodder..

  • 51.
  • At 01:54 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Rook wrote:

Martin Bayfield has done a great job of hosting the ITV World cup coverage. I think he should take over at the BBC and run the Six nations coverage. But leave Stewart Barnes were he is!

  • 52.
  • At 01:56 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Oz the England Fan wrote:

Pressure building for the home nations....

I find it impossible to find any predictions for the weekend games (other than on the BBC blogs). So to stimulate some healthy debate, here are my predictions:

Ireland 10 - 15 Argentina
Scotland 22 - 23 Italy
England 20 - 25 Tonga
Wales 32 - 37 Fiji

Now wouldn't set the cat among the pigeons?? Wonder what odds are for four home nations heading home after the weekend? Must be worth a fiver punt. Hope it doesn't happen but maybe we need it to happen so the home RFUs can have a decent clear out of under performing coaching staff and players.

Any other predictions out there??

  • 53.
  • At 02:08 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Chris Rook wrote:

Martin Bayfield has done a great job of hosting the ITV World cup coverage. I think he should take over at the BBC and run the Six nations coverage. But leave Stewart Barnes were he is!

  • 54.
  • At 02:10 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Laura wrote:

#23: Best place for rugby watching/pint in Paris is Frog n' Rosbif: 116 rue Saint Denis, 75002 - Metro Line 4, stop: Etienne Marcel

  • 55.
  • At 02:26 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DaveM wrote:

Mark in Paris - if you've got your boots, you're on as #12 son!


Oh - and England probably exactly where they would have been if they had been playing really well. They were always likely to come off second best to SA, so had to beat the other 3 to ensure a quarter final spot. Which is exactly what they are going to do. The only surprise is that Tonga are playing for the same spot, rather than having seen off Somoa, who were expected to have been fighting for that spot.

  • 56.
  • At 02:32 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • DaveM wrote:

predictions?
Mine are:

Ireland 12 Argentina 18
England 35 Tonga 9
Scotland 25 Italy 15
Wales 40 Fiji 20

  • 57.
  • At 02:41 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • bulldog drummond wrote:

Re Post 46: All scores tight but all Home Nations sides will win. Argentina will become all Latin American, lose confidence and give away penalties under a belated Irish onslaught of biblical proportions (but still tight); Scotland look a better side than Italy, who have been disappointing this time and will also lose confidence in their ability; Wales a tad too classy for Fiji, whilst England will win by the biggest margin (same as Samoa game only hopefully fewer gifted penalties and no knock-ons awarded as tries). As for semis and beyond; I tell you (see post 26) it's France's turn.

  • 58.
  • At 02:43 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • JonS wrote:

I'll happily add my two penneth worth to the predictions:

Argentina 22-24 Ireland
Scotland 23-17 Italy
England 33-15 Tonga
Wales 39-25 Fiji

Feel that the Irish won't have it in them to overcome a confident and defensively superb Argentinian team by the required margin. When was the last time anyone walloped the Argies?

Prior to the tournament I strongly fancied Italy to take 2nd spot, but they have been very disappointing throughout the tournament and I think the Scots, with their tails up, are strong enough to hold them off.

I don't realistically see Tonga being a threat to England this week. They were fortunate to beat Samoa and the weakened Springbok team did enough to win the game (with a little bit of help from the bench). England will dominate in the set piece and have the firepower out wide to score tries if the ball is moved out quickly enough (and at the right times).

Wales are too good for Fiji in what should be an entertaining game.

  • 59.
  • At 02:58 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Rostbif wrote:

#24 - Kipperchris

I used to live in Paris and there are some pretty good Irish bars there.

You might want to check this link - http://www.parispubs.com/a_to_z.php

Personally, I used to go to the Cruiscin Lan or Flann O'Briens and enjoyed the atmosphere. They usually get into the rugby or football too and will have the telly on.

  • 60.
  • At 03:11 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Muhnkeeboy wrote:

Jesus Saves ... but Moses went in for the re-bound : )

Anyway to answer Oz's question I think all four home nations will win ...

