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English media change mind about England rugby team, again

Media change mind about England, again

Posted 28th February, 2007

Just one month after the English media praised their national rugby team for entering a ‘new dawn’, the knives have been taken back out of the cupboard and sharpened all over again.

England’s 42-20 success against a mediocre, listless Scottish side in the first round of this year’s RBS Six Nations was for some reason hailed by a host of top rugby writers as a sign that a winning Six Nations and successful world cup title defence was more than feasible for the red rose army.

However, a record 43-13 beating at the hands of the Irish, preceded by a tight 20-7 win against Italy, has seen the London media perform a sharp U-turn in their thoughts.

Ex-English international Paul Ackford, now a rugby correspondent for the Daily Telegraph, was one of the most excited writers in the aftermath of the glorious Twickenham victory against the Scots.

Despite three seasons of consistently poor results prior to the victory, Ackford used his Sunday column to write:

“The dark days are over. England left Twickenham last night having posted an emphatic message to this season’s Six Nations sides, and possibly even the likes of New Zealand and South Africa, that they are back in business. Big time.”

David Hands in the Times echoed Ackford’s comments by stating that the Scottish victory showed:

“...the restoration of an England playing with authority and simple confidence.”

It is now believed that several Fleet Street writers have slowly realized that the return of a talented, world cup wining fly-half does not end the myriad of problems that plague English rugby.

One journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, gave the following glimpse into the current mindset amongst English rugby scribes.

“After Jonny Wilkinson’s superb 27 point performance against a world-class, talented and well-organised Scottish team last month, it was hard to see where England could go wrong in this year’s championship. However, a month down the line, perhaps it was a little unfair of us to expect Jonny’s famous left boot to solve the problems of a limited midfield, a lack of world-class wings, a decline in our front-five play and an unbalanced back-row. Furthermore, his boot also seems unable to fix the problem of a congested domestic fixture calendar, an attritional injury list and the raging debate between the RFU and club owners regarding central contacts and player release. Maybe we expected too much from him, I don’t know.”

The triumphant media tone after the Scottish victory was all the more peculiar after the English press had done exactly the same thing following round one of the 2006 championship.

Last year it was a hapless, injury-plagued Wales who were taken apart on the opening weekend at Twickenham. England’s 47-13 demolition job was bizarrely hailed in the English papers as a sign that England’s barren years since World Cup glory had come to an end.

The Guardian newspaper wrote after that match:

“Finally there are fresh red rose buds visible even to the most skeptical supporters and…cynics.”

Despite the ‘new dawn’ following the Welsh win, the English team suffered defeats to Ireland, France and Scotland and finished well off the pace in the championship table.

Another smaller false dawn was proclaimed in the middle of November 2006 when after suffering a heavy defeat to New Zealand, England narrowly won a home fixture against an experimental, young South African side. The dawn was put to bed quickly by the press when the Springboks bounced back to win the second test. The media then passionately called for the head of coach Andy Robinson. Their campaign was a success.

The English media are believed to be planning at least one more false dawn and U-turn before the world cup begins this October.