Ireland have it in them to give someone a hiding and it could be that Argentina walk into it. The talk seems to be of the forwards when people mention Argentia but I think if Ireland can boss Pichot and pressure Hernadez then they will be well on the way. Pichot is a talker (to both his forwards and the ref) so Ireland need to make it hard for him and see how he copes with pressure.

As a Scotland fan the Scotland v Italy is my biggest worry .. Italy are a decent side and have not shown up yet a RWC 2007 ... suspect it will be close but Scotland to make it by 5 - 7 points ... again we need to target the SH Troncon and get him rattled - he is the heartbeat for Italy.

I think England will also go through and win fairly convincingly against Tonga. The forwards played like they can [and should have all tournament maybe :) ] last weekend. Think it will be more of the same vs. Tonga and they will end 15 - 20 ahead.

Wales seem to be gaining in confidence and playing some decent rugby .. not sure how the Welsh boys are feeling about the mgmt team ... Set up seems ready to crack some days but on others all seems right with the world - I think they will again make it through.

penny for your thoughts punters :)

  • 61.
  • At 03:25 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Calhoun wrote:

Having been convinced that England would be beaten by Samoa, and thankfully proved wrong, we have a bigger test on Friday at which I would put the odds as 50/50.

One excellent move by Ashton is to omit Vickery from the starting line up. He looks overweight to me and I believe Matt Stevens offers a lot more in all facets of the game, scrummaging and particularly open play.

  • 62.
  • At 03:25 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Rostbif wrote:

#24 - Kipperchris

I used to live in Paris and there are some pretty good Irish bars there.

You might want to check this link - http://www.parispubs.com/a_to_z.php

Personally, I used to go to the Cruiscin Lan or Flann O'Briens and enjoyed the atmosphere. They usually get into the rugby or football too and will have the telly on.

  • 63.
  • At 03:51 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Thanks Trev Wallace - might even get in some culture!

  • 64.
  • At 03:59 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Thanks trev and laura re drinking holes - will do both!

  • 65.
  • At 04:09 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Andy in Dar wrote:

Looking forward to this one. Above posts seem very different to the slagging england got before Samoa. Everyone seems as fickle as the press. Anyone know where and when to to see the game in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania?

  • 66.
  • At 04:14 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • another forward pass wrote:

Not sure whats more worrying people starting to get a little confident with englands efforts. Or the disturbing news that Matt Damon is to play Francois Pinearr in the Nelson Mandela biopic!!!!

  • 67.
  • At 04:43 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • alfie noakes the 2nd. wrote:

the french must be full of regret..... allowing themselves to share with Wales and Scotland, just realised they will/could be playing their 1/4 final in wales against NZ.

ireland 18 argentina 12
england 28 tonga 19
scotland 6 italy 43
wales 46 fiji 3

allez le blanc.

  • 68.
  • At 05:11 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Fraser wrote:

Post 67 - You've got to be kidding?!? That will be horrendous:-
Morgan Freeman (as Nelson Mandela) -"Thank you very much for what you've done for South Africa"
Matt Damon (as Francois Pienaar) - "Matt Damon"

  • 69.
  • At 05:21 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • tim c wrote:

A week is a long time in politics an eternity in rugby and hope springs !!!Mind 80 minutes can feel like it to.
all tight but ireland toughest test.come on show some mongrel in the forwards and who knows? no predictions nostradamus not too clever and weather forecasts crap .
For the older nor was horace batchelor. Time for mystic meg and i am off to look at some tea leaves. Any thoughts on best XV SO FAR. As regards Dar Esalaam probably ex pat bar or hotel tele.

  • 70.
  • At 05:26 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Tors wrote:

Ireland - goodbye
England - goodbye
Wales - goodbye
Scotland - bring on the pumas

  • 71.
  • At 05:58 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • davo wrote:

68 must be on something stronger than beer if he thinks the Azurri will beat the Scots by 37 points. I detect wishful thinking. Therefore everyone who is not a 'blanc' (how appropriate) can wish for a Tonga 25 Blancs 0 on Friday.


keep smiling dudes

  • 72.
  • At 06:45 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Ford wrote:

Lets face it, England are not as good or any where near as consistent as SA, NZ or AUS. However, the longer England remain in the competition scraping by, the more likely it is their game will improve as it has been basically poor to this point. On any given day, they could put together a performance that could beat AUS or SA. I'm not sure even if they played the best they can that they could beat NZ as they might just be too good and deep. If they continue to play poorly, they will struggle to get past Tonga convincingly and will go no further.

If they get past Tonga which I believe they will, all will expect them to lose in quarters and look poor in doing so. This might actually be the best conditions for England to produce a better performance for them and then a victory in the quarters is certainly possible. If England play better against Tonga and meet AUS, I would not relish that task if I were AUS. If Englan can play a more effective 10 man game, I think they match up better against AUS than many other teams.

  • 73.
  • At 07:07 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Richard Ford wrote:

Lets face it, England are not as good or any where near as consistent as SA, NZ or AUS. However, the longer England remain in the competition scraping by, the more likely it is their game will improve as it has been basically poor to this point. On any given day, they could put together a performance that could beat AUS or SA. I'm not sure even if they played the best they can that they could beat NZ as they might just be too good and deep. If they continue to play poorly, they will struggle to get past Tonga convincingly and will go no further.

If they get past Tonga which I believe they will, all will expect them to lose in quarters and look poor in doing so. This might actually be the best conditions for England to produce a better performance for them and then a victory in the quarters is certainly possible. If England play better against Tonga and meet AUS, I would not relish that task if I were AUS. If England can play their effective 10 man game for most of the game, I think they match up better against AUS than many other teams.

By the way, anyone else see a trend with the four nations playing for survival out of the groups and SA, NAZ and AUS not. Maybe the problems we talk of as English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish, are actually more systemic than that?

  • 74.
  • At 07:33 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Bil wrote:

I'm sure i remember an old rugby song that explains why jesus cant play rugby. Far too nonPC for this forum, but v funny

  • 75.
  • At 07:59 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • bil wrote:

No old lags remember the clubhouse song 'Jesus Saves'? See here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Saves_%28Song%29

  • 76.
  • At 08:25 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • anthony wrote:

To kipperchis (24)-

Go to the 'Smoke' bar in the Rue Delambre, in Montparnasse, down the hill from Edgar Quinet metro station on the right hand side, or up from Vavin metro on the left. Have dinner there too.....wish I could be there, it would be a perfect evening: A few glasses and a fantastic dinner, change for 30 Euro per person, and then on to watch England play a match. You are a lucky fellow (or lady).

  • 77.
  • At 10:08 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Dromio94 wrote:

To Kipperchris,
Try the Bombardier, very easy to find, good nosh, good beer. Look up rue Soufflot toward the Pantheon, from Blvd. St Michel (Luxembourg station). Go straight up, then veer left, past the Pantheon. On the back, left side, the pub. Had lunch there a couple of weeks ago: Gloucester sausage, chips, the lot. And a decent pint. Good luck, mate, and go England!

  • 78.
  • At 10:13 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Scotland in the Semis? wrote:

Trying to get a flight from Paris to Dublin on Monday. Can't seem to get booked.....

Disregarding the hyperbole: Wales should get through easily, Ireland are out, England and Scotland should both be too strong for entertaining and keen, but technically weak Tonga/very disappointing Italy.

As a Scot, I'm not sure whether to think the fact that this below-par Scotland team is (assuming a win on Saturday) one scrappy win against a (patchy) Argentinian side away from a World Cup semi-final is (a) a great result or (b) proof that the tournament format and seeding system/bias in favour of the home unions needs a very serious re-think.

  • 79.
  • At 10:23 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

glad BA has changed his mind on jesus...i have been a great fan of his ability for a while

i think monty python's brian would make a good sub though for the backs....did u see his twinkle toes getting away from those roman soldiers, he is the next jason robinson

perfect phsyo in the good samaritan

  • 80.
  • At 08:59 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • alfie noakes the 2nd. wrote:

71, i wish our draw could have thrown up a few 'blancs' on the way to the semi's.

Scotland England Final?

p.s what colour are scotland???

  • 81.
  • At 10:33 AM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • kipperchris wrote:

Many thanks for all the information re drinking holes in Paris - can't wait. I personally hope all 4 home nations get through - even the Welsh, but have doubts about the Irish, just to shut the antipodeans up. We will see - anyway, enjoy the rugby one and all - sod 'swing low'...let's all sing 'and did those feet in ancient times.....etc'

  • 82.
  • At 02:33 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Woofio wrote:

If it's not too late for kipperchris:

A good pint of real ale is available at the Frog and Princess, rue Princess, metro station Mabillon, with lots of other bars and restaurants nearby.

Alternatively its sister site is the Frog and Rosbif on the rue St Denis, but the lasses outside are working girls so don't take your wife.

If you are really brainy then there is the Frog and British Library next to the Bibliotech National.

  • 83.
  • At 04:02 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Pax wrote:

To Scotland in the semis:

You should check out flying from Nantes to Dublin with Ryanair - friends of mine recently came over for the France game that wxay, and said that the SNCF connection only took as long as going to Beauvais - and much more comfortable

Let's hope that you'll be on a plane full of celebrating Paddys!

  • 84.
  • At 05:35 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • davo wrote:

Touche Alfie- all the best tomorrow. We have Big Jason back so all is well for Saturday.

Rock on homesters

  • 85.
  • At 06:02 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • Stephen Downer wrote:

Bryn:
You wrote: "So there. It was not a captaincy issue, Ashton insisted. He had not suddenly decided Martin Corry, who he relieved of the captaincy on his appointment, might be a better bet to lead the side." I'm sure you meant to say "x x x WHOM he relieved of the casptaincy, etc."
Rgds

  • 86.
  • At 10:17 PM on 27 Sep 2007,
  • william wallace wrote:

english fans are deluded,

a great football nation? its been 41 years people, accept it.

a great rugby nation, this one is even funnier, 2003 was a fluke.

Tonga is going to beat england hands down, no question about it.

Argentina will do the same to Ireland.

watching england lose is one of the highlights of any world cup. they are so consistent at losing !!!

  • 87.
  • At 06:39 AM on 28 Sep 2007,
  • spooner wrote:

"2003 was a fluke"; "so consistent at losing" and finally; "english fans are deluded".
Sorry, WHOSE fans?

  • 88.
  • At 08:56 AM on 28 Sep 2007,
  • Bruce wrote:

Ireland to beat Argentina by less than 7 (allowing Argentina to win their group).

Scotland to beat Italy by 10-20.

England to beat Tonga by 20-30.

(it won't be pretty, scrum dominance, kicking for position. Mauls from lineouts and penalties up in a low scoring first half shut out of the Tongans (4 penalties and one try - 17-0).

Wales to beat Fiji by 20-30.

Argentina to beat Scotland by 10
Australia to beat England by 10
South Africa to beat Wales by 15
France to beat the AB' in Cardiff IF
the AB's lose the strip toss and play as "non AB's" by 10. If the AB's play as AB's - AB's by 10.

France vs Australia even. Australia vs AB's even (the Ozzies know how to do it and the AB's will not be at their best till the final).

South Africa to beat Argentina.

France vs South Africa even.
South Africa Australia even.
AB's to beat South Africa.

  • 89.
  • At 10:20 AM on 28 Sep 2007,
  • Junior wrote:

Guyz,

Try putting out teams from players in the world cup and stop using the name of Jesus in vain. Go find your fun somewhere else and don't use my faith as foundation for your criticism.

Have respect men!

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